I love to shop. The mall is my friend and until recently, my refuge. If I was sad I shopped, if I was happy I shopped, if I was bored I shopped. I began my shopping training as a little girl. Every weekend, my mom and I would go to the mall and shop. I always looked forward to having that time with my mom; my mom is a great bargain hunter and we were always looking for the great deal. So from an early age my love of shopping was born.
In light of these difficult economic times, I had to reassess my financial priorities and shopping habits. I decided that I needed to go on a shopping diet. So for the first quarter of 2008, I exercised a spending freeze with no excessive, unnecessary shopping. It was my own little social experiment on myself. It was actually not as hard as I thought it would be. I also learned a few key strategies to help me along the way.
Stay away from temptations.
My first step was to stay away from temptations by finding different uses for my time. I often shopped out of boredom or for retail therapy, so I had to find other ways to remedy my boredom. This meant no more shopping simply for fun. I started a blog, I exercised, I found projects to work on around the house, and I deliberately did anything but go to the mall.
Go in with a shopping list and stick to it.
Anytime I needed to go shopping for household needs or groceries, I went in with a list and I stuck to my list. (I will be honest, there were a few times when I would pick something up that wasn’t on my list. I would walk around the entire store with it in my basket but before checking out, I ended up putting the item back, so I never did buy anything that was not on my list. But I often came very close).
Consider your needs vs. your wants.
What helped me put the item back was really thinking things through. Did I really NEED this item? After all, it was not on my list before, so I didn’t think I needed it. I decided that if I truly needed it, I could add it to my list for the next shopping trip. Not once did something I put back go on next week’s shopping list. This was a good strategy for me to determine what I needed vs. what I wanted. This helped me stick to my goal.
Budget and save for the things you really want.
For the items I wanted that were not on my list, I decided to add them to a different list, my wish list. I decided that if there was room in my budget I would set aside money to save for those items and buy them after my shopping diet. By giving myself that time to cool down, I realized that I really didn’t want some of those things. And for other things, waiting allowed me to comparison shop to get an even better deal!!
Shop with a purpose or goal; don’t shop mindlessly.
I also became more mindful about how I spent my money. It was nice to have the extra money to allocate toward debts and savings rather than mindless spending. In many ways, personal finance is a lot like being healthy. You have to be cognizant of your eating habits to stay healthy. Eating mindlessly leads to bad food choices and spending mindlessly leads to bad financial choices. It’s amazing how those little things end up in your basket while walking around the store or when you just go “window shopping.” Those little things add up quickly and the next thing you know, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on miscellaneous items.
Allow small splurges on occasion, but practice moderation.
I thought that once my self-imposed shopping diet was over that I would end up binge shopping. Luckily, that was not the case. As a result of my shopping diet, I was able to put more money toward my debts, which helped me feel successful. I believe it was that feeling of success and using my strategy of saving for my wish list that kept me from a shopping binge. I could never completely give up shopping (who can?); but like health it is all about balance and moderation. A diet that deprives you of things you want inevitably leads to failure in the end. I know that I will need to allow myself a treat here and there. Practicing moderation along with mindfulness will help keep me satisfied and successful.
I learned a lot about myself from my little social experiment. The next time I want to buy something unnecessary, I will think it through more carefully and use the strategies that I learned. I know that from time to time I will really want that new pair of shoes or something else that I do not truly need. I am human and I am not perfect. And on occasion it will be okay; it is all about moderation and being mindful of your spending. Thinking more about my needs and wants will help me be in better control of my spending habits and keep me from shopping mindlessly.
This is a guest post from Sherylle, a newlywed who writes about her thoughts, struggles, and journey on living a balanced life on her blog, Sher’s Corner. If you like this guest article, consider subscribing to her RSS Feed.
photo credit: pipp.