7 Most Impulsive Buys And Which Ones Are Worth It/Not Worth It

Not all impulse shopping is created equal

We’ve all felt the rush of buying on impulse—it’s exciting and easier than weighing the consequences of the cost. But too often the rush is followed by that hot feeling of guilt in your stomach after buying something that stretches your budget. Part of the reason for that unpleasant feeling is the realization that some of the things we buy on impulse have recurring costs that we didn’t initially consider. That said, not all impulse buys are created equal and some have benefits that offset the costs. Here’s a guide to whether or not seven of the most tempting impulse buys are worth the spend:

A dog

“OMG a puppy!”—are probably the most conclusive words in the world. What are the chances you’re not getting a puppy once you’ve gotten to this place? But owning a puppy (or a kitten, if that’s your thing) is expensive. The ASPCA estimates that the cost per year of owning a dog is anywhere from $580 to $875, and that’s without factoring in pet sitting. That’s a lot to commit to for what started as an innocent trip to pet puppies. That said, the benefits of owning a pet are well-documented. Owning a pet has health benefits, including decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol, and fewer feelings of loneliness. Research has even found that dog owners live longer than nonowners. So if you’re feeling stressed about the puppy you bought because you now have to feed it, train it, and take it to the vet—remember that the benefit you’re getting in return is pretty priceless.

Verdict: Worth it

A car

Not many people can afford to buy a car on true, out-of-the-blue impulse, but we’ve all heard stories of people who went to a dealership “just to look” and walked away with an “unbeatable deal,” only to realize an hour later that they just bought an actual car. According to a recent survey, Americans find buying a car to be more stressful than getting married. Distaste for the process may lead some to act on impulse when what they should do to avoid buyer’s remorse is take their time and do plenty of research. In fact, experts recommend that consumers “not even set one toe” in a dealership before doing their homework. If you need to buy a car, don’t do it on impulse.

Verdict: Not worth it


I’m a sucker for a cheap flight. I’ve (on occasion—let’s be real) purchased a flight on impulse only to realize within 10 minutes of booking that I then need to purchase accommodations, transport within the vacation city, meals for the duration of the trip, and so on. That said, while vacations come with plenty of unexpected costs, research shows that people who take them are happier and more relaxed than those who don’t. A recent study found that people who take vacations actually have fewer antidepressant prescriptions than those who let unused vacation days pile up. And, what’s more, those who travel somewhere on vacation have additional health benefits, including increased empathy and increased physical activity—as well as experiencing less stress, being in a better mood, and getting more rest.

Verdict: Worth it


This may not seem like an impulse purchase, depending on your experience, but there is a reason tattoo parlors stay open late. The cost of a tattoo can range anywhere from $50 to $300 per hour for a custom design. Plus, tattoos can require maintenance which will cost more down the line. One-third of people who get tattoos regret it—which may mean having to pay for expensive and painful removals—and many people get multiple tattoos which adds up. That said, 1 in 5 adults now has a tattoo, so there’s obviously something powerful that draws people in to get more ink. Psychology hasn’t fully caught up to the popularity of tattoos, but one study found that men and women had higher body appreciation, higher self-esteem, and lower anxiety right after getting a tattoo. But, three weeks later, men continued to feel these positive benefits, whereas women had a sharp increase in anxiety.

Verdict: Maybe worth it, but not as an impulse purchase

Exercise equipment

Exercise equipment is an easy impulse buy at specific points in the year: “new year, new you,” the approach of beach season—moments when you believe if you just had a treadmill in your house then you would definitely work out. The health benefits of exercise would certainly make the investment worth the buy, but research finds that 40 percent of people who own exercise equipment don’t use it enough, and the equipment itself does not have a long-term effect on how much a person exercises. Motivation is the only sure path to more exercise. Instead of buying the exercise equipment in hopes that the motivation will follow, work on the motivation first.

Verdict: Not worth it


Many of us feel as if we’re shopping for clothes nearly constantly—offers, deals, and flash sales arriving in our inbox first thing every morning. For some, that translates to a cycle of impulse buying. According to one survey, the average American woman owns $550 worth of unworn clothes. Our excessive clothes shopping habit is contributing to overflowing landfills and the exploitation of workers. And if that’s not enough for you, decluttering our closets is good for your health; it can lead to decreased stress and anxiety, increased self-confidence, and improved health habits, including better sleep.

Verdict: Not worth it

Furniture/home decor

Just saying the word Ikea inspires flashbacks to the dresser I broke while setting it up, the bookshelf that was too cheap to pass up, and the adorable mugs that don’t fit in my city apartment’s cupboard. There’s something about reasonably priced furniture that makes a full redecoration seem like a really good idea. On one hand, furniture and home decor falls into the same category as clothes: Decluttering is really the better choice. It’s not worth the money if all you’re doing is introducing more stuff into your life. But, if a furniture splurge is motivated by an intention to declutter, à la MariKon, it may be worth the spend. It’s already been said, decluttering is good for your health, and purchasing furniture with the intention to do so would be a reasonable buy.

Verdict: Worth it—if it’s only one piece and you’re decluttering before the new chair arrives

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

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