Part of setting my new savings plan into action is invoking a cooling-off period for things that I think I want or need, which involves some degree of public shaming. I figure that much of what I see when window-shopping or poking around the internet only appeals to me in the heat of the moment, and it’s only because I don’t have people with me at the time (as well as lacking the voice of reason in my own head), that I don’t get talked out of buying something that may seem winning yet isn’t necessary.
I imagine that I respond well to negative reinforcement because I was brought up by folks that were thrifty yet naggy: ‘You always spend money on rubbish!‘, ‘Do you really need to eat Froot Loops in the afternoon as well as morning?‘, ‘You’re not getting new runners until you wear those other ones out.‘ It got me through my childhood and some of my teens okay, but I think that I’m one of those kids that didn’t inherit their fiscal habits… I rebelled instead. You don’t want to know how many Froot Loops I went through when I first moved out of home, or how many pay packets I’ve burned on entertainment rather than bills, or how many times I’ve had food waiting for me in the fridge but gone out for dinner anyway. So as much as I wish for a rent-a-parent sometimes to keep me in line when I’m going crazy Broadway style at the supermarket or picking out ridiculous souvenirs while travelling, I doubt I’d listen to them if they were around!
I’ve written before about my shopping addiction, but the more I become acquainted with my kryptonite, the easier it gets to manage. It’s taking time, but I’m getting the hang of how to shop better. A big part of this is satisfying my urge for instant gratification – I’ll write down wish lists in notebooks, mull things over, post links and pictures online to see how many friends agree with my tastes and desires. Sometimes I find that the simple report of ‘hey, check out this funny/cool/sassy thing’ and receiving acknowledgement of my allegations of awesome is enough.
It’s pretty embarrassing that it has taken so long to realise this about myself. Having a smartphone works wonders too, because as I float about in physical shops, I can try things on or get other people’s opinions on the fly regarding stuff I can’t buy immediately, or that I want to think over before buying. They say that the chances of purchasing something are vastly increased if you pick it up, touch it, try it on, carry it around. Even when I walk around stores now, I’ll try to go hands-free. I do laps of places, mentally bookmarking my wants/needs, and if I forget to go back for something I put it down to not really wanting or needing something so badly because I got distracted by other things. I’m training myself to appreciate delayed gratification – the more I genuinely want something, and the longer I desire it, the more satisfaction I’ll get when I finally do get it.
It’s trickier with online stuff. I don’t bookmark stores because again, I figure that if I really want or need something I’ll go to the effort of remembering where and how to find it. I’ve stopped buying anything after midnight, no matter how great it may seem or whatever flash sale or temporary coupon can be applied at checkout. I sometimes use apps to make little collections of cool on Kickstarter and Etsy when I’m lying in bed taking a break from a book or winding down for the night, but rarely do I get up the next day and fire up the computer to finalise a purchase. I should start blogging my weird late night finds again, to save me from buying things to write about them, and also to give some insight to how my wants get all warped once I have everything that I need.
I think the hardest thing about declaring all of my strongest unncessary-shopping desires is when my friends actually validate my wants. I’m happy to be ridiculed or offered alternatives or talked out of my potential purchases, but it’s tougher to deal with folks that end up digging the same things that I do. I mean, it’s pretty cool when I post something and there’s a handful of peeps that are all ‘WANT!’ yet I still feel like I’m being enabled to a certain degree. It’s sort of like graciously accepting a compliment while at the same time wanting to fiercely disagree with what the complimenter is saying. So I’m still learning to take enough pleasure in those positive responses, that I might not need to buy stuff in the end anyway.
Sometimes I feel like the kid sitting in the shopping trolley being pushed around. When I’m jostling and pointing at something on the shelf, it’s not necessarily because I want to buy it, and it’s more likely that I just want to draw attention to it and get a closer look. Upon further examination, chances are I’ll lose interest, and it won’t seem as shiny/clever as the next thing on the shelf that I roll on past. Thing is, I’m slowly taking control of my whims and wallet for what feels like the first time ever.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop shopping in some form or another. I really get untold amounts of pleasure from it. Maybe it’s my lame modern way of satisfying the hunter gatherer instinct. I think the best thing I’ve figured out is that I don’t have to grow up and get used to not shopping. The trick is just sorting out a more effective way of doing it. I’ll let you know how it goes!