Shopping is an extremely expensive form of entertainment.
If you go out shopping simply because you can’t think of something else to do, you’re willingly putting yourself in an environment that’s designed to extract money from your pocket. They use clever displays, sights, sounds, smells, demonstrations, and countless other techniques to get you to buy something. Stores exist to make money and they’re very effective at it – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t remain in business.
Think back and ask yourself how many times you’ve walked into a store without any real purpose in mind and walked out with an item. You went in there without any needs or any real intent to buy, yet you walked out of that store with something you didn’t need but with a lighter wallet.
The first step you can take toward getting your spending under control is to let go of the idea of shopping as entertainment.
Here are a few simple rules to follow if you want to get your unnecessary spending under control.
First, never enter a store of any kind without either a shopping list or one specific item in mind to buy. If you’re going into a store without one of those things, don’t go in. Don’t. If you have to, go out to your car and write a shopping list before you go into the store.
Second, once you’re in the store, buy nothing other than the items on your list. (Don’t add items, either.) Stick to that list, no matter what.
Sure, you might see a great sale on some item you must have. So what? If it was a need, it would be on your list. Let it go.
Sure, you might discover some item that’s just perfect for you or would make a perfect gift. Again, so what?
If an item seems really compelling to you, take note of it. Go home, research it a little, and then add it to your list for the next time you shop there.
Those two steps keep you from shopping for the pure entertainment of it. Shopping isn’t entertainment. It’s a way of either acquiring things you need or losing the money you’ve worked so hard for.
Bored? Want to shop? Focus on finding a hobby instead, one that doesn’t drain your wallet.
Don’t “window shop,” either, unless you truly have no way to buy the items. Leave your credit cards at home if you intend to window shop and stick with just a small amount of cash in your wallet. Leave your cards in the car if need be.
Abandon shopping as a form of entertainment and find something else. Your financial life will be all the better for it.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.