Mindful Shopping

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Though I frequently write about decluttering, I thought it time to talk about mindful shopping. Recently, my friends pointed out that as soon as I declutter, I invariably find new things to fill the space again. I hate to admit that this is true!

While I enjoy shopping and love finding a bargain, I’ve come to realize that I have enough. I don’t really need anything more. I have reserves of just about everything (i.e., spare bed linens, pillows). Does this mean I’ll never shop again? No, but I am working on doing more mindful shopping. That is, I now take time to reconsider the items in my cart. And I make sure to pull things out of the cart before heading to the checkout counter.

How does one go about mindful shopping? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Stop impulse buying.

Every time you have the desire to buy something, put it on a 30-day waitlist. I have a list of things I want in my journal. If you still want it at the end of 30 days, then you can purchase it. You may discover that you end up attracting the thing you wanted for little to no money or that you don’t want it anymore. 

2. Is this thing more important than my big financial goals?

Is it more important to buy this item than it is to fully fund my retirement account? Or is it more important than saving for a down payment on a house, saving for my kids’ educations, paying down the mortgage faster, or taking a family trip? 

3. Do I have any high interest credit card debt or other debts to pay off?

Before buying anything other than the essentials (i.e., groceries), pay off your debts! By doing this you’ll have more money to spend in the future, not less!

4. Do I already have something similar? 

Before you go out to buy something, check to see if you have anything similar that could serve the same purpose.

5. Do I have the space for this?

Though you might like something, and it could be a great bargain, ask yourself whether you have the (right) space for it. 

6. Can I borrow this from a friend or rent it?

If you need a special occasion outfit, could you borrow a dress from a friend? One New York socialite I know rents all her special occasion designer dresses because she has very little closet space and doesn’t want to be seen in the same dress twice. 

7. Is it the best value for quality and price?

How durable is it? Is it ethically made and sustainable? Do your research before you buy.

8. Can I find the same thing used or for free on freecycle, E-bay, at a charity shop, or auction?

In our small town there is an auction house that does house clearances. I picked up a $300 vacuum cleaner for $30. A solid cherry dresser for $100. A walnut desk for $25. It is amazing the great quality you can find at auctions. So, if you HAVE to buy something, see if you can get an even better deal by buying used. 

9. Have I asked around to see if anyone has a spare one they aren’t using that I could have?

We had a spare single bed we were no longer using. So, we put it up on the local community Facebook group. It’s nice to know that it is going to be put to immediate use.

10. Is there another way I could satisfy my desire or need?

One of my clients loved race car driving but admitted it was a very expensive hobby. I asked him if there were any other activities he also really enjoyed doing. He said he really enjoyed playing pickup basketball, which is free! If you can swap an expensive hobby for a free or cheaper one, why not? 

11. Instead of hiring someone to do the job, could you do it yourself?

My cousin watched a YouTube video to learn how to change the faucet on the sink. She saved $100 by not hiring a plumber. My mother never understood the need for a gym membership. She said, “Just vacuum the entire house and mow the lawn for exercise and save money on both fronts.”

12. Could something else work just as well or even better?

When I read that bar soap was more effective at preventing the spread of Covid than liquid soap, I stopped buying liquid soap. And I was amazed to discover how long a bar of soap lasts. Plus, that saves one more piece of plastic!

13. If you use something regularly, buy it in bulk to save money and packaging.

I buy rice, protein powder, dried beans, and toilet paper in bulk. Then, I store them in glass canisters, as needed.

14. Write an index card with a few key questions to ask yourself before you buy.

This will help remind you of your bigger priorities in life when you are faced with the urge to shop.

Here’s what I’ve written on my index card to keep with mindful shopping:

  • Do I need it?
  • Is it an upgrade?
  • Do I have space for it?
  • Could the money be better used for a higher purpose (i.e., education, charity, paying off debt) or greater joy (i.e., travel, massage)?

As Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life points out, “Waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them.” So, even if you can afford it and have space for it, is the next purchase going to give you the greatest bang for the buck?

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