Curbing the Urge to Shop
The other day I went into Target. Target to me is the giant money suck. I’ve always been convinced that once you walk through those automatic double sliding doors, your brain is zapped from whatever mission you were originally on, and you are now free to wander aimlessly and find a bunch of things you don’t really need, but want, to put in your oversized shopping cart.
My original mission was a simple gift bag, baby shower card, and some tissue paper, but I ended up walking out of there with a new dress, capri workout pants, workout top, and cotton tank top. How did that happen? Lest you think this sounds like shopaholic tendencies, I can assure you I’m anything but a shopaholic, but even I fall prey to lifestyle inflation, and get sucked into the lure of “pretty things” to wear, furnish my apartment with, and new gizmos and gadgets. I swear you can justify buying anything if you really try.
Where Did the urge to shop Come From?
The urge to shop all starts out so innocently, as it did in my case. I have someone coming to live with me for two months who is paying me $300/month to get his feet wet living in Los Angeles. Since he will essentially be sleeping on my couch, I was trying to come up with ways to have him not live out of his suitcase, and to create some privacy for him. So I started off looking for dresser drawers and room dividers on Craigslist.
I didn’t find anything, so I started going to websites like Amazon, Ikea, and Cost Plus just to check things out. Having made more money this month, you start to let down your guard just a little. But wanting is a slippery slope!
Suddenly I start looking around my apartment and think of all the cute things I’d really like to fill it with. Oooh, new pillows would be nice. And that bamboo plant that was supposed to be “unkillable” that I killed anyway, should really be replaced with a fresh new plant (that I’ll probably kill eventually anyway). Yes, that will make me happy!
When the rush for new, shiny things takes over, it has the potential to kill the vision of why money is important in my life.
So How Can You Curb The Urge to Spend?
Well, here is what is currently working for me anyway.
1. Remember the why in why you’re buying stuff. Greg from Club Thrifty wrote a great article about that recently. When I was in Target trying on the dress, I knew I wanted to wear it to my friend’s baby shower. I wanted that “fresh look” that everyone would notice. It dawned on me later that I was buying the dress for other people, not me. Yes, I’d love to freshen up my wardrobe, but it’s way, way down the priority list right now (at least cute, trendy clothes are). I have a couple of dresses, and even though I’ve worn them a million times, let me be frank by saying, “who cares!?!?” I doubt seriously if my friends would like me any less if I didn’t wear something new.
So, checking in with your priorities is key to stopping the urge to spend. Heck, if I had millions of dollars I’m sure one little dress from Target is a drop in the bucket, but I don’t have millions, and I need new tires on my car. I also need to have more money in my emergency fund, retirement, etc.
But hey, if you are going to buy that dress, remember to buy it for yourself, not anyone else.
2. Put the pause on shopping and get creative. I was really hesitating buying that dresser and room divider for good reason. A good sale can convince you to buy anything, which is why I try to avoid sales unless I’m shopping for a need, in which case that’s just a smart way to buy stuff. When it came to my dresser, I know this living situation is temporary, and hate being stuck with stuff I don’t really need. So I took a Saturday and went to town, organizing my apartment and re-arranging things so that there was space inside some bathroom cupboards to put clothes, and using an old file cabinet that was in my bedroom for even more storage. I then took a small fold up table from outside and put it in my room, so that when I’m not working on video-related projects and need my kitchen office, I can go to my bedroom and write there, giving my roommate more privacy. It’s not going to win design awards, but again, this is only a temporary situation, and I spend exactly nothing.
3. Avoid stores and catalogs. It’s really easy when you’re bored or curious to just go “check things out,” kind of like I did when I went online to Cost Plus. Marketers do an amazing job of making you think life would be so much better if you purchased this or that. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.
For some reason I keep getting the Athleta catalog, and on the front is a super toned girl with flat abs wearing a cute top. One glimpse inside and I’ll be convinced that buying one of their tops is going to give me a six-pack. Needless to say, the catalog goes straight to recycling.
Shopaholic or not, every once in awhile we all fall prey to buying wants over needs. When that urge arises, pause, take a deep breath, and know that nothing has to be purchased today. If you really want something, it will more than likely always be available.
By the way, I returned the dress. The workout stuff I can justify because I spend hours in workout clothes and I was having to go to the laundromat more often, and my time is just too precious for that. 🙂
What are some ‘wants’ you’ve bought recently? How do you cub your urge to shop when it hits? What do you like to do instead of shopping when you’re tempted to splurge on a purchase you don’t need?
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