Honestly, I love shopping.
Online. Not in stores. Today, I go to the mall only if I absolutely must (which isn’t a thing) and I hate every minute of it. My 90s gen x self rolls her eyes at this.
But, online shopping? Yes, please! Online shopping is the total experience for this introvert. I can search for what I want. No one asks if they can help me find anything. No one bumps into me. No bright lights. I can choose the brightness of my screen. I didn’t even have to get out of bed. (Gen x me nods seeing my point.) The best part, two-days-from-now-me gets to open a present, that I actually want, and I didn’t have to attend a party to get. It’s just complete.
I’m also aware that, for some irrational reason, online shopping feels like I’ve accomplished something, checked off a to-do. I click that purchase button and I feel, “phew! Glad that’s taken care of.” I have acquired something.
In her book, Loaded: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead Without Leaving Your Values Behind, Dr. Sarah Newcomb writes that there is a “possession-self link.” the things we own feel like a part of our selves. It’s why we feel so violated when someone steals from us. Our “things” become part of our identity, so purchasing things can feel like increasing our sense of identity, especially if we are feeling down or our egos are bruised. We are wired to feel good when we buy stuff. It’s not a character flaw. It’s just being human.
So what’s a girl trying honor her commitment to her Financial Wellness to do?
- Don’t shop when you feel down. When we do this, we reinforce shopping as a solution to this particular problem and it’s not. If we are thirsty, we don’t eat rocks. We get some water. Slow down and ask yourself what is really going on. What do these feelings need? A hug? To hear that you are loved, not alone? Offer these things to that feeling.
- When it is time to shop for something (groceries, clothes, household supplies, makeup), set a budget before you shop, and use cash if possible. By shopping with an amount you decided on when you were rational and connected to your commitment to your Financial Wellness, you are increasing your self-trust and the likelihood that you will do this again, and again.
- When you add something new to your closet or your home, let go of something you don’t need or use anymore. Donate these things or give them away in a “buy nothing” group. This is a great way to reuse and recycle.
- Create a go-to list of free feel-good things you can do instead of shop as a social or boredom-buster activity. As women, we can feel a lot of pressure from each other to shop as recreation and social connection. We may feel embarrassed about saying that we don’t have the money to spend that way (or we do, but we don’t want to). It may lead to both friends secretly not wanting to do the thing you are doing! Identify other ways of connecting or enjoying yourself. (Or, spend money, but do it on a shared experience rather than buying more stuff.)
- Remember to be fluid. Practicing Financial Wellness is not rigid. You can be mindlessly shopping, already made purchases, and stop. Maybe you return them, or maybe you just don’t buy the next thing. Any step toward Financial Wellness is a positive step and we can take that step at any moment of the day. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of progress!
Shopping IS fun. There will never be a time that I don’t enjoy the thrill of the purchase. However, we can give ourselves the chance to know the thrill of the rewards of delayed satisfaction and seeing our debt dwindle and our savings grow.
You’ve got this!
Financial Wellness Tip:
Get to know what shopping does for you. I love the online shopping experience. You may love everything about going into a store. Whatever your poison, get out your journal and ask yourself the question:
What do I get out of shopping?
Write it all down. Once we know consciously what shopping does for us, we can then ask:
What is shopping doing to me?
Write it all down. Consciously making the link between the pleasure we get from shopping AND the pain that comes later is important.
Often these parts of ourselves don’t talk to each other, so in the moment, we don’t associate shopping with the pain of violating our own self-trust.
If we have decided that honoring our commitment to ourselves to practice Financial Wellness is our highest value, then we want to make sure our “shopping self” and our “honoring my commitment to myself self” can see and hear each other. Writing your answers to these questions is one way to do this.