I’ve done it once again. I went into a hereto unnamed big box store with the intent to by 3 items: orange juice, a drain catch for the kitchen sink, and tampons. I walked out with none of the above items and 100 dollars poorer! The moment I got into the car that icky, dirty, I-just-did-something-bad feeling washed over me--“shopping hangover!” I knew instantly that I didn’t need most, if not any, of the stuff in those bags: Halloween socks, um no; 2 more brightly colored camis, I have at least 10 already; 2 more boxes of cereal, we’ll eat them but not necessary; stocking stuffers for family members, probably not. Then why do I feel the need to purchase superfluous items, especially when I know it’s going to make me feel bad? Well, because I am there, the stuff is there, and it’s cute/yummy/irresistible.
A very wise friend of mine once offered a sage piece of advice when confronted with this dilemma: JUST DON’T GO IN! Meaning don’t even step foot or tire in the parking lot to begin with. If you know you are prone to buying unnecessary junk, limit the times you spend in tempting locales, especially if you are shopping because you are bored or killing time. I have heeded this advice many times and headed off the dreaded shopping hangover by going for a walk instead, or reading a book/magazine, cooking something (see below), writing poetry, meditating, etc. But, what about the times when you really must go in because you really do need something (like, ahem, toilet paper say)? Or, the times when your resolve fails you and you just need a shopping fix? I offer a mental checklist of questions to ask yourself as you hold that cute rubber ducky with a witches hat in your hand:
1. Do I really need this? Enough said!
2. Where will it ultimately end up in my house? For example, will it end up on the floor in one of my kids’ rooms, or in a bin of forgotten toys? Or, ultimately and more importantly, in a landfill?
3. Is there a ridiculous amount of packaging with said item? Again, which will end up in a landfill.
4. Could I make this item myself? Now, I realize that many people don’t think they have time to make granola bars or homemade lasagna, but you’d be surprised! Check out Michael Pollen’s new book, Cooked, for a really interesting, enlightening read. I’ve found becoming more self-sufficient is really gratifying, but more on that later!
5. Could I get this item or something like it at a second-hand store? Buying second-hand always makes me feel so much better about my purchasing power. I am saying NO to unnecessary packaging and consumerism, while at the same time giving perfectly good items a second life AND keeping them out of the landfill. And, if you buy on consignment or through a charitable foundation (e.g., Salvation Army or Goodwill), your money will go to someone who needs it instead of to large corporations, who do not!
Are there better uses for my money? Charity, vacation fund, education fund, etc. There are ALWAYS better uses for your money than cheap, plastic rubber duckies!
Now, we all slip from time to time, as I did today. Instead of beating yourself up for it, repeat the mantra “just don’t go in” next time. Maybe go through some of that extra stuff in your house that you wouldn’t mind giving away, thus giving someone else a chance to reuse your goods instead of buying new. And if you are really feeling remorse, find that receipt and return it!
Happy (Un) Shopping!