10 Classic Impulse Buys We Need to Stop Falling For


An impulse buy is just how it sounds. It's a purchase that we haven't really thought through, and instead follow the direction of our "lizard brains." We don't ponder the pros and cons of the purchase, or even think about what it is we're actually buying. We simply grab it, pay for it, and enjoy it. But these little impulse buys can really add up to some serious money every month. And just by alerting yourself to the biggest offenders, you may actually think twice next time you're about to grab one, and save yourself a nice chunk of change every month. (See also: 9 Simple Ways to Stop Impulse Buying)

1. Magazines

You're standing in line at the checkout, you've loaded up the conveyor belt, and now you're playing the waiting game. That's when you notice some of the outrageous or tempting headlines on the magazines in the rack, and pick one up. Before you know it, you're sucked in, you've plopped the magazine on the conveyor, and you've just spent $5 on something you were not planning to buy. That, in itself, is bad enough. But magazines fresh off the rack are way more expensive than a magazine subscription. These days, you can pick up a subscription to most of the big magazine titles for between $5-$10 per year! Not only that, but almost everything you read in the magazine is available online, through your phone, tablet, or computer. It's a complete waste of money.

2. Candy

Oh, those pesky supermarket designers are devious. They know just how to get you dipping into your purse or wallet, and candy is a classic example. Even if you're not tempted by chocolate or sugary snacks, kids are. And the "nag factor" is enough to make most parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles, cave in. You will also see special offers on candy in the checkout line, such as BOGO free, or BOGO half off. You may also see "Buy 2, Get 1 Free." These offers are designed to push you from a maybe to a "well heck, I don't want to miss out on that kind of a deal!" And before you know it, you've added a bunch of extra calories, and expenses, onto your grocery haul.

3. Cold Drinks

Have you noticed that mini-refrigerators have been popping up at checkouts with increasing regularity? From stores like Walmart and Target, to Goodwill, Ross, and Best Buy, as you wait in line, you will be staring into ice-cold beverage heaven. For some reason, many of us are preprogrammed to just naturally grab a drink after we've been shopping, but those drinks are more expensive as singles than as part of a pack — a pack you can find just a few aisles away. Plus, you need to ask yourself, "Are you really that thirsty?" Many stores have drinking fountains, so grab some free water before dropping $2-$4 on a drink you probably don't need.

4. Lip Balm

Raise your hand: How many of you have more than three or four lip balms at home (and yes, I'm putting my hand up, too). It may be more common in places with a drier climate, like Colorado or Arizona, but for some reason, the lure of the fresh, hermetically sealed lip balm is as tempting as candy and soda. And at the same time, we seem to forget how many we already have at home in the junk drawer or nightstand.

5. Batteries

"Batteries Not Included" is a phrase that has been burned into the memory of anyone that has ever given a present to an eager child. They open it up, press the buttons, and nothing happens. That's when you realize it takes eight size "C" batteries and all the stores are closed. Due to that conditioning, batteries are strategically placed near checkouts in grocery stores, warehouse stores, and electronics outlets. "Don't forget your batteries" ticks away in your head, and you grab a pack of each variety…. just in case. They join their unopened brothers and sisters on the shelf in the garage. One day, hopefully before they run out of juice, they'll get used.

6. Gum or Mints

Another classic impulse purchase is the tin of mints or packs of gum. They're placed at eye-level, right as you're plunking down your purchases for the cashier. No one likes a whiff of bad breath, so a tin of extra strong mints and a pack of spearmint gum will do the trick. They're only a few bucks, after all. You can put them in the glove compartment, and hope you'll have a reason to use the 60 sticks of gum that are already in there.

7. Coffee

What is the deal with coffee these days? It's like you can't walk 10 feet without bumping into a store selling the latest organic, dark roasted, pumpkin-spice-flavored cup of joe. Let's be honest though. Somewhere along the line, we were all convinced that paying $6-$7 for coffee was reasonable, even though we can all make perfectly good coffee at home for a tenth of the price. The smell of coffee, and the incredible flavors that go into it, is often hard to resist. There are Starbucks stores inside grocery stores, just near the exit, and one whiff is enough to get most people diving into their pockets for a quick pick-me-up.

8. Fast Food

Just like coffee stores, fast food brands have been setting up shop in grocery stores and retail outlets around the country. For instance, you can find both Subway and McDonald's inside Walmart, and they do an incredible amount of business. Some people say that you should never do your shopping on an empty stomach, and grabbing a quick burger before hitting the aisles seems like a good idea. Or, as you leave the store, the scent of grilled beef and fresh bread breaks down your willpower in seconds. Before you know it, you're munching on a burger in the car, despite having a week's supply of food in the trunk.

9. Energy Shots

These pesky critters have been popping up around the checkouts for the last few years. It used to be just one brand (Five Hour Energy), but now there are dozens of different brands on the scene. Gas stations and supermarkets are not exactly fun places to be, and if you're in one for long enough, or you're having one of those days, a little shot of energy seems like a great idea. "I'm tired…oh, energy in a bottle. I'll take one!" These shots can cost $2-$3 each, and the effects they have vary from person-to-person. You may get an insane energy buzz, or barely a twitch. Either way, it's an expensive little impulse.

10. Protein Bars

Protein. Protein. Gotta have your protein. These protein-packed bars are big business, and can be found in various places, including the vitamins and supplements aisles. That is a bit bizarre, because although they do contain a big chunk of protein, they also contain a list of ingredients that would give a healthy eater nightmares: high-fructose corn syrup, inulin, agave syrup, sugar alcohols, and fractionated palm kernel oil are just a few horrors lurking in them. But due to our increasingly hectic lifestyles, these have become a quick "grab-and-go" meal replacement. No time for lunch? A protein bar will do. Actually, it won't. It's an expensive mistake, and it can lead to sugar crashes and diarrhea.

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