With all the Black Friday chaos around today, it made me realise that so many people (including myself on occasion) feel a compulsion to ‘buy’ to find a bargain, to get a great deal – to shop. I dealt with this many times when teaching confidence building skills; so many students would use shopping to make themselves feel validated, successful or just to get ‘things’ that for a brief moment made them feel good. Of course shopping is not a bad thing, and we can help the economy, support small businesses and do great things with our shopping… but just in case you want a break – here are 10 ways not to shop…
- Do something else! This is a bit cheeky, but actually quite a genuine suggestion. If you shop because you are bored, or it’s become a habit then try breaking your routine and changing things up a bit. If you shop because that’s the way to walk home for example, take a new route one day – we discovered that by just crossing the road a bit further up the path we could go past the shop quite easily… even the kids were distracted enough to not mention all the magazines and sweets they wanted.
- Unsubscribe your Email. You may find that over the years you have given your email address out to lots of companies… and are now in receipt of daily/weekly/monthly messages about deals, once in a lifetime offers and discounts. Some of these are useful as you find out about a free delivery offer, or are for companies you regularly use and the discounts are relevant. However, many of these will just be junk – and an enticement to shop that isn’t good for your pocket and eventually for your self esteem. Spend a hour ditching and unsubscribing so you are not tempted anymore. The number of email alerts today was staggering… my hour will be done over the weekend.
- Make a List. When you see something you really love, or must have – write a list of what you already have that serves that purpose, or does that thing. Being aware of what we already own is a sometimes surprising experience. If you still REALLY need/want that item, give yourself 48 hours to think on it… the urgency for gratification will be over by then, and if you still feel as strongly and it’s within your budget then go for it.
- Sell Something. This sounds completely the wrong way around, but you might want to try a ‘one in, one out’ policy for a short time to see what reaction it brings. This can be particularly useful for children to consider if they want the new thing more than one of their current things… Of course you could give something away but by selling something you raise funds and this can be very supportive psychological switch for people who like the thrill of finding a deal. It also means that you can put any money you raise towards future purchases.
- Write a Wish List. In this modern world we have stopped waiting for things, in the West we live in a high demand and fast paced culture and this means if we see something we just get it and pay for it later if necessary. How many of us have no idea what to give a relative or friend as a gift because they just buy what they need? Start a wish list and when you see something that you would like, just jot it down. If you are asked what you would like for a birthday, festival, treat etc you will have a whole load of ideas in all price ranges! Some major website have a list facility which you can share electronically, there is also Elfster which you can hold a list on or just good ol’ fashioned paper and pen.
- Make a Deal. If you mostly shop for others, you may find that to save money and sanity they would also like to cut back and you could suggest any number of new ways to show appreciation and affection. For example, if you give to other families at Christmas you could suggest not buying for adults but only for kids… or doing a Secret Santa with a fixed budget to everyone gets just one present… or setting a budget for gifts (new under £5 gift guide coming soon!)… or trading skills instead of things e.g. a haircut for a lawn mown, a babysit for a cake.
- Make Something. If your desire to shop is actually about wanting new things in your life, it might be that you can make them yourself, or join a group that could teach you, or help you or you could take part in a creative community event. The thrill you seek from owning new things doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It may be that you already have an item you could upcycle or recycle? You may have a skill you can re-kindle, or it might be fun to learn something new? Creativity is an important expression of who we are – that may be in the traditional sense of artistic output or in the form of music, dance, reading, gardening… whatever gets you going.
- Check a Deal. If you really do need/want to shop for a specific item, make sure you do some research – a ‘bargain’ deal today was in fact still £9 more than in my local shop (this was a children’s toy) – amazing deals are not always what they seem. Make sure you shop around and also look at cashback sites like TopCashBack to see if you can gain from your purchase in any way. Also remember if you have any loyalty cards to check if the benefit of the points or rewards change where you purchase your item.
- Have a Budget. This is a real essential and as you move to a more frugal life generally the idea of a budget will get less boring! There should be a hierarchy in the budget, so essentials like the roof over your head and food come above a new TV… yes Mr F they do!!
- No Regrets. Mostly the things you buy should give you joy. If you hide them, regret them, go without something you love to pay for them then they are not good purchases. If you never wear or use the item – that was money you could have spent on a trip out, a take away or whatever a treat would look like to you. I always ask myself ‘how would I feel about buying that in 5 days time?’. You can certainly have lovely things, and enjoy shopping but make sure you feel in control and get to have fun with it.
Did you get anything in the Black Friday chaos today?
It’s been a much calmer week all round, and so ‘we’ have started to consider what we are buying for Christmas and lists have been created – presents, food, cards etc. One strategy we use is to stick to one supermarket and use their points scheme, this means we have a nice sum to use for our Christmas Treat Foods.
A new strategy is to use TopCashBack for items we buy online (we also order things via this for family and friends). I am totally amazed by how much we have saved over the year by using TopCashBack and when I was checking how to actually get the money out I realised that you can get an extra 6% more money FOR FREE by having your money on a shop card instead of straight to your bank. This could be used as a gift card for someone, or in a shop we are likely to be getting presents from anyway – with four kids every penny counts.
Just to prove I’m not the only person banging on about reusing mugs, or using recycled products, here is The Guardian showcasing the argument for coffee shops (you know who I mean…) being more green. However, we can all make an individual difference too, but recycling our cups or taking our own – and yes, this is going to be another photo of my own re-using mug as I love it sooooo much.
I’ve been pondering how very many things I WANT – don’t need, just want.
While I think it’s important that life if full of beautiful unnecessary things to be enriched, I can see the practical side of leaving some things in the shop to be enjoyed by someone else (great positive re-framing there!). Not only is this good for my impulse control practice, but is also a great money saving technique.
I’m working on trying to consider what I will do with an item, what other things I could use that money for, what I will feel if I leave it for someone else… it’s a bit mindfulness and a bit frugal. It feels more of a choice than a strict budget imposed from someone mean – I’ll let you know how it goes…