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When we’re trying to change our buying habits, one challenge is that marketers are so clever at enticing us into making impulse purchases.

In David Lewis’s book Impulse: Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It, he provides a list of the four main types of impulse buys, developed by industrial economist Hawkins Stern in 1962.

Do you recognize any of these categories in your own purchasing patterns?

1. Pure impulse buying—you make a true novelty purchase, or escape purchase, that’s very different from your typical purchasing pattern

2. Reminder impulse buying—you see an item or remember something that reminds you that you need an item

3. Suggestion impulse buying—you see a product for the first time and imagine a need for it

4. Planned impulse buying—(Isn’t this label an oxymoron? Oh well.) you make a purchase based on price specials, coupons, etc.

Now, I know that some folks out there are my fellow under-buyers, and we have to force ourselves to make impulse purchases of the #2 sort. Even when I know I need something, I hate to buy it!

Interestingly, Lewis notes that people generally don’t consider it a mistake to make impulse purchases. Research suggests that only about one in five people regret it, and two out of five say they feel good about it. (If you don’t feel good about it, here are five tips to resist impulse shopping.)

If you battle impulse purchasing, what category gives you the most trouble? How do you combat it? Of course, we’re always told to shop with a list, and seeing these four categories makes it clear why that’s helpful in fighting impulsive spending.


Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

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*Image courtesy of Señor Codo.