If you consistently find yourself at the end of the month without any money left over, your shopping habits may be a big part of the problem. Whether you shop to relieve boredom, to fit in with the “in” crowd, or to avoid disappointing family and friends, you’ll find twenty common habits (and practical solutions) below.
For complete explanations, detailed examples, and insight into mistakes that we, personally, have made in shopping, watch the video, below.
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“Window” shopping (or website surfing)
The invention of the home computer morphed the act of shopping from physical shops into a whole new dimension. You can now shop from the privacy of your home, day or night.
Although this certainly offers an element of convenience, it also allows you to all-to-easily push that big, red, “Buy” button and spend far more money than you ever intended.
Add to this, the fact that every website you express an interest in now has the technology to send you targets ads, touting the advantages of their latest product.
So, don’t use the internet to kill time. Stop window shop on the web. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from Wayfair (or any other site that is sending you ads for new products every week).
Take a break from shopping by adopting or renewing your interest in a free, healthy hobby or activity.
Impulse buying/Buying the first thing you see
Even if you intentionally shop for an item you need, the first thing you see, isn’t always the best thing to buy.
For instance, if you decide to replace your refrigerator, it pays to know exactly what makes and models will meet your needs, before you even begin shopping. Otherwise, you may end up with a very expensive fridge that doesn’t actually do what you need it to do.
The other side of the impulse problem is purchasing something that looks good, but you had no intention of buying. It appeals to you in the moment and you’ve had no time to actually think about it.
You simply see an item in a store and find it attractive. So, you buy it.
- Do I need this item?
- Does it fit in my budget?
- How will buying this item impact my financial goals?
You’ll find yourself spending less money and being more satisfied with the items that you do purchase.
Keeping up with Trends
The amazing thing about trends is that they change – seemingly overnight, sometimes. Back in the mid-80’s, we couldn’t get enough of rose pink and country blue. Our homes were adorned with large swaths of these colors and we paid top dollar to get it.
Nowadays, you can pay 50¢ for a ceramic duck dressed in a pink dress with a blue hat on its head.
Why? Because trends don’t last.
When you try to keep up with them, you are destined to pay a premium for something which will wane to obscurity in just a few months or years.
Instead, shop for quality items in basic colors. My grandmother told me to never underestimate the need to have a little, black dress in your closet. You paid for it once, and wore it forever.
She was right.
Shopping at the last minute
Anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas all come around each year at exactly the same time. They don’t move around on the calendar and should not take us by surprise.
Keeping a gift stash and a list of gift ideas will help you stay on top of upcoming special occasions, without breaking the bank.
Not doing product research
Buyer’s remorse is defined as a sense of regret after purchasing a new item, typically an expensive one. We most often feel this when we have jumped at what seemed to be the perfect opportunity, only to find later that we paid too much for something that we really didn’t need.
The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse it to take your time, do product research, narrow down your options, and then purchase what you really want at the best price possible.
Buying what your friends (family or neighbors) own
Jumping on a bandwagon is very common when it comes to shopping. This is called, “Keeping up with the Joneses”.
A living room, which looks pretty good, may turn to a sour taste in our mouth when we see our best friend’s new sofa and chairs.
Wanting to be accepted by others and be a part of the “in” crowd begins way back in grade school when we want to eat at the “popular kids” table in the lunchroom. Although the psychological need is real, self-acceptance begins with believing that you are a worthwhile person (even if your sofa is lumpy and stained from ten years of overturned sippy cups of juice.)
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Shopping with friends is an Olympic level sport for many people. There is a huge temptation to swipe a debit or charge card, making purchases that we really can’t afford, because we feel that friends will judge us if we don’t spend a certain amount of money.
We all deal with peer pressure – even as adults.
Before leaving for a “friends weekend” or an all-day shopping trip,
- Save up some “fun money” in advance. (So you can eat out for lunch and dinner and not feel guilty).
- Set limits on your pocketbook. (So you don’t wake up the next day with spending regrets.)
- Take along a small notebook to record your expenses (or track them on your phone throughout the day).
- Have a list of items that you are actually looking for. (So, when you find a great deal, you can celebrate.)
Shopping without a budget
If the answer to the question, “How much are you going to spend on that item?” is, “Whatever I need to spend,” then, you may consistently find your bank account struggling to survive. If you find yourself buying and item, while have no idea whether you can actually afford it or now, you need a budget.
Budgeting applies to every area of your life: from food to furnishings. The problem is, we hesitate to set limits, fearing restriction.
However, a budget isn’t like sitting in “money jail” and it doesn’t mean deprivation. It’s actually the opposite. A budget gives you freedom to spend, knowing that you have saved up the money and won’t regret our purchase the next day.
Shopping only name-brand items
Before you shell out good money for the high-end version of things like purses, clothing, or shoes, do some research. There are off-brand knockoffs that look just like the real thing, but cost substantially less.
Once again, do the research.
Although, we do spend money on certain luxury items, like camping equipment, electronics, and fresh-roasted coffee, our closets and home are populated with an overwhelming percentage of items found at thrift stores. Often, you can even find name brand merchandise (some of it new with the tags still on) at local thrift stores.
We have found incredibly expensive items at a fraction of the new price throughout the past thirty years, just by researching the quality and reputation of name brands that are the best in their business.
The key is knowing which name brand items are better than their imitations and then, practicing delayed gratification. Wait until you find what you want at a price that you are willing to pay.
If there is no discernible difference between the name brand and the knock off, then buy the lower cost items and save the difference in price for when you find the top quality brands that you want at a great discount.
Buying from a high-pressure salesman
We’ve all taken advantage of the offer of a “free dinner”, “complimentary sample”, “all-expense-paid weekend”, only to find that we are in the middle of a lengthy and very high-pressure sales presentation. Suddenly, we realize that we have traded our time away and gotten far less than we expected in return.
Salesman are good at what they do. They are trained to counter objections, bypass your stalling tactics and do one thing: get the sale.
The profession is noble. Some are in the business because they genuinely believe in the product they sale and its value to your life.
However, if you are not interested in buying, sharpen your “no” skills, be honest, and (maybe) don’t take them up on their free offer unless you have the time to commit to hearing the sales presentation.
Buying without asking questions
Never be afraid to ask questions about a product or service before purchasing. If you have lingering questions about a product, it’s a good sign that you should not buy right now. This is especially true for larger purchases like a car, home, or major home appliance. You could be sinking hundreds or thousands of dollars into something which isn’t a good fit for you.
That doesn’t mean you won’t eventually purchase the item, but when you buy because you are feeling awkward, uncomfortable, or afraid, then you need to take a deep breath and take more time before committing your money.
Buying to be “polite”
We all have friends, neighbors, or relatives who sell items through parties. Tupperware, essential oils, kitchenware, and jewelry are all sold through on-line or home parties.
Before accepting an invitation, set limits on your time and wallet. If you don’t intend to buy, be honest with your host or hostess. It’s okay to attend just to get a night out of the house. Your friend will gladly share his or her snacks and give you a beverage to sip on without expecting you to buy.
If you truly like the line of products and feel you may be interested in the future, be sure that they can contact you in the event of a special sale or promotional offer.
I’ve saved up for items which I really want, purchased them at a sale price, and been able to support friends in their small business without spending more money than I intended to spend. Plus, I now have some really cool items in my home and wardrobe that I honestly enjoy using and wearing.
How many toasters do you need? How about shirts, shoes, or skirts? Unless you are a true minimalist, you probably have too much stuff.
Overbuying is a huge problem for many people – us included.
This can apply to having too many kitchen gadgets (which rarely get used) to more skirts than you could wear in a month of Sundays.
Before you buy, make sure you have a current inventory list of what is already in your home and be sure you need it, before you head to the checkout counter.
Buying everything new
According to a 2020 report by ThreadUp, the used merchandise market will double within the next five years, reaching $77 billion by the year 2025. Savvy shoppers are discovering that buying new, for the most part, is overrated. Through time, effort, and patience, you can often find items that you need without paying retail.
Thrifty families view second hand stores like we would Disney World, a vast wonderland filled with delights, waiting to be discovered – at a price far below that of retail.
The merits of shopping used go far beyond the price tag.
When you spend your dollars at thrift stores, you are also:
- Saving items from going to the landfill
- Supporting a local small business
- Helping a specific cause or mission
- Reducing our carbon footprint
- Finding great DIY projects
- Creating your own, unique style
Buying without knowing all the costs
Research the true cost of owning an item before you buy it.For instance, it pays to find out the cost of replacement parts.
When Keurig coffee makers made their first appearance on the consumer landscape, many did not realize that the true cost of one-use, coffee pods.
At times, you can find others who have devised create workarounds for expensive supplies or parts. For instance, this blogger has a clever plan for reusing her Keurig cups multiple times, which gives her the ability to brew a stronger, richer cup of Joe each morning.
Before buying, it’s always best to ask around, read reviews, and do research ahead of time to avoid unexpected expenses.
If you want to save between 50 and 90% off of retail prices, simply buy off-season. Never purchase a swim suit in July. If you wait until September, you’ll find a clearance price, leaving the store having paid pennies on the dollar.
Keep a 3 X 5 card in your purse (or a list on your phone) of your children’s current clothing and shoe sizes. When buying off-season, look for items which are one size larger. Even with four sons, I have seldom had items which went unused. So, for the most part, this system works like a charm to keep them fully clothed without paying an arm and a leg.
Paying full price
Never hit the “buy” button without looking for a coupon for free shipping, a percentage off, or another discount coupon.
We love Honey, an internet browser extension which automatically looks for available coupons. Before you check out, Honey will try all discounts, applying only the one which gives you the greatest discount. Honey works at thousands of on-line merchants and has over 17 million members. It’s absolutely free to join Honey and we highly recommend it.
Camel Camel Camel is another great tool. It specializes in letting you know when the prices on items that you are looking for on Amazon drop to their lowest price. Using this site (or the free app) is a great way to shop for Christmas gifts and save money at the same time.
Not Considering Alternatives to buying
Let’s fact it, sometimes we are shopping for items that we truly don’t need. DIY-ing, renting or borrowing something that you seldom use or won’t use more than once or twice is wise. It’s great to get into the habit of always asking yourself if there is an alternative to purchasing that product or service.
Buying when you Don’t Need It
Finally, it is amazing how often we find that we really don’t even need items that we are paying our hard-earned money to buy. Before you purchase, ask yourself if you, honestly, even need it. Will it wind up taking up space on a shelf (or worse yet, on the floor)? If it seems to be something that you will well in six months (or six years) for pennies on the dollar, then give it a “pass”, leave it at the store, and keep your money in your wallet.
What do you do to save money while shopping?
Tell me in the comment section.