Straying from the Path of Intention to Impulse
While whiling away a holiday afternoon at home yesterday, I decided to go buy some ice cream sandwiches. Because, you know, they’re yummy and I wanted some.
Planned purchase amount? $3.49 for a box of 12 ice cream sandwiches.
So I gathered up my purse and told my husband I was going to buy some ice cream sandwiches.
“Could you get me some Häagen-Daz?” he asked.
New planned purchase amount? $6.78.
“And we may be out of popcorn.”
I went to see if we were out of popcorn, but while doing so I poked my head into the fridge as well. We had popcorn, but were out of milk. That brought the planned total to $8.46. So I headed toward the door, but my son stopped me on the way out.
“Where are you going?” he asked. When I told him I was going to buy some ice cream sandwiches, he wanted to know if I could get him some rocky road.
(We’re a big ice cream family, can you tell?)
That brought the new amount to $11.45.
But…by the time I left the store, I’d spent $24.10 — nearly 7 times what I’d originally intended to spend, and more than twice as much as the (revised) amount I’d planned on spending.
What happened? Well, I walked in and saw some cherries, and remembered that I was out of fruit. Then I looked up and saw some lemonade that promised to be fresh-squeezed. It sounded so good that I added a quart. Then on the way to the ice cream section, I noticed that they had the kind of frozen pizzas that my husband likes in stock, so I added a couple of packages of those too.
In other words, I let impulse rule the day — right from the very beginning actually, with my decision to go buy some ice cream sandwiches — but it got worse and worse as time passed.
Once I’d said yes to one impulse, it got harder and harder to say no to the next few impulses. Actually, I didn’t even try to say no, because I knew we had the money, and so it “didn’t matter”. I also let product placement influence my buying decisions. (Although at least Fresh & Easy has fresh foods front and center instead of crap.)
That’s a big change from the days when I would count the number of ramen noodle packages I could afford, and weigh the merits of peanut butter vs. toilet paper. In those days, I wouldn’t even glance at the other things that were available, because there was no point. I had to say no. Heck, I had to say no to a lot of basics as well.
While it’s an excellent thing that I’m no longer in those circumstances, it’s not an excellent thing that the word no seems to have escaped my brain.
Because while we certainly can afford to spend that $24, we can’t afford to let impulses get the better of us too often. I should at least consider the relatives merits of say, a bunch of yummy crap vs. getting our house paid off earlier.
$24 by itself isn’t going to make much difference, but a whole lot slew of 24 dollars will. I want to be sure that what we’re doing matches up with our intentions. It’s a slippery slope when you start straying from the path of intention to impulse.
Of course, you can make a little bit of impulse-buying intentional — and many people do. It’s called fun money; money that you can spend thoughtlessly up to a certain limit. I think planning out impulsive spending helps keep things in balance and and in check.