To all you die-hard Black Friday shoppers (which apparently starts on Thursday now?!), I wish you well. As for me, I will be sleeping in and cuddling with my boys.
Note: I originally wrote this post one year ago today, but never published it. My wounds from emotional shopping were still healing and I needed to know if this advice would stick before sharing it. Now, one year later, I am happy to share these five perspectives that help me avoid emotional shopping.
The holidays are a particular tough time of year to be an emotional shopper. The shelves are stocked and the hunt for a great deal can be exhilarating. But the threat of over-spending and buyer’s remorse is also heightened. When I need to keep my shopping wits about me, I reflect on these five things.
I am not a Black Friday shopper. I have tried it and I don’t like it. If I go shopping on Black Friday I know three things are inevitable:
- I will be overwhelmed by crowds. (I hate crowds)
- I will spend money on something I don’t need or want just because it is a great deal.
- I will regret spending my time and money on something I did not want or need.
I’d rather sleep in and cuddle with my kids.
I have thought a lot lately about shopping and my relationship with it. I’m a recovering emotional shopper. I used to go shopping when I felt sad, or lonely, or stressed. Inevitably I would buy myself something to “cheer me up”. I used to shop during my “mommy breaks”, which became an expensive way to get a few minutes of quiet.
When I was emotionally shopping, I only bought small things. So I didn’t rack up any debt. But those small purchases still added up over time and robbed us of other things, more important things, we wanted to spend that money on. What I did rack up (big time) was guilt. Retail therapy made me feel good in the moment, but worse afterward.
I’ve worked on changing my shopping habits over the last two years. My recovery started with my home spending hiatus.
Now I feel okay about bringing an empty cart back to the front of the store and walking out with nothing. I don’t need to buy something. More often than not, I don’t even go to the store anymore unless there is something I need.
5 Reasons to Feel Okay About Leaving a Store Empty-Handed
(From least to most important)
5. Is your hobby shopping or spending?
Shopping is a cheap hobby, buying is what gets expensive. I actually cringe when someone cites “shopping” as a hobby, because it usually implies spending. But, I like to window shop and daydream with the best of them.
The problem comes when you say your hobby is shopping, but it’s not just looking, it’s buying…any and everything. Then, shopping becomes an expensive hobby. It is okay to shop and not buy.
4. The hunt continues.
It’s hard to walk out of a second-hand store empty-handed, because you crave that amazing find. You just know if you take another lap around the store you will spot that diamond in the rough. But, if you don’t, it is okay…the hunt continues.
Drawing a parallel to Black Friday, it’s heartbreaking to wait in long lines for amazing deals, only to find nothing you want to spend your money on. It is okay…the hunt for an amazing deal you actually care about continues.
3. A deal isn’t a deal if you would not consider paying full price for the item.
Let me say that another way: how would you feel about the same item at full price? Would you still want it? Would you still neeeeed it? Would you climb over people to get it?
It’s great when you find a good deal on something you already wanted to buy. The trouble is when you start buying things you didn’t want or need, because you can’t pass up an amazing deal. You didn’t just save 50%, the store got you to give them the other 50% you weren’t planning to spend.
2. Just as you have a budget when you walk into a store, the store has a goal for how much they want you to spend.
They stock the end caps with irresistible goodies. They put last-minute add-ons at the register. Their goal is to sell you more…more than you walked in for, more than you probably need. Your job is to ignore all that and stick to your budget. Going in with a list is a good place to start…stick to the list. Don’t wander.
If you do decide to make an impulse buy, do what I do. Buy your impulse item immediately and exit the store. Don’t let it become a snowball effect by continuing to look at more things, causing your one impulse buy to turn into a cart full of things you’ll have buyers remorse about later.
1. You don’t owe the store anything.
It’s okay to browse. You don’t have to buy something, especially if they don’t have what you are looking for.
I used to feel like I had to buy something if I set foot in a store. They make you feel that way by funneling you through the cash registers on the way out.
It is okay to walk out empty-handed. Get more comfortable with it by reminding yourself of the other reasons to walk out empty-handed on this list. If you just want to window shop, if your hunt continues because you didn’t find what you wanted, if you don’t want just anything at an amazing deal, or if you couldn’t find something within your budget, then it is okay to leave without making a purchase.
Find a way to exit the store without going by the cash registers when you’re not making a purchase. Not having to walk by the registers eliminates the feeling that you were supposed to buy something. I love stores with self-checkouts, because they have wide aisles that are easy to walk through and get out. Sometimes it is as simple as walking back out the door you came in…head held high.
The store did not make a sale today…you did nothing wrong.