Visiting Williams-Sonoma: How To Avoid Overspending On Something That Stirs Your Passions

w-sAs regular readers of The Simple Dollar know, I’m a food junkie. I enjoy

preparing food from scratch, presenting it well on the plate, and using sturdy, quality kitchen implements to prepare the food. I have a library of cookbooks (even though I really

stick with just a few of them for everyday use) and I’m unafraid to occasionally spend a lot of money on things for the kitchen that I know I’ll use, like my long lusted after KitchenAid stand mixer (which is my next “splurge” purchase – someday).

In other words, if you take me to a store like Williams-Sonoma, I can mill around for hours and easily find a dozen expensive things for me to spend my money on.

This past Friday, I found myself in such a position unexpectedly. My visiting family wanted to go wander around the new mall in West Des Moines, a mall that I had only visited once before, briefly. I knew where it was and I knew about four of the stores in it, but that was about it. I figured I would go with them and just mill around wherever they went and I wasn’t planning on buying anything at all. Until I discovered that it had a Williams-Sonoma, that is.

The second I walked in the door and started to look around, warning sounds began to blare in the back of my head as I could immediately spy about seven things I would love to have in my kitchen, from a KitchenAid stand mixer and an interesting cookbook to a particular knife sharpener and several food ingredients. I knew that if I was not careful, I would end up spending a lot of money that I didn’t need to spend.

Here’s what I did to keep my spending under control and still allow myself to wander around to my heart’s content.

I immediately set a spending cap. I knew that I would likely buy something there and if I wasn’t careful, I might buy several things, so I set a firm spending cap and made it a challenge to spend less than that. This cap made me carefully consider the items and how much I wanted them or not. My spending cap was $20, by the way, and it enabled me to buy two jars of pasta sauce (on sale) and a container of potlatch seasoning.

I whipped out my trusty notebook and noted things of interest. This way, I could decide later if the impulse to buy the item was actually worthwhile, plus I could do research and find other options for the items I liked. I ended up writing down several items on the list in great detail, along with some recipe ideas that popped up while I was in there.

I spent a lot of time there, meaning I spent less time in other places. Since I spent all of my time at Williams-Sonoma instead of in other stores, and I spent that time there with a tight spending cap, I ended up only spending $20 on the entire trip, by far the least of the people in my group. Stores in malls are designed to maximize impulse buying and by sticking in one store, you minimize the chances to act on such impulses.

I went home and did comparison shopping on the items of deepest interest. I fell in love with a cookbook there (if you’re curious, it was this one, from which I pillaged several ideas in just a brief browsing – I typically use cookbooks for ideas, not for detailed following of recipes), but I decided to wait until I was at home to research it. Good thing, too, because I found it for 40% less on Amazon. That doesn’t mean I bought it, just that I confirmed the fact that I could save quite a bit of money. I also found a virtually identical drink mixer for 75% less than the price at Williams-Sonoma.

In short, I let my impulses roam without whipping out the credit cards. I allowed myself to carefully examine all of this stuff I wanted, but by instituting a spending cap, I kept the spending down, and by keeping a list, I was able to research items of interest further. One could use these techniques at any store that tempts their worst buying impulses.

On a lighter note, the idea that I bought pasta sauce at a shopping mall amused my nephews to no end, and I also predict a gift certificate to the store in my future from some bemused relatives.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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