NOTE TO READERS: Most weeks here on “Fireside Friday,” we like to share a personal story about from some awesome people who have interesting and creative perspectives on how to save, earn, and think about money. This week, we were able to sit down with someone - or shall we say something - that knows more about impulse purchases than just about anyone else. We hope this item’s unique perspective gives you new insight into the anatomy of an impulse buy.
Today's guest wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of it's content.
Hello, there. It’s me, your best friend. No, not the one you call when you need to talk about great news or something stressful. No, not the one who writes you birthday cards or sends flowers when you are sick. I’m the other best friend: the one who makes you feel pretty good for a few minutes at a time, and then you typically forget about soon after you have me.
I’m the pack of gum by the cash register; I’m the “Newly Formulated - now better tasting!” snack that wasn’t on your grocery list; I’m the t-shirt that looks just like all the other ones you have and never wear - but is now 40%, so you just have to have me! I am an impulse buy.
Me and my friends are everywhere - at the mall, at the grocery store, online, in your mailbox, and on your TV. In fact, when I saw you come into the store today, I knew it wasn’t the first time we had met. As you approached my stunning display - right at the end of the aisle, with lots of colorful signs and large, screaming fonts - I knew that once you saw me, your mind would start reeling to remember the last time we had met.
You were about to walk by, but did a double-take and took a few steps back. You reach out to your friend, “Oh, this is that thing I saw the commercial about!” (It’s not a coincidence, after all; we live in a time of the greatest media exposure since the history of the world.)
“Oh yeah, I saw that, too. It’s nice.” You picked me up and held me in your hands. You read my various labels and remembered all you had heard about me before.
You are probably thinking that it would be really great to walk of the store with me. You are probably thinking that you’ve worked very hard and that you deserve something like me. You are trying to come up with reasons to resist the urge to splurge, but nothing so convincing is coming to mind.
Suddenly, a noise, “So, are you going to get it? What are you doing?” It’s your friend, the kind of best friend I was talking about earlier.
You snap out of your daze and I lose your attention for the first time in several minutes. “What’s that?”
“Do you really need that? I mean, aren’t you trying to save up for that vacation next spring?”
Oh snap! There it is; now I know that you and I can never be. I almost had you, in fact I’ll probably get someone else to buy me later on today. But when presented with the reminder of your long-term goals, and the enduring satisfaction of a great accomplishment at last, my flashy displays and coupons are no match; I am a goner.
So here’s the truth, and I’m really not supposed to say this stuff, but I trust you ImpulseSave readers. The truth is, my friends and I are really not as great as we like to say that we are. Sure, we’re shiny and new, and we have been sold to you through all kinds of outlets. However, most of us are just here to be bought and ruin your budget. Next time you come across one of us, I hope that you have a friend like the one in this story to remind you of the lasting benefits of saying no to impulse buys. (And you didn't hear that from me!)