Last-Minute Splurges: Why You Can't Resist

Even during this recession, shoppers are still making those impulse buys.

ByABC News
June 15, 2009, 12:49 PM

June 17, 2009— -- Mary Matthews lives on a tight budget. But the Florida woman lets her frugality fall by the wayside when she spots an alluring shade of lipstick or a fun coffee mug.

"The small purchases make up for not being able to spend money on more expensive items," Matthews wrote in an e-mail to

The recession, to be sure, has turned more Americans into penny-pinchers: in April, the country's personal savings rate rose to 5.7 percent, the highest since 1995.

Yet, even in these cash-strapped times, some like Matthews are still finding dollars to spend on "impulse buys" -- last-minute, unplanned purchases that sometimes border on frivolity.

Consumers told that they were splurging on everything from small items like balls of yarn and books to bigger-ticket buys, like flat-screen TVs and even motorcycles.

Dramatic discounts offered by retailers today are likely part of what's motivating recent splurges, said Dr. April Lane Benson, a psychologist and the author of "To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop."

"The sales are so amazing that it is just such a trigger for people to buy," Benson said. "That they forget about whether they really need this thing and whether they can afford regardless of how cheap it is, how they're going to pay for it, and where they're going to put it."

And while women are more typically thought of as the shopping sex, men are splurging too.

Take, for instance, Jimmy O'Donnell, of Hot Springs Village, Ark. His weakness is golf equipment.

"I can't pass up a good deal on a new golf club, whether it's a pitching wedge or a new putter," O'Donnell said in message to "As for whether I ever regret spending the money I don't really have for such a frivolous purchase, you'll have to ask me tomorrow depending on my golf score today, and most importantly, don't tell my wife!"