I have a bad habit. On Saturday nights, after a few glasses of Chablis and a night of doing nothing, I take a trip through my online wishlist looking for something to buy. It's a costly habit that's filled my home with with cheap books, expensive Gundam model kits, and a few E-Mount lenses I haven't exactly gotten around to using.
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I don't regret any of these purchases, but I wish I had made them without the feeling of guilt or anxiety pinging my gut a few days after I hit "buy", especially when I bought it simply because I was also feeling a bit blasé. If you often find yourself in a similar boat, here are some methods of killing — or at least curtailing — your boredom shopping habit:
Figure Out Why You're Buying
I'm sure you've made an impulse buy when you're having a bad day. Whether it's a slice of pizza or a new video game, emotional purchases generally aren't the best way to deal with unwelcome feelings. Binge shopping is often associated with some slight emotional unrest, and understanding the underlying reasons for your trip to Zara might make you feel better than a pair of pants will.
Shopping helps many people deal with negative emotions and stress, but can often lead to credit card debt which adds even more stress. Replace the endorphin rush received from shopping with natural endorphins from physical exercise and you've not only saved money but replaced a bad habit with a good one.
In a bad mood? Meditating, physical exercise, or simply sleep will probably brighten your mood. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you see what you actually do own or value in life, and help put your impulse purchase habit in perspective.
Make Buying Stuff Hard
The best way to kick an addiction is to avoid it altogether. If your job doesn't involve the occasional trip to eBay and the like, you can block those sites from your life with a simple browser extension.
StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that lets you configure access to approved and blocked sites over certain spans of time. You can set it to let you access eBay for a total of 30 minutes between the hours of 9AM and 5PM, or have it block your impulse buy sites for six out of seven days per week. It's a great tool to combat social media addiction, but it will also prove itself useful for abruptly killing midnight treks through eBay.
Schedule Your Purchases
While you might want that three-piece suit the same week the Nintendo Switch is back in stock, making multiple big purchases isn't easy on the wallet. If that's the case, you should think about scheduling larger purchases. Simply open your calendar or to-do list app, type your desired item in, and set a date with which you feel comfortable, and that lines up with your budget.
Perhaps it's the day after your rent is due, or the day before you get paid. Either way, you know you'll be prepared to make that purchase, and you'll have turned that impulse buy into a thoughtful decision that you may adjust or decide to abandon when the time comes. You may decide to pair that suit with a nice evening out with a partner, or take your new console to a friend's house and hang out. Turning your buy into an experience can help you appreciate the purchase more, and leave you satisfied longer.
" excerpt="In the moment, you can justify pretty much any purchase decision. Maybe you do need a third coffee maker and more flannel shirts — they're 40 per cent off! But wait, do you really? This flowchart helps you figure out if your desire to buy is actually out of necessity or just an impulse."]
Use the Envelope Trick
Saving for big purchases is harder if you keep spending your money on small time stuff. At the same time, impulse buys of big purchases can throw your finances out of whack and leave you feeling anxious and stressed about money.
Here's where the envelope method of saving works wonders. Saving for a new, sturdier couch? Grab an envelope, write your goal and desired savings amount, and put some cash in it every week. It can be a set recurring deposit (my envelope gets a $10 note bill every week) or whatever you've got in your pocket at the end of the day. I recommend shooting for the same recurring investment so you can plan ahead and calculate the completion date.
Ask Someone Knowledgeable
Often a purchase can be swayed by a second opinion, if you ask the right person. When I was car hunting, desperate for the feel of the open road, I asked Jalopnik's Kristen Lee about the feasibility of owning a car in New York.
Lee, a rare example of a city dweller with a car, explained the pros and cons, eventually suggesting my use cases would be better suited by occasionally renting one for specific trips. While it isn't as sexy as owning my own Miata, the opinion of an expert definitely saved me more than a few thousand bucks.