Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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Shopping is a part of life these days. There is no way to avoid shopping altogether unless you want to buy a large self sufficient farm, grow all of your own food, make your own clothes, live without electricity, and so on.
Since you are on the internet, I’m going to assume that isn’t you.
Sometimes we shop too much though. We don’t absolutely need a bedazzled apple surrounded by colorful corn and straw in a hat for the holidays, but hey it was on sale, right?
If you are one of those people that know you shop too much, there are ways to cut back on your shopping and lead a more intentional financial life.
That being said, here are 20 tips to help you shop less.
20 Tips to Shop Less
5 Tips to Shop Less in General
1) Know Why You’re Shopping
Habits are triggered by your environment, or what is happening to you. So to avoid a habit you need to know what is triggering it.
For example, an alcoholic might avoid weddings with an open bar to avoid giving in to drinking.
While shopping may not be as addictive as alcohol, there are triggers that will cause you to go shopping more than you need. The first step to shopping less is to avoid those triggers.
These triggers can be emotional like fighting with a partner, or circumstantial like going out to eat when you’ve stayed out late.
When you find yourself shopping stop and ask yourself why. That way you can avoid triggers in the future.
2) Have a Budget and Stick to It
If you don’t know how much money you can afford to spend on shopping each month then you are sure to spend too much.
A budget isn’t to meant to be restrictive, but a tool to know when you’ve gone too far and need to rein it back in.
By following a budget you can weigh your purchases against how much money you have to spend to see if you really need something.
The hardest part is sticking to your budget. We’ll talk more about tricks to avoid overspending later.
3) Have a Goal to Help You Avoid Shopping
When you aren’t shopping you are saving money. And when you are saving money you have the means to do more in the future.
Decide what that future is and weigh that against your purchases.
Do you want shoes more or a down payment on a house? Do you want a hamburger more or to be debt free?
Having a specific goal in mind can help you categorize your purchases as more or less important. Then to shop less you just don’t buy the things that are less important.
4) Have a List Whenever You Are Shopping
A list tells you exactly what you need. Since you know what you need anything else falls into the don’t need category. So don’t go looking for it.
A list helps you stay focused on the necessities.
While many people use lists to go shopping for food, this trick also works for shopping less in general.
If you need a new pair of shoes for running and a pair of pants for work then you don’t need to look at anything else. Stay focused on your list and you will spend only what you expected to spend.
5) Unsubscribe From Advertisements
If you’re like me it can be really hard to resist a good deal. Companies know this so they are constantly sending out “sales” to prompt you to buy.
If you know that advertisements and sales makes you want to buy then unsubscribe.
This can include asking them not to send mailers or catalogs to your house, or clicking the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email.
Advertisements alone can be a huge trigger for a lot of people, so cutting it out can reduce spending dramatically.
8 Tips For Shopping Less Offline
1) Plan Ahead
Planning ahead can make a big difference on your budget because you know what you’re going to get and where you’re going to get it.
For grocery shopping this looks like making a list of meals you’ll eat for the next week and then deciding what store you’re going to for those ingredients.
For clothes or other shopping this looks like deciding what you need then looking at which stores have sales on that specific product.
Having a plan cuts down on window shopping and puts intention behind how you spend your money. And that means you shop less.
2) Replace Recreation Shopping
It is really easy to go shopping just for fun. I did it just recently. But if that is your main source of entertainment it is going to destroy your budget.
Instead, try to replace shopping with other, cheaper activities. Go on a walk for the exercise, invite friends over for a potluck to chat and have food, or take up a hobby to keep busy in your down time.
The important thing here is don’t just cut out shopping altogether. That won’t work. You have to replace the time you usually spent shopping with something else.
3) Only Carry Limited Cash On You
An helpful tip for shopping less is to limit your access to money.
If you only have $100 to spend on fun shopping for a month, then get $100 in cash and put it in an envelope.
When you are going to go shopping put all of your credit and debit cards on your table at home and only bring the $100 cash.
Since the only money you have on hand is the $100 cash you cannot spend more than that.
If you have a hard time controlling your spending this approach can be a life saver, as long as you don’t cheat.
Decide before you go out not to have cards with you (not even in your car) so when you are in the emotional shopping state you couldn’t overspend even if you wanted to.
4) Look For Deals After You’re Ready to Buy
Looking at the latest deals and sales can be fun, but it can also be extremely tempting.
The I-need-a-new-drill-because-look-how-much-I-will-save-if-I-buy-it-right-now syndrome is real. So to avoid this don’t look at deals.
Sales and deals are made to get you to start shopping. That isn’t in your best financial interest, especially if you need to shop less.
Instead, if you need a new drill start looking around for the best deals and buy it once you’ve found one.
By reversing the order you still save money on your purchase and you also don’t get sucked into unneeded shopping.
5) Avoid Meandering In Your Favorite Store
I love shopping at Costco, it is my guilty pleasure. So to avoid spending too much money there I have to avoid looking at (or tasting) a lot of things.
In other words, don’t walk aimlessly through your favorite store. You’re bound to end up with a lighter wallet and a heavier bag.
By having a plan and a list as mentioned above you can know exactly what you need and go exactly to the right aisle, then check out.
No meandering necessary.
I can’t tell you how many times meandering through Costco has taken money out of my wallet, don’t let the same thing happen to you.
6) Give Things Back at the Register
If after all of that you find yourself at the register and your budget can’t handle the total price tag, remember it isn’t yours until you swipe your card (or hand over your cash).
Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t need this after all”. The cashier will gladly take that item off your bill and tuck it away for another customer. No questions asked.
Nobody in line cares, and even if they did you will never see them again anyway.
Remember, to shop less it is easier to give it back at the register now than it is to come back and return it later.
7) Put An Intentional Spending Reminder On Your Credit Card
Sometimes even with all of your good intentions you can rationalize away your purchases or pretend that it isn’t that much or just forget about your spending goals in the midst of having fun shopping.
So I offer this last line of defense to help you shop less. A simple sticky note attached to your credit card.
On a sticky note either write your spending goal or a simple reminder to think before you purchase. Place the sticky part over the chip or bar of your card so you have to actually remove it before purchasing. Then take a moment to reflect on your purchases before you buy them.
If you decide you don’t need something after all, refer to tip 6.
8) Host An Exchange With Your Friends or Community
Okay, so you’ve stopped buying as much stuff but you’re starting to feel the itch for something new. It could be new clothes, maybe you need some tools, you need a new electronic gadget to play with, whatever.
To scratch the itch while spending basically nothing I recommend hosting an exchange with your friends or opening it to the community.
Invite people to come over or meet you somewhere, lay out items you wish to exchange then start swapping. This works especially well with clothes (children’s clothes too since they grow so darn fast).
Get a new wardrobe or a new line up of tools or other goodies without going on a shopping spree. If you hold these exchanges monthly you can even get some of your items back in a month or switch things out again for something else.
7 Tips For Shopping Less Online
1) Disable One Click Shopping
Online shopping is making it easier to spend our money without even thinking about it. The key to shopping less online is to make yourself have to think about it.
One of the biggest culprits is the one click shopping button or the “buy now” button.
That button can easily be disabled, so take a moment and turn it off to avoid true impulse buys.
2) Don’t Let Your Browser Remember Your Credit Card
Browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox are learning that people want to be lazy, so now they will store your credit card information. All you have to do is click the autofill button and you’re ready to buy.
This is almost as bad as the one click button. Make sure it takes time to purchase to avoid diving into a purchase without having a moment to think it over.
3) Don’t Get a Free Shipping Membership
This might seem like odd advice on a website dedicated to saving money. After all, shipping can be quite expensive. But here me out.
A free shipping membership is costing you money every month or year. Because you are already spending that money you feel the need to use it. This is called the sunken cost fallacy.
Because you feel the need to use your membership you buy more. That means you actually lose money on the membership and on the extra stuff you bought.
Without the shipping membership you have to really need something to buy it online because if not the shipping makes it much less worth it. So right out of the gate you shop less.
On top of that, if you spend a certain amount you can get free shipping anyway.
So cancel that free shipping membership. It isn’t saving you money!
4) Only Shop Online When You Need Something
Much like meandering through your favorite store, shopping online aimlessly is dangerous.
Even window shopping can be a trigger for actually purchasing.
The only solution is to stop scrolling through the latest gadgets and gizmos on Amazon and only get online when you need something.
Remember that making a list is a great tool to keep you on track and shopping less. So make a list of what you need to buy, search for only those things, then get off of the internet.
This will save you a lot of money because you can’t spend money on the latest doodad you don’t know exists.
5) Have a Cool Down Period Before Your Purchase
If after all of that you are still getting ready to buy something, wait. That’s it, just wait.
Once you have something in your cart, put a hold on clicking the purchase button. Even with the ship by this day count down ticking away.
Take a deep breath. Walk away. Stay away for a while. It can be an hour, a day, a week. Whatever you think is best.
Then come back to the cart and look at the item again. If you really need it, go ahead and buy it. If not, then return the item at the virtual checkout stand.
No one will ever know it was in your cart, so it is even less embarrassing than returning an item at the cash register.
6) Remove Shopping Apps From Your Phone
I know I’m not the only one that gets on my phone when I’m bored, standing in line, or just out of habit. If you are a habitual shopper then having shopping apps on your phone can be financially dangerous.
Any shopping you can do on an app you can do on a mobile website. The difference is that there are more steps between having the impulse to shop and actually doing it. That helps you avoid mindless shopping.
Remember, the way to shop less is to only shop intentionally.
7) Shop Without Your Wallet Nearby
Another way to cut back on shopping is to make your wallet hard to access. You can put it in a closet, or just in another room. Your laziness might prevail, and now you’re shopping less. And suddenly being lazy is actually helping you!
Another way to do this is to keep your wallet with someone you trust, an accountability partner, like your spouse. Their job isn’t keep to you from having your wallet, but to ask you questions to remind you of your goals before you decide to make a purchase.
Never let someone actually hold power over your ability to use money in a relationship, that can be quite toxic. Financial relationships need to be equal.
Intentional Shopping Is Less Shopping
Every tip I have given comes back to one idea, only shop when you need to. If you only shop when you need to you will shop less in general.
The tips I have listed will help you decide when you need to go shopping, and how to best stick to that plan.
Still, it won’t be easy to cut back on a shopping habit. Start with just one tip, then add in another. If a tip doesn’t work for you, then don’t use it. Personalize this list and take your spending back into your own hands.
What are some tips you have for cutting back on shopping? What store do you need to avoid because you like it too much? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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A list of definitions used on this blog can be found here.
Sunk Cost Fallacy: The idea that because you’ve invested time or money into something you have to complete it or use it. For example, eating the rest of a new candy bar you bought but don’t actually enjoy, or finishing a movie that you’ve rented even though it is really bad.