There’s a scene in the movie Clueless where Alicia Silverstone’s character is accused of being aimless. She insists that she has direction, and is promptly chided, “Towards the mall!”
That, friends, was me in a nutshell for years. Decades really.
I didn’t have any concrete financial ambitions or direction. And I shopped like it was my job.
A lot of my purchases were really thoughtful. In fact, when I spent nearly $700 on a pair of Jimmy Choos, it probably clocks in as one of the most well-planned decisions I’ve ever made.
But I also was the Queen of Impulse Spending. You don’t end up with over 200 pairs of shoes any other way.
Rather than hide under the covers to dodge the marketing blitz that goes along with a holiday weekend, here are seven things I’m doing to stop myself from mindless spending.
1. Organize and Take Inventory
Whenever I think I absolutely positively must purchase something, I force myself to consider where I’m going to put it. After spending years decluttering without an end in sight, this consideration really does give me pause.
A lot of people tout the 1-In, 1-Out Rule. I actually force myself to part with three things to truly room for one new item. It’s a way to ensure that I really do have space; plus, it gets a little more
skin clothes in the game.
So reflecting on the precious space we do have and confronting the fact that I would have to bid adieu to more really makes me go easy on the shopping now.
2. Get Outside
We had a wicked cold spell this weekend on top of a snow storm, but we are still making an effort to get outside, even just for a little bit. In one instance, I hit the concrete (and the asphalt!) with my snow shovel, and two of our neighbors were quick to come by and help. Because we made such quick work of the task, I actually shoveled for our new neighbors who just moved in. The combination of being outside in the fresh air and the warm fuzzies from really loving my neighborhood underscored that most of what we really want can’t be bought anyway.
3. Make Extra Money
Typically, I write 1-2 freelance pieces each weekend. I’m an efficient writer, but it does take up time that I value (it’s a good thing I love writing!). When I work, I always do a quick calculation in my head to remind myself how much I’m earning…and how much time and effort it takes to make that money.
It is seriously so easy to spend a few hundred dollars on absolutely nothing at Target. Seriously. Sometimes, it’s like I walk in, blink, and the money has evaporated from my bank account. It’s a lot harder to make a few hundred dollars!
My Gmail inbox is sitting with THOUSANDS of unread emails in it as I type. It’s almost entirely comprised of marketing emails shouting at me about sales and coupons and such. Every few weeks, I do a mass delete to combat the noise.
This weekend, I spent time manually unsubscribing to ten different retailers so far. (It’s not you, it’s me, Banana Republic.) By forcing myself to manually unsub, I keep a little bit of my personal info personal (I’m not here for the shenanigans, Unroll.Me) and walk myself through some kind of over-consumption atonement.
I’m not talking about anything spectacular here. This particular weekend, baking seems to be my creative work of choice. I blame my kid. One of HP’s favorite shows (Peppa Pig, if you must know!) features an episode where a character gets sick and is treated to chocolate chip cookies.
“Da brown ones! Da brown ones!” After insisting that he wanted chocolate chip cookies for two days, I gave in and made two dozen.
Then, my son asked for a bowl of veggies and rice instead.
I also made two loaves of banana bread in an effort to use up some of the frozen banana graveyard in our freezer.
6. Get Value Out of Past Purchases
Each year, we purchase a membership to the children’s museum. Typically, it’s an outing reserved for HP and his grandparents. However, this weekend, we decided to make the drive and go. It was so much fun! It isn’t exactly free since we already paid for it, but we’re getting our money’s worth.
Other ways that I do this are rotating furniture and art from room to room in my house and rearranging items in my closet. Thankfully, I have less and less to shop from in my own closet, but it’s definitely still something I can do.
7. Find Free in the Community
For us, this means going to the library. We stocked up on new books, DVDs, and more puzzles. HP is a puzzle fanatic, and it’s so tempting to keep buying them. The problem is that there’s no good way to store toddler puzzles. I never want to pack them up and put them too far out of sight because then they go forgotten. Grabbing new ones each week from the library feels like shopping, but the mess ultimately goes back. What a win that is!
Final Thoughts on Curbing Impulse Spending
It is so easy to get sucked in the trap of impulse shopping. It’s true that deals can be really good and there’s no shame in shopping sales. But it’s also really essential for me to remind myself that I don’t have to spend money.
There are other ways to socialize. It isn’t actually a sport.
I have better things to do with my time, and I can put my money to work in other ways. Investing, paying down our mortgage, and actually waiting to purchase things I truly need or want.
So Tell Me…Do you have any other tricks I can try to curb impulse shopping?
I use some of the same techniques that you do but something that has stopped me cold in my consumer tracks lately is imagining who will dispose of the item after I have died! I am not planning on dying soon but I seem to have had a lot of deaths in my circle of friends, families and acquaintances lately. Just this past weekend my ex sister-in-law died unexpectedly (cardiac arrhythmia) and she was a sweet, kind hearted woman who would never pass up a garage sale bargain. I imagine now her family being grief stricken but also having to sort through her stuff and dispose of it.
I once had shelves and shelves of shoes and at one point I had over fifty purses. I now have one purse and one tote. Seriously…ONE purse. Old me could not have imagined a happy life that included only one purse. ☺️ Mindfulness is probably the key to managing our consumer impulses but it still remains a challenge at times.
One trick my wife and I try to use is to run every purchase by the other person first. Practically speaking, you can’t do that with every $1.99 kindle book, but set a threshold and everything over that number, you have to bring it up to your spouse. Just knowing that I have to justify another pair of comfy slippers, or book on baseball history, keeps me from going too crazy.
Hi, Oldster! We’ve missed you! 😀 That’s a great idea to use a partner as a sounding board. I think my husband and I do this informally, but we should totally set something like this up!