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Tackling your debts

Can you beat impulse buys?

Posted 16 January 2017

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Find out how you can stop yourself shopping online.

If you find that you struggle to stop yourself from shopping online, particularly late at night, a new tool could help you avoid impulse buys.

Shopper Stopper is a desktop tool from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. It lets you set opening hours for your favourite online stores so you can’t shop outside of these times. This could help you if you find it hard to stay away when you’re browsing online at night.

There’s nothing wrong with buying yourself a treat now and then but if it starts to become a problem for your finances, it’s a good idea to look how to tackle your spending. Here’s how the Shopper Stopper tool could help you stop impulse buying, as well as a few other ways you can control what you buy.

What the tool does

You can download the Shopper Stopper tool now if your internet browser is Chrome or Firefox. The tool only came out a few weeks ago so it’s still in the early stages and you can only use it on laptops or computers at the moment.

Once you’ve installed the plugin, you can set ‘opening hours’ for the online shops you visit the most. This means that you’ll only be able to access these stores while they’re ‘open’. Outside of these hours, a message will pop up telling you why you blocked yourself from shopping. You can personalise this message to help you resist impulse buys and it can even suggest other activities for you to do.

And if you’re worried you might need to buy something when you’ve set the shop as closed, you can nominate a friend. They can unlock the shop for you, giving you access to buy whatever you need. If you’re just looking to buy something you don’t actually need, it might be enough to stop you from shopping if you know you have to ask your friend.

The Shopper Stopper tool can’t stop you from shopping if you really want to – you can always disable it – but if you find that you often regret your impulse buys, it could help you to hold off long enough to resist buying something you just don’t need.

Other ways to stop shopping

The main way to stop yourself from buying things you don’t need is to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind before you go shopping. Of course, this doesn’t help as much with online shops but if you’re going to the supermarket, for example, make sure you don’t go on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry, you’ll probably buy more.

And if you’re not sure where your money’s going, it might be worth keeping a spending diary. Doing this will help you see if you’re leaking money – like if you’ve bought a few extra shirts in the sales than you meant to.

Make it harder for yourself to shop online – don’t save your debit card details on any online stores. If you’ve got to type out the information, you’ll have to think longer about a purchase and you might decide you don’t need it after all.

Buying something nice for yourself might not be a problem if you can afford it but if it means you’re struggling to afford priority bills and debt repayments, it might be worth seeking help. You can get advice from a number of free debt charities or from our trained debt advisors. Scroll down to see the options you have to get in touch with us today.

by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.