This is the number 1 impulse purchase Americans make

A woman looks at jars of food in an empty grocery store.

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The most common impulse purchase can come as a big surprise.

Most important points

  • Impulse buys can break your budget and some impulse buys are more common than others.
  • Food is actually the most common impulse purchase.
  • You can avoid this by not shopping when you are hungry or stressed, only shopping with a shopping list and considering pick up/delivery.

If you’ve made a budget, impulse buying can undo all your hard work. Budgeting means setting boundaries and determining where you want your hard-earned money to go. Making an unplanned purchase makes it harder to stick to your plans and you could end up reaching for the credit cards or overdrawing your bank account, leaving your balance low.

There are many different types of unexpected purchases people make, but recent research from Ramsey Solutions identified the No. 1 impulse purchase that people indulge in.

Can you guess what the most common impulse purchase is?

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

Many people fall victim to these random consumables. Overall, more than a third of Americans said they had bought something unexpected at least once in the past three months, with most surprise purchases at the store accounting for them.

This is probably not a big shock to anyone who has ever been to a grocery store, or even a department store or large store that sells tasty treats. These stores are set up to convince you to throw a new food or two in your cart, with colorful and attractive candies and snacks often right at the entrance or on the aisle end caps where you can’t miss them.

Unfortunately, many people who give in to their impulses wish they hadn’t. About 60% of people who responded to the Ramsey Solutions survey admitted to feeling guilty after an unexpected purchase and 53% regretted buying things they had no intention of buying before going to the store.

How do you prevent unplanned impulse purchases?

It can be very difficult not to throw items in your cart while shopping, but there are ways around this.

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 saying they are more likely to impulse buy when they feel this emotion. And of course, 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 carefully budgeting for groceries, as 85% of people who keep a budget said it helped them stop impulsive spending.

If you’re still having trouble adding random items to your shopping cart, you might also want to see if grocery shopping is available for you. Many shops will now actually do the shopping for you if you place an order online and then you can simply have the bags delivered to your car. If you never actually have to go to the store to do your shopping, 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’re aware of how often buying food items is on a whim. Knowing that these items are such a temptation can be half the battle in your fight to avoid unplanned expenses.

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