Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Confessions of a (Hopefully Former) Shopaholic

It is not easy trying to develop good spending habits. Weeks ago, I shared my quest to get a better grasp on my personal finances. It's been hard trying to figure out where to start. My goals are big. I want to pay off debts, save, invest and you know, maintain some semblance of a life. I don't know what to target first, so I'm doing little bits of everything. It probably sounds like the direct route to failure -- taking on too much all at once and accomplishing nothing. But once in a blue moon this strategy works out for me. I tend to strive under pressure (mainly because I am a procrastinator, and there's a mini rush that can be very motivating). I also love the task of making puzzle pieces fit -- but I often do things all out of order and put it together in the end. A little (albeit controlled) mayhem to liven things up.

My goal is to get a grip on my Becky Bloomwood way of living life: buying things unnecessarily. 

So here's the plan. Identifying my shopping excuses (these come in all shapes and sizes, I really excel at justifying things to myself), a reality check to think about if to stop from falling into my own trap and learning when it can be a good to shop. 

Disclaimer: I love shopping. This is really about lessening impulse purchases. I'm not as bad as I'm making it sound, but I do tend to treat myself way more often than I should. This is not about cutting out shopping altogether (because let's face it, I couldn't), but rather about becoming a more responsible consumer.

Rebecca Bloomwood, Confessions of a Shopaholic

1. "But, it was on sale!" 

Nothing like the lure of a good deal. Here's the general thought process I go through: I don't really need that. But I will probably in the future. And it's such a good deal, I probably won't find it at this price again. 25% percent off of 50%? I mean that's like getting it for free. 

Reality check: Likely the markdown isn't that great. How often have you fallen prey to the one-day sale that actually lasts three weeks? And even if it is, if you don't really need it, you're spending money you could be saving for something even better. 

Tricks: Sales can be really helpful though, and retailers have a general pattern for when they mark things down. If you do make a list of things you need, you can keep an eye out or budget strategically to make purchases when there are good deals on i.e. laptops during back to school sales in August.

2. "But, I could need it someday!"

This generally works in conjuction with the "but, it was on sale" excuse to justify purchases you really do not need. For me, one of my guilty pleasures is notebooks. I buy notebooks for "someday" on sale all the time. End result? A box of super pretty notebooks... Yeah, it's pretty useless. The thing is you could need almost anything at some point of your life but if you don't need it right now... well then, you don't need it.

Reality check: Buy things you need now and that's it. You need to have an actual use for what you are going to buy. For example, if you want to buy a new shirt, ask yourself a few questions. Where will I wear this to? What will I wear it with? When will I be wearing this? Make sure you have concrete answers that are more than "work, with some pair of pants at some point." Buying for sometime in the future can also backfire as in that time, new things could be on the market better than your someday purchase.

Tricks: Make a list of not only things you need, but also when you need it for -- this can help you prioritize your real needs and help you stay on track.

3. "But, it'll help me be a better person." 

This one is my favourite. I love projects to do with myself. Yeah I said it, can you not tell? And I love coming up with new things I could buy to help me. Some of you must do this one too, like those new pair of trainers for all that running you were going to do? This excuse too can be used in conjunction with the "but, I could need it someday." Part of this is also not so much about change, but picturing the life you want to have. I sometimes have the overwhelming urge to buy a tea-set. Not that I drink tea. But I picture the mini cucumber sandwiches, cheese scones and chocolate biscuits, and think how adorable would it be to have a tea party?

Reality check: Buy for the life you have, not the one you want. Shopping in this case is not going to help you achieve what you want though the brand marketers are doing an excellent job at making you feel that way.

Tricks: When the change comes, things will quickly jump to your "needs" list, and you can purchase things then. Until then, work on the real factors that will help you achieve your goals and lead the life you want.

4. "But I've earned it!"

This covers everything from buying yourself something to cheer you up on a bad day, or having had a stressful week and celebrating making it through.

Reality check: Just because you've worked hard (as if no one else ever does, too!) doesn't mean you're making more money -- it does really justify splurging. Also, it does not really make a bad day better, the joy of an impulse purchases wears off quickly and hardly ever changes anything.

Tricks: Rewards do motivate some people. If you made it as part of a plan, go ahead -- reward yourself with what you wanted. Chances are you've been thinking about it for a while and actually turned it into something to have been earned, rather than just saying so. 

5. "I've been so good lately/I've been so bad already."

The first bit can also be another way of saying "but I've earned it." And the latter, well, that's sort of like a diet cheat day. You've spent so much at this point, who's counting? Well, you should be! It's not easy and both situations can be triggers for shopping.

Reality check: If you've been good, keep it up. If you continue, you'll be even better than good! And if you've messed up, that's okay. It happens but you have to turn it around, not make it worse.

Tricks: Reward yourself with little treats. You'll go nuts if you try to be perfect, but if you keep a little money aside to buy some things that aren't on your list, at least you won't be breaking the bank. If you've been bad, part of it may have been that your goals were too rigorous or you didn't have a plan in the first place.

General tips: Create a budget. It does not have to be too detailed, but should cover what you have coming in and what you are spending. Leave a little room to play and think out what you need before you go out to buy. Everything in moderation! 

1 comment:

  1. im holding you by this =P
    no more etsy shopping!