One of the things that surprised me most over the last year was how drastically my relationship to shopping changed. Prior to the pandemic, I admit there were times when I bought myself something because I confused a want and need, I felt I deserved it, or because a fashion blogger I followed had it and suddenly I needed to as well. Even as I grew to be more of a saver, there was still a part of me that loved the thrill of buying something new, like a great pair of jeans or a pair of statement earrings.
Like many Americans, I abruptly found myself working from home for a period of months, during which I was not using my professional wardrobe as much. My desire to go shopping waned because I did not have the need to do so. I was able to wear more casual clothes working from home.
But there were deeper lessons to learn, too. I began to consider all the clothing items I owned, wondering what really was a need versus a want versus an impulse purchase.
It makes sense, and science proves it, that there are emotional motivations as to why and how we shop. I have realized that sometimes I go shopping, either in person or online, when I am bored or stressed. There is a saying that awareness is an ounce of prevention, and I’m finding this to be helpful for my peace of mind and my bank account.
Here are a few tips to help you curb your own itch to spend when you feel bored.
Use wish lists on Amazon
While this might sound counterintuitive, building an Amazon wish list can help you spend less. Creating one (or many!) can allow you to think about potential purchases before hitting the purchase button.
When I began to do this, more often than not I did not end up purchasing the items on my wish lists. I saw how rarely I came back to them, which helped cut my spending.
Avoid hitting “buy now” and do anything else
Online shopping has been on the rise in the past year, due to people working from home and many states’ stay-at-home orders. When we couldn’t eat in restaurants or go to concerts or sporting events, with more time on our hands, many Americans spent more online, especially at places like Amazon.
As life begins to feel more normal and not as chaotic, take time to consider the deeper reason why you are making a purchase. Before you hit “buy now,” pause and do anything else for five minutes. Get up and drink a glass of water. Go for a walk to the mailbox. Light some candles. Get your body and mind moving. Then see if your desire was really to make a purchase or rather to have something new to look forward to.
Ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want?”
My maternal grandmother was born during the height of the Great Depression and came of age during one of the most defining times of American history. As I grew up, she shared her memories from those days, as well as the lessons she learned as a result. It struck me as I got older, that people who have gone without, like those during the Great Depression, are more readily able to discern between wants and needs in terms of purchases.
We live in a much different world now; materialist thinking can trick us into seeing everything we want as a need. One way to help decide about whether or not to make a purchase is asking yourself whether the item in question is a need or want. Seeing the difference between our needs and wants helps us have better control of our budgets, as well as understand the reasons why we sometimes buy things we actually do not need.
Offer to help family members with their shopping
Maybe you have everything you need right now. You do not see any real needs to purchase for yourself or your home. Why not use that urge to splurge on shopping to save someone else time by helping them hunt down a great deal?
It might be that your best friend is looking for a new sectional couch for the living room. Or your parents are trying to score the best deal on a new outdoor patio set for the backyard.
If you are the type of person who enjoys the act of shopping, researching the best price on an item a friend or family member is looking for allows you to be helpful and also be shopping . . . while not spending your own money.
Consider what else you could do with this money
Could you pay off the credit card bill in full sooner? Maybe you can set aside some cash for the upcoming surprise trip for your partner. Perhaps register for the class at the local community center you have been putting off. Money can be spent on more than just things, and it can be helpful to see the value in those experiences.
We all have shopped or spent too much money when feeling bored, and the good news is it’s a behavior we are capable of changing. Next time you’re bored and tempted to shop, give it some more thought and consideration. A few simple changes can mean wiser and better decisions when it comes to shopping and spending our money.