Intentional or Impulsive: What Kind of Spender Are You?

We’ve all experienced it. A trip to the grocery store that ends with a quick chocolate bar in the basket, a sudden craving for Friday night takeout and you order delivery, or even some retail therapy after a long week. We make these purchases all the time, so what’s the difference between an impulsive purchase and an intentional one?

It all boils down to two things: is it a deliberate, financially responsible purchase? We’ll explain. 

The difference between an impulse and intentional purchase

While it’s fairly straightforward, we wanted to dig a bit deeper into the differences. For example, with impulsive decisions, buyers will often make the decision in the spur of the moment, based on a sudden craving or want; while these purchases often result in instant gratification, they might lead to buyer’s remorse soon after. On the other hand, with intentional purchases, we often plan to purchase in advance, usually through a process of deliberation. For example, let’s take 23-year-old Chris: he’s a fresh graduate working as an office assistant, great with paying off his monthly rent and payments, and has a small savings account. While Chris isn’t a big spender, he’s a big fan of limited-edition collaboration shirts, and finds himself splurging on them often. 

In this case, whether Chris’s shirt purchases count as impulsive or intentional depends on the context. If he frequently purchases these shirts but finds no occasion to wear them and they bring no practical use, we can argue that it’s impulsive. On the other hand, if collecting them is a vested hobby that he allocates a small monthly budget for, deliberating each collaboration for a week before purchasing, we can argue it’s intentional. 

Since everyone has different interests, finances, and lifestyles, much of whether a purchase counts as impulsive or intentional can be subjective. 

So, how do I become an intentional spender?

Actively consider if the purchase brings you any utility, be it practical, sentimental, or psychological. This could be a great wintertime work shirt, a great weekend trip to the hot springs with friends, or a visit to the spa to unwind after a long week. If it’s something that will only bring a short buyer’s thrill of the purchase, then reconsider. 

Here are other tips and considerations:

  • If you notice recurring buyer’s remorse for certain purchases, like trendy fashion pieces or kitchen widgets, note them down. 
  • Let things sit in your shopping cart for a week to a month before making the purchase.
  • Research the product when you can. Sometimes, a cursory search for reviews can be enough to deter you from buying (or the opposite)!
  • Know your financials and allocate a budget for entertainment or personal interest purchases. (We talk about knowing your finances and budgeting here!)

Need expert advice?

If you have any questions about your personal finances or budgeting, our team of professionals is more than happy to help. Just reach out