People Are Sharing Impulse Buys Under $30 That Were Worth Every Single Penny In This Viral Twitter Thread (40 Answers)
We've all had it. A surprise madcap moment that takes you on a journey of spotting an object to adding it to your bag, to bringing it to the checkout, to paying an unforeseen amount of money, with or without a guilty pleasure in what feels like an eternity that lasted seconds. No commitment, no time to reflect, zero anticipation about the future.
Later on, it really depends on the purchase whether we regret it or not. On some occasions, the impulse buy turns out to be the best thing that happened to you that day, or even that week. Just take a look at this thread from Twitter user Rachel Syme. “Ok, it's May, everyone is burnt out, everyone needs one thing in their life they can spend less than $30 and feel a fleeting but heart-quickening thrill,” she wrote and added that: “It is time for a surprise madcap on a budget thread. Tell me the best thing you bought to enhance your life for under thirty.”
And oh boy, this has hit all too close to home. From Sicilian lemon marmalade and a disco ball planter to a remote-controlled helium-filled flying shark and a snail-shaped boy dispenser, you are about to realize your impulse lava lamp is not that weird, if weird at all.
Image credits: rachsyme
Image credits: rachsyme
To find out more about the complex psychology behind impulse buying, we spoke with Hans Schumann, the international Executive Career & Life Coach, with a background in law and financial services going back 20 years. Schumann confirmed that some people are more prone to impulse buying than others, depending on their personality type, people prioritize either doing, feeling or thinking. “The ‘DOers’ are most likely to act impulsively. The ‘Feelers’ are most likely to base buying decisions on feelings. Thinkers are more likely to take time, consider Pros and Cons and alternative options,” he explained.
Sometimes impulse shopping can become a problem. Schumann said that it happens when we catch ourselves frequently regretting our buying decisions. “Maybe you end up with a lot of purchases you don’t really need or that disappoint you. You could waste a lot of money. The impulse could also turn into a compulsion that you struggle to stop and that gets you into significant debt.”
Part of an urge to buy impulsively had to do with the fact that it makes us feel better. "Any purchase can make us feel better. That’s why people invented the term 'retail therapy.' In fact, I would say that most people shop to make them feel better, to compensate for emotional issues in their life. Yet, the positive feeling is often short-lived and needs to be constantly refreshed with new purchases," Schumann said and added that it can turn into an addiction.
Consumerism is designed to make us buy things we never planned, Schumann argues. “We see adverts or goods displayed we did not even know existed. Marketing experts are skilled at making us believe that we need the product and that we will feel better buying it. If we only bought essentials, capitalist economies would suffer,” the life coach concluded.
In fact, Slickdeals, the platform for shopping, commissioned a year-over-year survey on impulse spending and found that respondents spend an average of $276 every month, a 51% increase from the average $183 per month reported in April 2020. That adds up to $3,312 annually, or a whopping $198,720 over the course of their lifetime. Moreover, one year of pandemic later, Americans are still impulsively buying the all-time favorite main essentials: food/groceries (48%), household items (42%), clothing (40%) and coffee (33%).
Another 2016 study by researchers at Princeton University named "Dark Patterns At Scale" found that people are much more likely to spend money when they are stressed out. It’s because stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps us respond quickly and effectively to threats in our environment. In the modern and developed world, the stressors we face often are not physical but psychological. Businesses seem to have nailed the ways of capitalizing on that.
“Behavioral responses to stress in our modern environment — replete with conveniences such as big box stores and restaurants — do not necessarily affect one’s ability to stay alive versus face death,” the 2016 study noted. “However, performing strategic behaviors in response to stress may help an individual function in day-to-day life.”
Meanwhile, a great body of research on consumer behavior also shows that a deeper problem is at work when impulse buying, and that’s instant gratification. When we are feeling stressed, tired, or anxious, it is more difficult to make thoughtful decisions using the rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Often, emotions take over via the limbic system.
As if that wasn’t enough, the act of shopping offers a hit of dopamine — thus making us feel immediately gratified — when we are stressed out. With online shopping, however, the researchers noticed an interesting thing. They suggest it offers not just one point of gratification, as we usually see in in-store shopping, but two points of it: one when you press “buy” and another delayed point of gratification when the item is delivered to you.