German Psychologists Finally Discover How to Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need


Impulse buying and overspending defeat all of us on occasion. But no longer! The good people of the psychology department at Germany’s Julius Maximilians Universität have found a solution: It all comes down to understanding your type.

Pleasure seekers crave enjoyment, and are frequently driven by spontaneity or curiosity, such as wanting to treat themselves to a truffle they’ve never tried before, or add a great pair of jeans to their wardrobe. They are reaching for pleasure. So curbing those expenditures is a matter of curbing the spontaneity by forcing a pause between the urge and the purchase.

The solutions here are low tech, such as keeping a note on your wallet that says STOP, or limiting immediate access to money (by locking cash or credit cards in a desk drawer or car, for instance). The goal is to halt the impulse.

Security seekers are slower to buy. They’ll stand in front of an object and think, “Will this taste as good as it looks?” or spend 10 minutes hovering over the “buy” button online. For them, the key is to simply not give themselves the time to consider: They need to walk away, or stand up and take a break from their computer.

These findings are based on two research studies—recently published in PLoS One—carried out on 250 participants. Interestingly, security seekers were just as likely to impulse buy, and just as likely to want to treat themselves.

But the motivational state of the would-be consumer also plays a large role. For example, the researchers found that someone who has just studied their dwindling bank balances is less likely to buy, while a pleasure seeker who just got a promotion may well celebrate further via consumerism. You can manipulate your own mood before shopping accordingly.


This article was originally published on Fast Company Magazine.