Lindsay Gibbons

Equinox Staff

College students are notoriously short on money. According to the National Student Financial Wellness study, seven out of ten college students say they feel stressed about their financial situation, and 60 percent say they worry about having enough money to pay for school. However, college students also continue to spend money on things they don’t truly need.

This phenomenon is called impulse spending, and it’s a common behavior among college students. Although there’s no actual definition, impulse buying is thought of as a spur of the moment, unplanned purchase that is not necessarily a good idea.

While you may think a few unplanned purchases a week won’t make that big a deal, it can really add up. According to CNBC, the average American consumer makes roughly three impulse buys a week, which can add up to $45 a month. Keep that up all year, and you’ll spend $540 each year in impulse buys alone.

According to a survey conducted by National Student Financial Wellness, seems to be the biggest culprit when it comes to impulse buys. 70 percent of those surveyed said that they had impulsively bought food that they didn’t really need. 53 percent also said that clothing was a big draw to impulse buying. 85 percent of responders said that they are more likely to spend money on something they weren’t planning on buying if there is a discount or special promotion going on. This brings in the opportunistic side of shopping, with consumers being worried they could miss out on a great deal if they don’t purchase the product now.

Ultimately, the key to stopping impulsive spending is willpower, which is the ability to delay gratification and resist certain temptations in order to achieve long-term goals. Willpower works like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it will become. But this also means that willpower can tire out. This is why it’s important to plan out shopping and not go when you’re more likely to spend more money.

Most can agree that it’s a bad idea to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. However, recent research shows you may want to avoid shopping altogether when you’re hungry. A recent study from the University of Michigan found that hungry shoppers spend about 64 percent more than shoppers who aren’t hungry. This could be because your ability to resist temptation has some relations to your blood glucose levels, which become low when you’re hungry. Before going shopping, it’s best to have a filling snack, such as a piece of fruit or whole wheat crackers.

Carl Richard, a certified financial planner, recommends waiting at least 72 hours before making a purchase. This can help cut impulse spending by putting some space between you and what you want. Waiting for 72 hours, or three days, can help curb the impulse by giving you some time to really think about your decision. This allows the initial excitement of a new purchase to die down, so you can make the decision with a more level-headed mind.

While shopping—whether it’s impulsive or not—can be fun, it’s  important to plan out all your purchases. Harnessing your willpower and exerting more self-control can help you stay on track with your finances and save money for things you really need.

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