Acting on Impulse


I’ve got dozens of things in my home that were “bought on impulse.” We’re not talking tablecloths and bookends, either, but sofas and sculptures and staircases (yes, entire staircases). Lots of different things can trigger that impulse in me — a sale tag, a great story, an amazing color, or just sheer uniqueness — so over the years I’ve had to develop a couple of rules to keep me in check. Sometimes I ignore those rules, but at least it slows me down a little as I pull out the credit card.

  1. Am I buying it just because it’s on sale?

Cost isn’t the only thing to consider, obviously, but a big red “80% off” tag can make you forget that. The worst sort of rationalization is “Well, it isn’t exactly what I need, but at that price…,” because then you’re stuck with something that isn’t exactly what you need. Keep your money and keep looking, rather than regret your bargain-hunting impulse every time you look at your discounted find.


  1. Does the size fit the price?

Before you sign a sales slip, are you sure that when you take it home it will have a big enough WOW factor to justify the money you spent on it? Diamonds and other small items are an exception, but sometimes you can justify a great piece if it’s got a great big presence.

  1. Does it fit your space?

Do you have your room measurements in your pocket, and are you sure your impulse buy is the right shade of green? Even something that will fit in your footprint may throw the balance out of whack. I’ve also done impulse buys on things that I have never seen before because I’ve been totally intrigued by some accessory, art, or object. That’s not always wise if it goes with nothing else I have in my house. I would have been better off to just enjoy it for the moment and walk away.

  1. Can you return it?

Half the point of an impulse buy is the thrill of adventure, the derring-do of the action — so asking for a return receipt takes a bit of fun out of things. But you know how you can meet someone beautiful at a bar, and two hours later would give anything to have never said hello? Well, imagine that with a set of dining room chairs before you make a non-returnable purchase.

  1. Do you love it?

This is the true test. If you fell in love with it at first sight, and immediately know where it would fit into your life, then it’s probably a good buy.

For the record, I met Michael in a bar, and started talking to him on impulse. We’re still talking 24 years later.


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