In my journey to live more simply, I took a close look at my habits and considered what I needed to change. If I wanted to maintain a simpler life, I needed to be more intentional with shopping. Here are some tips I learned along the way.
Why be more intentional with shopping
Shopping takes resources. When you shop, you’re using both your money and your time. Sometimes shopping also leads to clutter.
Let’s look at how to be more intentional with shopping to save your time and money and try to prevent clutter.
Shopping has become a past time that people often do for fun. While people still do shop in brick and mortar stores, online shopping has become increasingly popular. Teens still hang out in malls, but now spend more time on their phones shopping which has put some stores out of business.
Girlfriends still occasionally get together and go shopping, but online shopping has become the preferred option for many. Women spend almost twice as long shopping as they do socializing each day.
According to a survey taken in 2011, women on average spend 399 hours per year shopping. With the increased popularity and ease of online shopping in recent years, I would guess the statistics may be even higher now.
Time is a resource we cannot get any more of. How you choose to spend your time is how you choose to spend your life. If you want to get more time back, be more intentional with shopping. Instead of shopping just for fun, choose other life-giving activities instead.
Shopping of course also takes our money when window shopping and internet browsing turn to purchasing. Let’s look at how people are spending money on clothes.
These statistics tell us how average people are spending their money on clothing. (creditdonkey)
- 25-34-year-olds spend $161 per month on clothes.
- 35-44-year-olds spend $209 per month on clothes.
- Women have spent $1000-$2500 on the wardrobe in their closet.
- 73% of women update 25% of their closet every 3 months.
- About 15% of women don’t own clothes that are more than 5 years old.
- More than 50% of women claim 25% of their wardrobe goes unworn.
- And more than 50% of women’s shoes go unworn.
When looking at people’s overall financial picture, we find that about 26% of adults have no savings set aside for emergencies and 36% are not saving for retirement. It’s estimated that 38 million households in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck. (creditdonkey)
If you want to save more money, you need to be more intentional with shopping. Most people spend too much money on things that don’t need which then turn into clutter.
After seeing how much people spend on clothing per year, it’s staggering to know that on average people throw out 81 pounds of clothing per year. When you learn to be more intentional with shopping, you can stop wasting your money on continually buying new things just to throw the old ones out.
Let’s not continue to be a throw-away culture where we waste our money and hurt the environment by repeatedly buying things we don’t need or use.
In the midst of buying and owning more, homes have also dramatically increased in size to store all of the things. On average, families are smaller, but homes are almost two and a half times the size that they were 100 years ago.
And even that doesn’t seem to be enough so self-storage units have been on the rise with approximately 9.4% of people renting a space. The national average cost for a unit is $88.85 per month. (sparefoot)
People spend a lot of money to buy things and store them. Over half of people (54%) then claim to be overwhelmed by their clutter and they don’t know what to do with it. (cision)
How to be more intentional with shopping
Too much time and money are being spent shopping and buying items. Many of those things then become clutter that people are overwhelmed by and don’t want to deal with. To try and prevent overbuying, here are 6 tips on how to be more intentional with shopping.
Stick to your list
Take time before shopping to think through what you want and need. Be specific with what you are looking for and know what your budget is. Don’t settle for good enough. Good enough becomes clutter.
Look out for marketing and advertising tricks. Don’t buy impulse items in the check out line or that are suggested for you online. Stick to the list that you created ahead of time.
Don’t shop without a plan
If you enjoy meandering around stores with a friend, do that. Just don’t buy anything. Have a plan when you make purchases. If buying is a constant temptation for you, don’t go shop for fun. Choose another hobby or activity instead.
It’s usually not too hard to avoid going to a physical store, but online shopping can be a tad trickier. I wonder how many impulse and mindless purchases have been made on Amazon. It’s so simple and easy to order items online that it takes more effort to be intentional with shopping.
Don’t online shop when you’re tired or bored. I ordered entirely too many baby items when my daughter was a newborn and I was sleep-deprived. If the product promised better sleep, I bought it. Almost none of them worked and I wasted a lot of money. Friends don’t let friends sleep shop.
Wait to make purchases
If you discover an item that you think you want to buy, give it at least a day before purchasing. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype or by scarcity tactics.
Giving yourself time to process will provide clarity on whether or not you really want to make that purchase. Marketers know human psychology and how to place products to become impulse purchases. Don’t let them get ya.
Create a budget
If you don’t already have a budget, you need to create one. If you want to be more intentional with shopping you need to know how much money you have allocated to each category. Otherwise, you won’t know if it is affordable for you or not.
It may take a bit of time to get your budget right, but keep working on it and then stick to it. I like using YNAB to track our spending. Most people don’t even know where their money goes each month. Getting a handle on your spending will help you make much more informed financial decisions.
Be wary of sales
If you’re like me and you love to save money when and where you can, sales can be incredibly tempting. It’s easy to focus on how much money is being ‘saved’ and the fact that it appears to be a good deal.
I know from my own experience and working with clients that many an item with a tag still on it or in its original box still gets donated.
Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you need it or would use it.
Resist the temptation to buy it because it’s cheap. If you do, you’ve wasted the amount that the sale price was. You didn’t save the discount off. And you’ve also added to your clutter. Congratulations, you just acquired cheap clutter.
Another way retailers get you is with sales that require purchasing additional items. If you don’t need or want 2 pairs of pants, it isn’t a deal. Also, refrain from buying extra items you don’t need in order to get free shipping.
Your clutter costs you. Don’t let advertisers convince you otherwise.
Limit advertising messages
If you feel tempted in seeing sales emails or catalogs, opt to unsubscribe. Unfollow people who are continually pushing products that you don’t want to buy. To be more intentional with shopping, you need to control the messages coming into your inbox and your social media feeds.
Questions to ask yourself:
Before you go shopping or purchase anything, ask yourself these questions. Your answers will provide clarity on if you should or shouldn’t buy.
Can I afford this?
Sometimes we don’t stop to ask the obvious question, but we need to ask can I afford this? With payment plans, it’s easier to think that something is affordable when it may not actually be.
People are convinced to buy houses and cars they can’t afford because the monthly payment seems to be within their limits. However, often in those scenarios, people are not factoring in all of the what if’s.
Life happens sometimes and expenses come unexpectedly. You don’t want to stretch your monthly payments so thin that you’re maxed out and aren’t prepared for any eventualities.
You can afford it if you already have the money saved and it was designated for that kind of item. There is no dipping into an emergency fund or a vacation fund to buy that new designer purse.
Choose to live below your means and enjoy a lot less stress in your life.
Will this add to my life?
So many products talk a good game. They convince us our lives will be improved if we buy what they’re selling. I have found a limited number of products that have actually simplified my life, but I’ve owned many more that didn’t.
Be realistic when considering the purchase. Does this item fit with your goals? Does it sound too good to be true? Is it something you’ve been wanting for a while or something the marketing just convinced you that you were lacking?
Buying a new cookbook, the latest exercise equipment or a course on something you want to learn doesn’t in and of itself do anything. You have to put in the work, effort and have the discipline to achieve results.
Don’t believe claims that the solution to your problem will be quick or easy. You won’t, in fact, build a million-dollar business in 30 days by buying some plan. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
You may discover some of these too good to be true items when you declutter your home. As you go through the process, you get in tune with what works for you and what doesn’t.
You notice the mistakes you made with purchases and also see what items you truly love. You may find yourself more grateful for what you already own in the process.
Needs vs wants
In our culture, we tend to have a skewed view of needs versus wants. Just like you may hear a four-year-old claim they neeeeeed that new toy, we also hear adults echo similar sentiments. No, you likely don’t actually need the newest iPhone.
The reality is most of us have far more than we need. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to have only what they need. It’s ok to own things just because you want them and they are meaningful or useful for you. Just be intentional in selecting those things and be smart with your money.
In seeking to live more simply, you don’t have to become a minimalist. Do what works best for you and your life circumstances. Find the version of simplicity that fits you best.
The more that you simplify what you buy, the more resources you’ll have freed up for saving for the future and for giving to others. It’s easier to be generous when your own finances are under control.
Why do I want to shop?
Are you wanting to shop because you are feeling sad, lonely, or unworthy? What are you believing about yourself and what buying things would do for you?
There are healthier ways to deal with life’s disappointments and frustrations. Buying a new outfit won’t fix how you feel. It may very temporarily make you feel better, but it’s not a true solution. Shopping can even compound your problems by adding on guilt for spending money unnecessarily.
Opt-out of retail therapy. Choose instead to call a friend, read a book, go on a walk, or see a real therapist. All of these options will be better for you in the long run than shopping.
Who is this for and would it add to their life?
If you enjoy shopping because you love to give gifts to others, consider if buying that item will truly benefit the recipient. Just because someone might like it or think it’s cute doesn’t mean they necessarily want that item in their home.
There are so many great clutter-free gift ideas. If gift-giving is your love language it will be more challenging to change how you think about gift-giving. Experiences are wonderful gifts and don’t add clutter to the recipient’s home.
As you work on how to be more intentional with shopping, focus on creating memories instead of adding more stuff.
Black Friday, Prime Day, & Big Sales
I’m not going to tell you not to shop on big sale days. I don’t enjoy the frenzy of Black Friday so I don’t participate, but you do what works for you.
Use the six tips mentioned above as you think about what you want to purchase. Think through your plan and write it down before leaving the house or clicking order.
You can stretch your dollars further with sales and that’s great as long as they are items you had already planned to purchase. I love saving money as long as it doesn’t end up taking too much of my time. I’ve been working on balancing frugality and simplicity in my life.
Whether you consider the deals or try to avoid them, you can be more intentional with shopping. Creating greater awareness about your shopping habits and how they need to change is the first step towards reaching your simplifying goals.
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