Today is Cyber Monday. Last year alone in 2016, 3.45 billion dollars was spent through online purchases on this single day. It is safe to assume that many of these purchases were made impulsively and with little prior thought.
According to an online poll taken by creditcards.com, 54% of people surveyed admitted to making impulse purchases of more than $100, while another 20% say they bought items on a whim that exceeded $1,000. These items could range from flatscreen TVs to automobiles.
According to this same study, statistics say impulse buying is particularly an issue for those of younger generations. Interestingly, 61% of impulse purchases for those between the ages of 18-29 was for self-purposes. Unsurprisingly, consumers in the 30-49 category were most likely to buy for a child while those 65 plus were more likely to make a purchase for a spouse or significant other. It would seem the older we become and the more responsibility we have, the less selfish our impulsive buying tends to become.
Impulse buying is a major challenge for Christians living in a wealthy North American context. Thanks to online sites like Amazon, Ebay, Kijiji, Facebook, and virtually every big box retailer’s website it is easier than ever to buy what we want and do not need.
Admittedly, impulse buying has been a struggle in my life as well. Thankfully, I married someone who has a strong Dutch background! In our marriage, I tend to be what Dave Ramsey would call the “free-spirited” person while Janan tends to be more of the “financial nerd” (aka the responsible one!).
Thankfully, through her and other influencers in my life, I have grown in this area. I am what you might call a “recovering free-spirited spender.” That being said, here are seven steps that have greatly helped me on this journey towards financial discipline and maybe they will be of some help to you.
Seven Steps to Avoiding Impulse Spending
1) Commit to Handling Money God’s Way
It is a life-changing moment in every believer’s journey with God when they realize that what they have is not really theirs. Everything they possess is a gift from God that they are entrusted to manage. When you view spending from a management position, it changes buying behavior. God’s Word has A LOT to say about money. Jesus talked about money more than he did about Heaven and Hell combined. 1 out of every 7 verses in the gospel of Luke addresses the topic of money. How we manage our finances is a big deal to God and it should be a big deal to us.
2) Decide How Much You Will Live On
I picked this concept up from Andy Stanley several years ago. By deciding what percentage of our income we will live on, it helps us know what our true budget should be. Our spending budget should not be based on our gross income or net take-home pay. Instead, it should be based on what is left after the essential financial obligations of our lives have been met. For Janan and I, this means a couple of things. First, 10% of all we have goes back to God through a tithe to our local church. Next, we made the decision as a couple to set aside an additional 15% for Kingdom-minded purposes and generosity to others who are in need. After that comes savings which take up a minimum of 10%. Following this is our bills. And finally, what we can spend!
Our spending budget should not be based on our gross income or net take-home pay. Instead, it should be based on what is left after the essential financial obligations of our lives have been met. Click To Tweet
All of this comes from how we believe God has asked us to use the resources he has given to us. This is essentially the reverse perspective of most non-believers. For many, life is all about survival. They spend on themselves first, barely manage to pay their bills, and then feel radially generous when they are able to squeeze $20 for Kingdom purposes.
Deciding how much of your income you will choose to live on is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.
3) Be Passionate Against Debt
Impulse purchases are made worse when they are done on a credit card. King Solomon was right when he said in Proverbs 22:7, “The borrower is the slave of the lender.” Having excessive debt makes us a slave. It is not long before the purchases we make on impulse can lead us to resent the very item we thought we could not live without. Having a 2018 Camero is awesome. Making payments on it in 2024 is not.
4) Develop Financial Accountability
I am continuously shocked to hear the number of Christian couples who claim to be one in Christ while having two separate bank accounts. That has always been a mystery to me. He has his money, she has hers. As a result, there is no accountability. While talking about financial matters as a couple is not always pleasant, I believe it is essential. It has actually strengthened our marriage, not hindered it. Janan knows everything I buy. We have joint accounts and we frequently discuss our budget together.
For single people, accountability is perhaps even more important. Finding a good accountability mentor who can ask tough questions is add wise counsel is huge.
5) Remove Buying Temptations
If Amazon is a major temptation to you, block it on your browser for a few weeks using the Freedom app. Stop going into that retail store that has been a major financial thorn in your side. Pretty basic but also extremely difficult.
6) Know What You Want Before You Shop
CBC’s Marketplace show has demonstrated that major retail stores are highly strategic in the ways they display their merchandise (Go figure!). This is why impulse packaging such as gum, candy bars, and prepackaged meals are often conveniently located right near a store’s exit. Retailers know people like convenience. By knowing what we are shopping for before we shop, it cuts down on the number of purchases we actually make.
7) Catch A Vision for Radical Generosity
Becoming a dad has had a way of changing my outlook on a lot of matters, money being one of them. Quoting from King Solomon again, he states that, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” But more than just my physical family, I want to be radically generous towards my kingdom family. Dave Ramsey often makes this statement, “Imagine what the people of God could do for the kingdom of God if they all got out of debt.”
I think about this question often when I am tempted to make a purchase out of impulse: “Is the purchase I am making helping to further God’s kingdom in my life or hinder it?”
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying all impulse buying is wrong. In fact, sometimes spontaneous purchases are exactly the right thing to do. But the point is to think through the process. By having a plan already in place and determining how much of your income you are going to live on, impulse purchases no longer become financially binding. They become unplanned items within a planned system.
By having a financial plan already in place and determining how much of your income you are going to live on, impulse purchases no longer become financially binding. They become unplanned items within a planned system. Click To Tweet