NEW YORK (Mainstreet) —Impulse shopping is more common than you think with three out of four Americans who have made an impulse purchase, but nearly half of those regretted doing so, according to a CreditCards.com report.

Nearly one in three Americans have spent $100 or more on an impulse purchase, but men were the biggest spenders since they were almost three times more likely than women to have spent $1,000 or more on an impulse buy.

An impulse purchase was defined as any unplanned or unnecessary decision to buy a product just before the purchase. Age appears to be a large contributing factor with nearly 90% of Millennials saying they had made an impulse purchase, compared to just 56% of seniors.

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The survey also found real differences among Americans when it comes to what triggers these purchases, how much we spend and whether we ended up regretting them. Men were nearly three times more likely than women to make an impulse purchase while intoxicated, while women were twice as likely as men to make an impulse purchase while sad. This is retail therapy at its truest. Of course, the most common emotion at the time of the impulse purchase was shoppers who were excited.

“Impulse buys, especially the big ones, are often ego purchases," said Jason Fischbach, a 24-year old New Jersey public relations executive. “It comes as no surprise that once alcohol gets involved, the stakes go up. Nobody tries to impress their drinking buddies or pick up a girl at the bar with a well thought-out vacuum cleaner purchase. But a big impulse buy, especially if it satisfies that mid-life crisis need, might do the trick.”

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they regretted an impulse purchase and women were more likely than men to share the same sentiment. College graduates were more likely to make impulse purchases than non-college graduates. Residents who live in the suburbs were more likely than urban or rural residents to shop spontaneously.

Shoppers were about as likely to make impulse purchases in-person and online. Cash was the top payment choice for impulse purchases with 33%, just barely ahead of debit with 32% and 30% who use credit cards.

No matter how you pay, it’s important to not let your impulse buying get out of hand, says CreditCards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz.

“Making small impulse purchases every once in a while is probably no big deal and can even be fun,” he said. “However, if they’re too costly or happen too often, they can devastate a budget, so be careful.”

If you do suffer from buyer’s remorse, remember that some credit card issuers offer guaranteed returns on purchases, even after it’s too late to return them to the store, Schulz said. Since different issuers have varying limits and rules, your best bet is to call your credit card company to find out their guidelines.

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Shopping on a whim is not detrimental as long as you can stick to your budget, he said.

“It’s O.K. if you can keep it under control and becomes risky if you spend too much,” Schulz said. “For many people, that is real money that most people need.”

Buying things impulsively can lead to late payments, especially if you already have accumulated some credit card debt.

“Shopping can be an adrenaline rush, but once that rush fades and you have to pay the bill, it can be a little dicey,” he said.

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Making purchases on a compulsion can lead to negative consequences, especially during the holidays when many people are already stretched too thin.

“The unplanned impulse purchase punches holes in the planned holiday spending budget, leaving a shopper with poor choices,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit. “Since money is limited, after succumbing to an impulse purchase, a person has to either overspend or replenish with money from other categories.”

Creating a list is a much better idea that you can stick to is a better option. If the urge to stray from it becomes too great, walk away for 15 minutes, she said.

“The item will still be there, and you’ll have taken time to regain control of your emotions and make a more measured buying decision,” Cunningham said.

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--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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