Unless I have a specific store in the mall I need to go to or am headed to the cinema, I don’t spend much time at the shopping mall. On one recent trip to the shopping mall with my family, where a few of us had gifts to exchange, I was given a distinct reminder as to what the act of shopping represents for many of us.
The Shopping Habit, Explained
As we walked through a department store, my 9 year old son asked me if I’m saving up my money right now to buy anything. I couldn’t think of anything. I asked him the same question and he couldn’t think of anything he wanted or needed, either. The problem? He had cold cash in his hands. And he felt it needed to be exchanged for something…anything. “That’s why I want to look around, Mom, so I can spend it on something I find,” he explained.
At that moment I identified two things:
1) Big Win: He’s picking up on the good habit of using cash and learning to buy what he wants instead of asking us to buy it for him.
2) Room for improvement: He’s observed the principle, “Have money, will spend.”
Have you ever felt the way my son did? I sure have. Let’s be honest…In a giant shopping mall with dozens of stores, there’s bound to be something to catch anyone’s eye. Choosing to go shopping is almost certainly choosing to spend money (or worse, use a credit card).
How You Can Break the Shopping Habit
Here are a few things I’ve used over the years that have kept us living under budget and helps keep excess stuff out of our home.
* Go on a fast from the shopping mall. If you’re used to going each week to browse, take 2 weeks off. If you’re feeling strong (and frustrated by the unending cycle of buying things to make yourself happy then experiencing disappointment) go longer, like a maybe a month, without darkening the shopping mall’s doors. You’re going to show yourself that joy can be found in experiences outside the temporary high you might feel when you purchase something while shopping.
* Give gifts that don’t require a trip to the shopping mall or a superstore. Make something. Shop local. Or try any of these ideas!
* Go online. I recently began using Amazon Prime to order items I’d usually pick up at a superstore. (Superstores present the big temptation to “save” money but walk out with more than was on your shopping list, instead.) Some key household items available for purchase on Amazon Prime offer a 5% discount if you subscribe for them to be delivered with no shipping charge every other month, like laundry detergent or hand soap.
* Create a grocery plan that works. This will allow you to sidestep that stressful Saturday morning trip with the kids to the superstore to fill your cart. I remember rewarding myself with a latte and new workout clothes once just for getting through the weekly grocery trip at the superstore…only to find when I arrived home that I’d missed key items on my list and had to drive back the next day. (Can we say waste of time and money?)
* Start a list of things you’d like to have…but don’t go out and buy them for yourself. You can shop in your imagination this way and still keep your closets in order. Give it a try! As time passes, those items you most want or could use will stay on your list and you’ll come to see that some of the items would not have been much appreciated after all. Before you know it, you’ll become an easy person to by gifts for. (Learn some specific ways to start this habit here.)
* Wait to buy. Our grandparents were masters at this. Our generation? Not so much. Take the control back that you wield in today’s economy by recognizing that the money in your hand does not have to be spent at all. If you do spend it, it can be given to causes instead of contributing to the accumulation of stuff. Or it could be saved for the day that a special opportunity comes along.
For more on the minimalist approach to shopping, read Minimalist Shopping: My Experience.