Shopping is fun, and that's why many people turn it into a hobby. And yet, like most fun things, it's not something you should indulge in every chance you get. If you do, you may find yourself going broke because of your shopping habit. (Boo.)
Now I'm the first person to sing the praises of shopping. In my opinion, if you haven't gone to the mall with a gaggle of your friends, then you simply haven't lived. (Or maybe I'm just saying that because I grew up in New Jersey, where the mall reigns supreme.) I also understand that perusing the mall is the background activity to hanging out with your friends. But let's be honest — hardly anyone ever leaves empty handed.
Go ahead and shop for things you need, but don't let it get out of control since it's a slippery slope for a simple hobby to turn into compulsiveness. According to Money.USNews.com, about five percent of Americans suffer from compulsive shopping, and even more struggle with lesser forms of spending. When that happens, it's just not fun any more, especially if it's breaking your budget.
If you're looking to save some money, and break yourself of your shopping habit, then here are some tips for avoiding shopping traps, and getting back to your budget.
1. Don't Plan Shopping Dates With Friends
While it's an easy go-to outing, try to think of an activity other than spending the day shopping. Because even if you swear that you're "just looking," it's going to be all too tempting to eventually whip out your wallet. Avoid putting yourself in that spot by making other plans, like hiking or chilling in the park.
2. Pay In Cash
The thing about cash is that it dries up, so if you're out running errands and things are catching your eye — too bad! If you've only taken enough money for exactly what you need, then you won't find yourself coming home with too many groceries, tchotchkes for your apartment, or an extra pair of shoes. Paying in cash is also a good way to stay on a budget. Once you run out, you're out, unlike "magic money" from your credit card.
3. Leave Your Credit Card At Home
If you try the cash trick, but still carry a credit card, you're probably going to find yourself making some allowances here and there. So, when you can, just straight up leave your credit card at home. Save it for important purchases only, instead of using it as easy money when you're out shopping.
4. Don't Regularly Visit Online Stores
You never know you want something until you seeing it staring back at you from your computer screen. I often don't know I "need" a new wallet until I see one online, and I could probably go without rainbow candles, but they look so cool... And that's exactly why you have to stay away from places like Amazon or Etsy if you're trying to cut back on your shopping. Whenever I find myself on these sites, I can't help but buy something, especially with those pesky one-click purchasing options.
5. Avoid Shopping When You're Bored
This ties in with online shopping, because who hasn't cracked open their laptop to erase boredom with a little retail therapy? I've definitely done it, and it seems like it's an all too common thing. As Gina Marinelli noted on Refinery29, "It’s a slow Sunday night ... so, you fall into a friendly little Internet black hole of e-commerce sites, constantly pressing 'add to cart,' and before you know it, you’ve placed so many orders you’ve basically waved goodbye to this week’s paycheck." Yeah, not the most responsible way to spend an evening.
6. Also Avoid Shopping When You're Sad
When you're sad, it can feel like the best course of action is to squash down your feelings with a nice little shopping spree. And it does work — kind of. According to Marinelli, shopping can temporarily boost your happiness since decision making gives you a sense of control over your life. But that doesn't mean you should go totally nuts. In fact, Marinelli says that a study at the University of Michigan found that sadness can increase your willingness to pay. Basically, you're sad, you deserve a treat, but your usual budget cap ceases to exist. It can lead to money problems down the road, so it's best avoid using shopping as a coping mechanism.
7. Don't Get Suckered In By Sales
Just because something is on sale does not mean it is a good deal, and it certainly doesn't mean you should buy it. After all, the puke green sweater may be on sale, but you hate the color of puke green and you'd never wear it. Thus, it is simply a waste of money. Those who love to shop can get all shiny-eyed and full of wonder at the sight of a "sale" sign, no matter what it is that's on sale, but it's best to back away slowly and prevent unnecessary spending.
8. Embrace Minimalism
It feels good to buy things in the moment. It doesn't feel as good to find yourself drowning in stuff you hardly ever use. You can use this image as motivation to put an end to your shopping habit. Think of your clean, airy apartment. And imagine your perfectly appointed closet, with nothing in it going unused. When you start to buy exactly what you need, instead of just getting "junk" for the sake of shopping, you'll become more pleased and at peace with what you already own.
Shopping is fun, and it's definitely OK to do it occasionally. But if it's turning into a habit, or even an addiction, it's best to put a stop to the sprees and find another way to spend your time.
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