The Psychology of Impulse Buying

We’ve all been there–you’re walking through the mall and see something you just can’t live without, only to get home just hours later and immediately experience buyers remorse. But what if we told you there’s a scientific reasoning for why this occurs.

So let’s walk through some of the main reasons why we tend to make impulsive purchases.

Loss Aversion

You’ve heard of the fear of missing out as it relates to social events, but maybe you weren’t aware that the same principles apply to our shopping habits. We don’t want to miss out on a quality item. So, if we’re under the impression that it will only be available for a short period of time, we may pounce on the opportunity to buy it now (hence the common use of limited-time-only offers). Like 2-for-1 deals, we like the idea that we’re getting more, for less.


It’s our human nature to fear that we’ll run out of necessary resources like food and water. So, we sometimes experience these impulses when it comes to making purchases of items we deem important. Plus, we have an even stronger feeling when there’s a perception that the resource will only be available for a short period of time, like we discussed above with loss aversion.

Thinking It’s a Bargain

The promotional signs outside of stores that boast the 25% discount you can receive on all items that day can help push you towards an impulse buy. Even if you wouldn’t have looked twice at the store before, the perception that you’re getting a good deal will make you feel justified in making the unnecessary purchase.


At the end of the day, we often make impulse purchases for things that we know we don’t need–but we do want them. Finding items that make us feel happy and provide instant pleasure are key indicators that you may make an impulse purchase. This is especially true on days when we’re feeling down or sad, so be aware that you may be more prone to impulse buying at these times.

There’s no doubt we can all identify at least one purchase we’ve made under the above conditions–even if we were trying to save money at the time! So with these concepts in mind, we can be better equipped to head out into the world and avoid making impulse purchases.

Bailey Schramm is a writer in partnership with Checkworks personal and business checks.
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