Impulse Shopping

Or, the phenomenon of shopping while asleep!

It’s that time of year when people shop like crazy. We absolutely must have the latest gadgets, while at the same time showering relatives and friends with gifts they don't even need. It’s a vicious cycle everyone gets caught up in. I call it impulse shopping. The phenomenon is accentuated at, but not confined to, the Christmas season. So much of our purchasing all year round is automatic and unconscious.

A lot of it has to do with the energy around money. Holding fast to money can create a sense of security but leave us feeling knotted inside, while, on the other hand spending gives us a rush but often leaves us nigh broke.

Throughout most people's lives an uneasy dynamic is played out between these two extremes.

Have you ever caught yourself buying something you know you don’t want, have no need for, and will absolutely never use?

Me too.

Impulse shopping can be a reaction to the recession, ‘I’m fed up being told to tighten my belt. I deserve a little treat’.

Or you want to reward yourself, ‘I worked hard all week so I owe myself this’.

Habit too plays a role. It may be we shop in packs (and justify our largess because others are doing it), or go it alone (intending only to browse but end up binging).

Personally, I love books. I can hardly pass a bookstore without going in. I love browsing around old dusty shelves, thumbing the yellow flaxen leaves, feeling their rich texture between my fingers.

Sometimes I buy, sometimes I just browse.

I’m like that.

Unfulfilled psychological needs

The explanation for impulse shopping, like so many other things, may have its origin in childhood. A sibling or a neighbour’s child got something we didn’t and we felt impoverished. This is still playing out today at a level we’re not even aware of.

It’s like we’re filling a hole in ourselves with money, and our relationship with it.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’re not having a good time unless we’re spending lots of money. Consumerism is to blame but who’s the consumer? Often it’s more about how much love you can allow yourself to have. Sometimes people have more of a problem receiving than giving, strange as that seems. You see, receiving is about being vulnerable, and this can be hard for some. 

Why is the 20k necklace worn once and then discarded for something new? Does the wearer unconsciously feel upstaged by the gift?

What’s that about?


Maybe the person just wanted to be appreciated for themselves, but someone decided money was needed.

And spent a truck load of it!

Imagine that!

You see, a big car or expensive item can be a way of saying ‘look at the size of my new toy, see how expensive it is! I must be important’.

Now will you love me?

Now there’s nothing wrong with material things, we all like them, but sometimes they’re a way of ‘feeding’ ourselves, of filling that hole.

And that’s not the same as receiving.

Shop with awareness

The thing to do is get conscious about impulse shopping. Make a list of everything you bought in the past week. Don’t forget to include online shopping in this. Take a yellow highlighter and mark all the things that you didn’t really need.

(Now sell those on ebay!)


Seriously, see if you can recall what your feelings were while buying, or just before you bought those items. Was it a feeling of pressure, or perhaps it was lack? Feelings, although not real in themselves, are often clues to our unconscious actions. Listen to them. Now cast your mind back to how you felt after the event, later that day when you got home. Was it one of disappointment? Of being a sucker again?

Just play with this for awhile.

Take that list with you next time you go shopping, and when you feel the urge to buy something on impulse pull it out and try and see if you can recall those feelings. Are you running them again?

So what is the solution?


We buy on impulse because we go unconscious when we’re shopping. We get a buzz. Then regret our rash decisions later, especially if we needed the money to pay bills. Great advice I heard years ago was never to shop for groceries on an empty stomach. You end up coming home with all kinds of cakes and rubbish, things you wouldn’t normally buy. Unconsciously when we do so we’re answering the need of our hunger by popping sugary food into the trolley.

Impulse Shopping is like shopping on an empty stomach.

Decide to shop with awareness.

Get ready for the new you.

Return from impulse shopping to home page.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words - listen!


Reality is merely an illusion - albeit a persistent one.

Albert Einstein