When Impulse Shopping Pays Off


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Katherine Rossman writes in the Journal this week about the perks of impulse shopping: her husband may hate it, but it’s certainly brought the couple closer.She recalls a cake platter she splurged on at a silent auction in New York City.

“It’s for charity so you’re allowed,” her husband shrugged.

Years later, when she donated a little too much to charity, he wasn’t so forgiving. Perhaps the strain of saving for retirement had set in?

Regardless of how time changes our beliefs about money, for Rossman, the memory of that cake platter purchase stayed with her, much longer than the hole in her wallet.

But all this touchy-feely stuff sort of begs the question: When is it really OK to shop impulsively? Is money just a wad of green paper with senseless meaning, or does it represent something more, a solution to our problems and a path to the future?

The answer is both, but if you’ve been living on a budget and are feeling the pinch, here’s a look at when it’s quite alright to live a little like Rossman:

You can afford it. “If an impulse purchase doesn’t affect your overall financial well-being and is within your means and perhaps your budget, there’s no need to feel guilty about it,” says Flexo, the founder and lead blogger at Consumerism Commentary.

It will make you smile. “While you shouldn’t rely on spending, impulse or not, for short-term happiness, purchases for something that does make you happy can go a long way to improving your quality of life,” Flexo says. The important thing is not losing sight of your long-term happiness. One too many impulse purchases and you’ll be cringing at the thought of all the money you could have saved or put toward paying off your debt.

You’re being real with yourself. This means no BS-ing, no pinning your hopes on a poster and deluding yourself into thinking the universe wants you to have it, and making an effort to ask yourself the right questions when a gotta-have-it splurge makes its debut on your spending radar. “A disciplined spender has earned the right to make spending decisions on the spur of a moment as long as they consider the consequences,” says Flexo.

Are you trying to rein in your spending? Click here to see how one writer got her finances back on track >