Okay, we're all guilty of buying on impulse, even yours truly. In 1988, not the only time I bought impulsively, I received a call at the office from my father about some bad news about my mother. I had to go home and be with myself and collect my thoughts.

On my way home I passed a grocery store with a bakery. I don't know about you, but there is something very nurturing about chocolate birthday cake with chocolate icing. I drove into the grocery store, not literally, but almost, and asked for the largest chocolate birthday cake with chocolate icing. The baker asked me what name would go on the cake. Puzzled, I looked at him and said, "I don't know." All I wanted was the cake; I didn't even think far enough to realize there needed to be a name on top of the cake.

That's the number one problem with impulse buying: when you do this, you're not thinking far enough into the future. Humans are lucky in that we are equipped with brains that allow us to think and make a rational decision. Snakes, on the other hand, have very simple nervous systems; they receive stimulus, and they simply react, impulsively. There's no thinking with a snake. That reaction: to bite. Our reaction: to buy.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself before you buy something you didn't leave the house with the intention of buying:

  1. How will I pay for it? (with a credit card, of course...that's not paying for it, MasterCard is paying for it)
  2. What will happen if I don't buy it? (the world will come to an end...NOT!)
  3. How did I get along all this time without it?

That last question is the one you need to pay closest attention to.

I was giving a workshop in Los Angeles and a participant said she always sleeps on the idea when she wants to buy something impulsively, usually she gives herself 24 hours to think about it.

When was the last time you paused for 24 hours before you bought something that wasn't on your list?