Take another 30% off clearance. Six words that make my heart so happy. My husband insists that nothing makes my face light up quite like a full rack of mark-downs and a coupon for extra discounts. I love shopping. Too much.
Recently I’ve been trying to curb my spending habits. Our finances are tighter this year and my frivolous purchases account sits next to empty. And you know what I’ve found? I can live without buying so much. (Don’t tell my husband.)
Enter Christmas. Sigh. The most wonderful time of the year makes me want to buy. And buy. And, then buy some more. Everything is on sale. How could I not take advantage of such great prices?
Is it possible to rein in shopaholic tendencies? I think so.
How to Stop Over-Shopping
I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. The opposite is true. I like to buy. I try to never spend a lot at once. But I’ve come to realize that even the twenty $10 mark-down items I buy over the course of a few months still add up to $200.
The deeper truth: shopping soothes me. It’s a drug I use (in vain) to pacify my pain or frustration. Women joke about shopping as therapy, but there’s more fact in that statement than fiction. Shopping can help some of us feel better–but only until the high wears off.
Another deep truth for those of us who are over-shoppers: we also battle comparison. We like her purse better than our own. Her skirt is super cute. (Where can I get one?) New make-up. New boots. A better wreath for my front door. . . (One more like her’s, of course . . .) When we use consumer lenses to view the world, comparison sneaks in and tells us we can find better than what we already have. And, when we do, we should BUY it!
As I travel this road of shaping up my own shopping habits, here are some strategies that have helped me.
If you have a problem with coveting stuff, especially stuff that’s ON SALE, then it’s time to start unsubscribing from sites that want to sell you something every other day of the week. I know what you bargain hunters are thinking. “But if I unsubscribe I’ll miss the deal emails, and then when I need something, I’ll pay more.” Not true, my friend. Not true. Most sites have their current promotions front and center on their pages. In fact, with sites like retailmenot, secret sales and private discount codes are so 2007.
The best part: I’ve realized that I feel considerably more content through the day if I don’t scroll through 23 different store sale emails when I wake up. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s easier to find something to wear, something to eat, something to read if I don’t have 100 newer, “better” options presented to be more 9am.
This is a tough one for me because I, ahem, tend to buy the same thing over and again. There was the time last year when I got this idea in my head that I needed a gray and black striped skirt. So, I went to a LulaRoe party and bought one, forgetting that I had already bought one at Costco (Yes, I shop at all the fine retailers) a few weeks earlier. I had brought it home and immediately hung it up and forgot about it because things aren’t that easy to spot in my closet. Sigh.
I also like to buy things ahead. So, I’ll buy the Captain America birthday party plates because they are on clearance. Only to buy them, again, closer to birthday time because I forget that I already have them.
I’m hanging my head in shame as I write this. But, some of you share this same “special” trait. Sigh.
Now, there are those who have their closets organized by garment color and alphabetized by designer name. (If you have a capsule wardrobe, this probably isn’t your hang up. You can skip to the next point.) But, if you’re like me, it may be time to stop and clean out your closet. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit. And, clean out that closet so you can see what you’ve really got. (I know this is hard, we’ve written about it here too.)
The same can apply to your pantry. (Am I the only one who always buys spaghetti sauce and then comes home to find I already have six jars?). If what you have is regularly organized well, you are less likely to over-spend, in part, because you know what you have.
Organization isn’t my favorite. I hate to do it, though I always love how I feel afterwards. The more organized my stuff is the more I realize that I don’t really need anything new. (Or at least not until I get rid of some of the old!) My friend Shannon helps people organize. Here’s a link to her book to help moms organize their families. Check out her book if you need extra help in this arena like I do!
I’ll buy four tops on clearance for $8.99 each that I don’t really love, but refuse to buy one regularly-priced blouse that I adore because it’s $40.
(I realize this doesn’t make sense to some of you, but I know I’ve got some friends out there doing the same thing.)
Last week I went shopping with my mom. There were huge clearance sales going on, all over the department store. My mom had agreed to buy me something, and thus, I scoured the clearance racks for the item of my choice. She repeated several times that I didn’t “have to” find it on clearance. But, my heart said otherwise. Why? Because there are still areas of my life where I struggle with worth.
Do I deserve to have a $40 top?
I’m not so sure. If we’re spending “big money” on something, shouldn’t that be for someone else, not for me? Or, should I really invest in more clothing that’s this size? I mean, if it were a smaller size, then it would make more sense. But, since, (somewhere deep in my heart), I still long for a size change, isn’t it just wasting money to buy this size now? Plus, isn’t it foolish to pay full price? Someday it’ll be on clearance. . . and if they run out before then. . . well, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I can try to rationalize it away, but truth is, I struggle to believe that I should have nice things. My lifelong struggles with body image left me with ingrained patterns of thinking and shopping. I often feel like that I’m only worthy of the clearance rack clothing.
If this resonates with you, then, sister, we have some work to do, together. Remembering that our worth isn’t determined by the size tag (or the price tag) of the item, can help. Start to qualify your purchases. Remember that you are eligible to buy anything you can afford. Your size or shape doesn’t exclude you from owning nice clothing or other items. This doesn’t mean you buy frivolously. By all means, please be a good steward of your finances. Sometimes buying only stuff that’s on sale is the wisest move. But, qualifying your worth means that you don’t have to ONLY shop in the bargain basement because you’ve falsely internalized that you’re unworthy of top shelf.
I’ve also had to recognize the ways I wanted new clothing to fix my body image issues. (And how ineffective, yet expensive, this strategy turned out to be!) I talk about this and the other ways we can recognize our worth through Christ’s sacrifice in my book, Compared to Who?
Do you have to stop shopping completely? No. I think shopping is just like any other idol or addiction. If it can be kept in its proper place–as a source for meeting basic needs or buying gifts–there’s nothing wrong with that. But, check your priorities. If you run to the online store when you feel bad about your body, or if you regularly let consumeristic lustful thoughts lead you to unnecessary purchases, then it may be time to take a shopping hiatus.
The Treasure Principle
Want to know if shopping has become an idol in your life? Use the treasure test from Matthew 6:21. You can tell what a woman treasures by where she spends her time and money. When you look back at your monthly expenses, do you find most of your money going to new “things” that you don’t really need? That could signal that shopping has become a problem. Likewise, if you look at how you spend your day and you find that online or in-store shopping consumes more hours than other things–this may also be a red flag.
I fully understand the need to take a one hour “vacation” alone at Target . . . but if this is a source of greater rejuvenation that say, spending time with God or spending time in your church community, you may need to check your heart and ask God to show you if shopping is standing in the way of deeper relationship with him.
So, you spent your Kohl’s cash, plus an extra hundred. What do you do? I think you give yourself grace first of all. Condemnation is not going to make this problem get any better. Can you sort through your purchases and return anything you may not need? Sometimes our easiest solution for over-shopping is simply keeping the receipt and taking things back.
But, as we grow in discipline in this area, we can remember to appeal to God’s great grace before we reach the checkout. Stopping and praying, “God, do I need this?” or “God, should I really buy this?” can make a huge difference in halting impulse buys. I’ve also found that leaving items in my online cart for a day or so gives me time to decide if I really need what I desire to buy.
So how about you? What’s your relationship like with shopping? How do you rein in out of control shopping habits? I hope you’ll drop me a comment or respond on social media!
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