6 Strategies To Curb Your Shopping Habit
Ahhhh. Shopping. A necessity we cannot escape. For some, a little bit more of a problem than others. If you are one of those people who is not tempted by new things, never goes into their overdraft and sensibly saves their money… this post is not for you. You may as well stop reading now…you won’t understand the struggle the rest of us face!
However, this post is for you …if you have you found yourself at odds with your shopping habits. In need of a shopping break but unable to stop spending. If you find yourself equating happiness with things. If you are always buying yourself little ‘treats‘. Mindlessly accumulating more and more. Its for those who list shopping as a hobby (their only hobby) and for those who find their shopping habits interfering with savings and stability. If you have started dipping into credit cards and overdrafts….and still can’t stop!
I was always really sensible with money. I started working at 16 and was able to save and budget with the best of them. At 25 I moved to London. I felt deeply intimidated by everything: the tubes and buses, the beautiful buildings, the tall buildings, all the people and the pace…especially at rush hour (it was and still is brutal!!), but I also felt intoxicated by it all. During this time I wanted to fit in and made it my mission to look the part. ‘Fake it, till you make it’, became my motto and it worked. I started buying clothes to feel confident. With every new outfit, I felt more at ease. Interview: new outfit. Night out: new outfit and makeup. Weekend away. Same! Clothes and Makeup became my guard against the world, an easy way to fit in and it took away from dealing with low self esteem, anxiety and that niggling feeling that I didn’t belong.
Slowly, it became my new normal. Habit. A habit I did not question until I found myself in a situation where I hated my job and could not find another job. Not even an interview. I felt trapped. I couldn’t leave as I had no savings…I couldn’t really see where I had spent all my money. These things I had deemed necessary were no longer that. It took a while to realise that while I could not change my job, I could change my financial situation. I could change my spending habits.
Over the years, I have tried a lot of the strategies to change my habits. These are the ones, I found most helpful. I use them when I feel myself struggling to stick to a budget, when I am saving for a bigger purchase or in need of a finance detox. At times I have used all of the strategies and at other times only one or two. I always stick to a budget and put my savings away at the start of the month. My non-negotiables.
6 Full Proof Strategies To Curb Your Shopping Habit
1. Keep a spend diary
(to see the bigger picture)
As with so many things, you can’t change a habit if you are oblivious to it. The easiest way to do this is to start a spend diary. A place where you jot down all your expenses and purchases. When I started doing this, I used an old notebook and created time at the end of the night, to put it all on paper. It became part of my night-time ritual. A space to jot down my purchases and also a time to reflect on patterns and habits. This reflection enabled me to see the bigger picture, instead of isolated purchases, treats and conveniences. Patterns emerged and habits were highlighted.
The first time I kept this diary, I realised how much money I was spending on takeaway lunches and coffees during the week!!!! (I immediately curbed this habit and started making my own) (less plastic and a whole lot of money saved). The second time I realised how much I was spending on impulse, unplanned clothes shopping (this habit has taken (a lot) longer to change) and the third time… last minute grocery shopping! You know that dash to the supermarket, when you are hungry and need convenience. When you end up buying too much food, all processed. When half ends up at the back of the fridge and then in the bin. By noticing this trend, I was able to change my last minute dashes to a fixed time at the start of the week. Having the basics at home, put an end to panic buys and has saved me a LOT of money!
By keeping a spend diary I have become more mindful of my shopping trends. I am really good when I am feeling confident and rested. When I am tired and feeling a bit low, I am tempted by everything and in need of ‘change‘. This leaves me vulnerable to impulse shopping and getting stuff I don’t need. Knowing this has meant that I avoid shops at this time. I will cancel plans and go to bed a bit earlier. To boost my confidence I will listen to a motivational podcast, put on a red lipstick and play a bit of Beyonce. Find what works for you.
2. Question your shopping habits.
( puts a pause on impulse shopping and instant gratification)
So you are jotting down all your spending and getting to grips with your finances, but still tempted by stuff . Question the need!
Will this make me look better? Have I got something similar? When will I wear it? Will I really start exercising every day if I buy this (?) and do I need three new outfits? Do I have space for it and where will it be stored?
Once you start questioning a purchase, it is much easier to realise, it’s not needed. By using this I have realised that I am often drawn to the same items and already have multiples lurking back home.
(take control of you money, habits and savings)
Keeping a spend diary sets you up for realistic budgeting. When I first started this, I would put way too little money in the budget, get deflated and give up. I then went the other way and put too much in the budget, this also missed the point….By keeping a diary, I was able (am able) to budget like a pro. I know exactly what my expenses are, how much I am able to save and which months will be more expensive because of birthdays, travel and other occasions. Over the years I have been able to adjust the amounts, according to salary and circumstances.
4. Delay the purchase by a month
(a great technique to quell impulse purchases)
If you are anything like me, temptation is everywhere: whether it’s a phone, trainers or a book. And in the moment I can convince myself of an item’s need in my life. Sometimes it takes more than a budget and questioning and it is at this time, that I will take a picture on my phone and delay the purchase. It’s a technique I only started at the beginning of this year, but it has been a really great way of stopping impulse buys.
In the last six months, I have gone back once, to make the purchase (6 months later). A few times, I was still tempted by an item and did research by reading reviews and looking at alternatives. At times I have gone back to purchase the item and every single time, left without purchasing.
5. Take a break from shopping and only replace what you need
(saves money and time, changes habits )
When all of the above have failed and sometimes they will! Go on a shopping break / spending ban in your problem areas. You can start small and put it in place for a weekend, week or month and move to longer periods. I have found this to be great in areas such as clothing, beauty and books (areas where you have to much). I am currently on a spending ban in these areas and it is altering my habits and my views with every passing month. It’s a great tool, and I cannot recommend enough.
6. Find other passions
(the exciting bit)
Fill your days with fun and passion. Find what you love in other areas of your life, whether its reading, yoga or running. Baking, cocktail making or studying. Plan holidays and/or get creative. This list is endless and the more enjoyment you have outside of stuff, the less you will be tempted by it …
**Interested in Shopping Bans.
This post looks at reasons to start a shopping ban and what it entails
This is an update on my shopping ban and gives you four tools to stay motivated during it!