Should I Buy It?  Shopping Tips to Prevent Excess

saleI’ve written many articles with an emphasis on decluttering. I’ve shared plenty of tips to encourage us to let go of what we don’t love and don’t use. I realized recently I haven’t yet written much about the other side of the equation. We could theoretically continue to declutter consistently but not make much of a dent in our excess if we keep on bringing too much into our home.  An influx of items can come from items people give us as gifts, either for special occasions or just because they feel we need something. But the main influx into our homes is primarily of our own making. We are simply buying too many things we don’t have room for and don’t need. I’d like to share some tips to help us change that habit and to be more mindful of our shopping habits. 

Stop Shopping “Just for Fun”

Are you rolling your eyes or muttering, “Yeah, right” under your breath? If shopping is a favorite pastime, I realize this isn’t an easy change to make. Ideally shopping should be an intentional activity in which you set out with a list of specific items you need and shop for only those items. Yes, it’s possible to enter a store to “just look”, but more often than not, it’s pretty easy to justify a purchase. If shopping with a friend is a favorite activity primarily because of the companionship, why not consider going for a walk in a park together instead? You’ll enjoy the companionship but will also benefit your health. 

Don’t Add the Item to Your Cart

When we’re shopping and see an item we like, it feels effortless to just toss it into our shopping cart without thinking. Then when we get to the cash register, we buy it without further consideration. One of my clients shared her new shopping practice that will counteract this tendency. When she sees an item she likes, she pauses briefly to look at it but then keeps moving. By the time she’s finished shopping, if she hasn’t thought about that item again, she realizes it’s not a necessary purchase. If she continues to think about that item and its use in her home, she’ll go back and get it. This simple tip has decreased her shopping tremendously. 

Put it on a Wishlist

What if you’re considering a purchase and you aren’t ready to make the decision, but you don’t want to forget about the item? Add it to a wishlist of some sort. You can always reconsider the purchase at a later time. Also, if your birthday, Christmas, or any other gift giving holiday is approaching, you’ve got gift ideas ready to share. This is also a great strategy for parents when shopping with children. Many times when shopping with my daughters they would see something they wanted to buy. I would often say, “We’re not getting that today, but I’ll add it to your wishlist,” and they knew they might receive it another time.

Don’t Let a Sale Cloud Your Judgment

It’s hard enough to resist a purchase if an item is at regular price. But there’s something inside us that just can’t resist a sale, especially if it’s 50% or more off the regular price. Keep in mind that many times items are marked up just so they can later be marked down. If you can’t truthfully justify a purchase, don’t let the fact that it’s on sale pressure you into making a bad decision. 

Carefully Consider a Purchase

If you are making a purchase for someone else, you need to be just as vigilant about making good choices. We want to not only solve our own clutter problems but also be mindful not to contribute to others’ clutter. Are you sure the person would really love and use it? If it won’t ruin some kind of surprise, text them a picture of the item and where you saw it. If they don’t reply, just move on. If you’re shopping locally, you can always come back later (or they can). 

If you’re shopping for yourself, here are a few questions to ask yourself before making a purchase: 

  • Can I afford to part with this money? Or is the money better spent on something else that is more critically needed right now? Another way to look at it is to consider the cost in terms of how many hours you have to work to earn the money for it. Let’s say you earn $25 per hour and are considering purchasing an outfit that costs a total of $200. Is that outfit worth the 8 hours you worked to earn it? This consideration may give you a new perspective. 
  • Is this item better than a similar item I already own? If clutter is a real issue at your home, I highly recommend having a “one in, one out” strategy. For every item you bring into your home, commit to removing one item of that category (or preferably more than one) from your home. 
  • Do I need this item right now? Or can I wait until later, and if I still need it, I’ll reconsider? 
  • Do I know exactly how and where I will use this? Is there room for it in the space I intend to use it? 
  • Will this item add value to my life? If it doesn’t serve a purpose or bring me joy, it doesn’t add value. 
  • Do I have time for any upkeep this item will require? The monetary cost of an item isn’t the only cost. Items require space to store along with a host of other possible requirements, such as maintaining, cleaning, feeding, watering, protecting, replacing, charging, repainting, accessorizing, taking care of, replacing the batteries, and more. Is this item really worth all of the time and cost associated with it? 

I hope that these tips have given you a new perspective on evaluating your purchases. Always remember that if you bring in more than you take out, you’ll never be able to conquer your clutter problem. 

Shopping mindfully with careful consideration can slow down your accumulation significantly. I’d love to hear about any other tips that have helped you prevent purchasing items you don’t need!