How Impulsive are You?

If you spend $100 on an “impulse buy,” you’re typical. But $1,000?

Here’s a shocking statistic: “84 percent of Americans have made impulse purchases,” reveals a new poll from

That’s only shocking because it’s not 100 percent. Who hasn’t bought something they didn’t budget for? And didn’t really need?


The real shock is how much we spend on these so-called “impulse buys” – 54 percent spend more than $100, while 20 percent have spent at least $1,000.

Where are they buying? Not where you might guess…

Only 6 percent made most of their spontaneous buys on a smartphone or tablet – which is extremely low for an era that heavily relies on mobile devices. Thirteen percent said a computer.

Pollsters never learned where the rest of the money is going, but Consolidated Credit president Gary Herman has some ideas.

“In over 20 years of credit counseling, we’ve seen many of these impulse purchases going toward fairly typical items,” Herman says. “We’re talking about lunches and dinners with co-workers or friends, or a new shirt or pair of pants.”

Herman says these kinds of impulse buys can be the most destructive to your bottom line.

“If you make a $1,000 impulse purchase, as some in the poll did, that’s hard to hide – either to your family or to yourself,” Herman says. “But if you make constant, small impulse purchases, that can add up to even more money, but it’s so gradual, you won’t notice it – until it’s too late.”

Perhaps the most encouraging statistic in the poll is this: 47 percent made the impulse buy for themselves. Only 16 percent made that purchase for “their spouse or significant other.”

Why is that apparent greed a good thing? Because Herman says it’s an easier problem to solve.

“In my experience, it’s difficult to encourage people to save when they’re overspending on their family or friends,” Herman says. “No one wants to be a Scrooge. So it’s much easier to save money by spending less on yourself. No one will ever know you’re cutting back, and you’ll quickly see the savings.”

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