What's it called when you buy something you don't really need ?

A(n) ________ purchase

closed as unclear what you're asking by RegDwigнt Oct 23 '14 at 10:51

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  • How about luxury? – TimLymington Oct 22 '14 at 16:52
  • 1
    A "But it's so pretty" purchase. – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 '14 at 19:26
  • Waste of money. – ermanen Oct 23 '14 at 0:54
  • This is way too broad, as demonstrated by the answers that are all over the map. You will need to narrow it down quite a bit. Why do you buy it? To what end and for what reason? Is it spontaneously or have you been planning it for years? Or has someone tricked you into it? Is it considered a good thing or a bad thing? Considered by yourself or others? Who are those others? – RegDwigнt Oct 23 '14 at 10:54

This is formally termed a "discretionary purchase".

Cover of book "Why People Buy Things They Don't Need"

For example, from the synopsis of the book "Why People Buy Things They Don't Need"

Focusing on the "whys" of spending, Danziger has meticulously profiled customers in more than 30 categories of discretionary spending through research based on surveys, interviews, and focus groups from a variety of people who make discretionary purchases.

And later, in the content of the book:

Marketers can use these insights to position their products strategically along the discretionary purchase continuum, playing to the various justifiers that ...

One sub-type of discretionary purchase, when done on-the-spot due to a sudden urge without a lot of forethought (think buying a magazine at the supermarket checkout line) is called an "impulse purchase"


I'd call that a frivolous purchase


It could be symptomatic of retail therapy (Wikipedia)

Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer's mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as "comfort buys".

Retail therapy was first used as a term in the 1980s with the first reference being this sentence in the Chicago Tribune of Christmas Eve 1986: "We've become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy."

In 2001, the European Union conducted a study finding that 33% of shoppers surveyed had "high level of addiction to rash or unnecessary consumption". This was causing debt problems for many. The same study also found that young Scottish people had the highest susceptibility to binge purchasing.

Researchers at Melbourne University have advocated its classification as a psychological disorder called oniomania or compulsive shopping disorder.


You can say it is an unnecessary purchase.


You see something pretty, it captures your eye. You try to resist its allure, but too late. You are already entering into the store, and asking the clerk how much it is. You want that thing.

if you do something on the spur of the moment, you do it suddenly, without planning it.
It was something I bought on the spur of the moment, and I've regretted it ever since.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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