This Quick Fix Can Help Curb Impulse Shopping

Mercury is in retrograde (isn't it always?), and there's no time like the present for a little retail therapy. Whether you're feeling frustrated at work, having a bad mental health day, or overwhelmed by the news, a little pleasure-shopping really is a simple way to relax and cheer yourself up. That said, you're also trying to budget. While money can't buy you happiness, there's no doubt it can pay the rent.

So how can you limit your impulse purchases, especially when decision fatigue can wear down your willpower? Turns out a new study from the University of British Columbia may have an answer: Try not to buy things using a touchscreen.

You interact with smartphones and tablets differently than you do a desktop computer. Researchers found that for your brain, using a touchscreen feels more like a real-life experience than operating a mouse, which abstracts your interaction with the monitor. No matter what age, we all had to learn that moving a mouse or pressing a touchpad connects to the cursor, which executes commands. But touching an image and producing an action is almost like real life. Your brain interprets online shopping on your smartphone in a similar way to shopping in a physical store — it's fun, particularly when you're browsing hedonic objects, which give the user pleasure.

Researchers also found that those who shopped on a desktop were much more keyed in to their rational side. Those users were more likely to buy practical items, like groceries or home office supplies. In short, the touchscreen is short-circuiting your restraint a little, making it easier to just click and buy things you might not need that much.

There's nothing wrong with treating yourself every so often. Self-care is no joke, and looking after yourself can obviously involve financial expenses. But give yourself an edge when that thing on Etsy or that hot new hardback seem too good to resist. Take a step back, consider whether you can live without it and fire up your laptop, just to be sure.