I just finished re-reading Paco Underhill’s fascinating book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. (Note: the book has been updated, but I read the first edition, so that’s what I’m discussing here.) Underhill invented the “science of shopping,” and he details many ways that retailers can create environments that encourage people to buy.

As I read, I realized that much of his advice could be flipped on its head, to help people resist buying. So often, we operate on habit and impulse; by recognizing the subtle factors that promote shopping, we can turn that information to our advantage, if we’re trying to shop wisely.

Many of these tips are very obvious, but as one of my Secrets of Adulthood holds: It’s very important, and surprisingly difficult, to grasp the obvious.

1. Don’t take a basket or cart. People who shop with a basket buy much more than those who don’t use a basket.

2. Don’t linger. How much time you spend in a store is one of the most important factors in determining how much you’ll buy.

3. If you’re a woman, shop with a man. A woman will spend less time in a store when she’s with a man than when she’s by herself, with another woman, or with children.

4. Don’t touch or taste. A lot of impulse buys are triggered by some tactile experience.

5. Be on your guard near the register. Lots of impulse purchases are there to tempt you.

As an under-buyer, I actually have to force myself to buy, so I will use these tips in the reverse–except #5. Under-buyer or over-buyer, no one needs to buy those gimcrack by the register.

How about you? Have you found any good strategies to help yourself resist buying, when you don’t want to buy?

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