This is the #1 impulse purchase Americans are making

A woman looking at food jars in an empty supermarket.

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The most common impulse purchase can be a big surprise.

Key points

  • Impulse purchases can break your budget, and some impulse purchases are more common than others.
  • Food is actually the most common impulse buy.
  • You can avoid this by not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry or stressed, committing to only shopping with a list, and considering grocery pickup/delivery.

if you have made a budget, impulse purchases could undo all your hard work. Budgeting means setting limits and determining where you want your hard-earned money to go. If you make an unplanned purchase, it’s harder to stick to your plans and you could end up hitting the Credit cards or taking too much out of your bank account and leaving your balance too low.

There are many different types of unexpected purchases that people make, but recent research from Ramsey Solutions has identified the #1 impulse purchase that people are indulging in.

Can you guess what the most common impulse purchase is?

According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, the most common impulse purchase people make is actually food items they find while shopping at the store for other things.

Many people are victims of these random purchases of consumables. In all, more than a third of Americans said they had purchased some type of unexpected item at least once in the past three months, and in-store food purchases accounted for the majority of these surprise purchases.

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has ever been to a grocery store, or even been to a department store or big box store that sells tasty treats. These stores are set up to convince you to throw a new food or two into your cart, with colorful and enticing sweets and snacks often right at the entrance or on aisle end caps where they’re not to be missed.

Unfortunately, many people who give in to their urges end up wishing they hadn’t. About 60% of the people who responded to the Ramsey Solutions survey admitted to feelings of guilt after an unexpected purchase and 53% regretted buying things they had not planned to buy before going to the store.

How can you avoid unplanned impulse purchases?

It can be really hard not to throw items in your cart when you shop, but there are ways around it.

One solution is to make sure you don’t go shopping when you’re hungry or stressed. Being stressed is more likely to lead to unexpected spending, with 64% of respondents indicating they were more likely to buy on impulse when feeling this emotion. And obviously, if you’re hungry at the store, all the enticing foods will be impossible to resist.

You can also commit to making and sticking to a list and budgeting carefully for purchases, as 85% of people who keep a budget said doing so helped them stop impulse spending.

If you’re still having trouble adding random items to your shopping cart, you may also want to see if grocery pickup is available to you. Many stores will actually do the shopping for you now if you order online and then you can take the bags to your car. If you never actually have to go to the store to get your groceries, you can’t fall victim to impulse buying once you’re inside. Plus, you can see how much you’re spending as you add items to your cart.

Whichever approach works for you, make sure you are aware of how common impulse food buying is. Knowing that these items are tempting can be half the battle in your fight to avoid unplanned expenses.

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