Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Shopping Game

I've made it safely through another trip to Wal Mart! Yes, I had to go back already. Rosemary's Baby had a medical appointment this morning and we needed a few grocery items and a couple of things for Firstborn's upcoming birthday party, so I killed two birds with one stone and went to the home of everything you could ever need in life, and then some. And once again, I made no impulse purchases!

A few people have been asking how I'm managing this not-making-any-unnecessary-purchases-for-the-rest-of-the-year business. Truly, it isn't easy. But it's not as hard as I expected either. Of course, I'm only a month in, and there are almost 4 months left of temptation, so we'll see what happens when I finally have reason to set foot inside my ultimate nemesis, the thrift store.

But I do have a few tips to share for others out there who are trying to save their money and their sanity by not buying any more clutter.

1. If You Must Shop, Make a List. The advantage to living almost an hour outside of a real city is that I can't reasonably think to myself in the middle of the afternoon "Hmmm...I'm bored. Maybe I'll go for a browse around Winners." So reality dictates that I don't shop much, and by the time I am heading to Booming Metropolis, I have a long list of things I need to pick up. Having the list, and focussing on only filling my cart with what is on that list actually helps keep my attention off of the displays of $3 bras and bargain bins of yarn that always seem to dance around in circles and call out loudly when they see me coming.

2. Time Yourself. This sounds totally lame, I know. And If I hadn't been in a hurry this morning because we had an appointment to keep, I'd never have thought of this as a viable way of controlling myself, but it works! I had exactly 30 minutes today from the time I pulled into the parking lot to the time I pulled out again to get everything on my list. So I plopped Rosemary's Baby into the cart and made it my mission to get in and out of there on time. And I did. I was like one of those guards at Buckingham Palace. NOTHING was going to distract me from my mission! My tight schedule kept me absolutely on-task, and on-time.

3. Keep Track. I'm trying to keep a general tally of how much I'm saving each month. When I get to the end of this, I have a choice. I can take some percentage of what I saved and buy myself something of a better quality than I'd generally buy myself. Maybe a really nice leather purse? Oh, who am I kidding--I've already got the darned thing picked out! But there's also the chance that I'll decide I'm just happy to have accomplished this feat and I won't even need my little reward (what do you think the odds are of THAT happening? Heh heh). Either way, I've still saved some money. And either way, I still feel good about it.

4. Shop at Home. No, I don't mean online shopping. That'll sometimes get you into more trouble than if you just took yourself to the outlet mall. Whenever I have something to attend, I automatically assume I need a fancier pair of shoes or a new top, when really I have everything I could possibly ever need for any occasion inside my own closet. A recent rummage through my dresser drawers made me realize exactly how much stuff I do have, and it really turned me off the idea of adding more to the pile (this also works in the craft room, the kitchen, the linen closet etc etc etc). So if I find myself wanting new clothes, I will head straight for my wardrobe and an "at home" shopping experience. It totally curbs the urge.

5. Redefine Fun. More than one person has been confused as to how I can restrain myself in a big box store and still make it a fun experience. My answer is that I can't. That's not to say that committing strictly to a list is a miserable experience, just a very utilitarian one. But part of the point of this for me is to not confuse shopping with happiness. This doesn't mean that I want to be someone who no longer loves shopping. That would just be wrong! But I want to enjoy buying things--nice things--that I've wanted for perhaps a long time. Remember as a kid when you had to actually save for something you wanted? And how great it was when you finally got it? I want shopping to be more like that. Because as fun as it is to find a $5 handbag, or a t-shirt marked down six times until it's finally only two bucks, and to buy it solely because of the price, I find I'm generally left with irritation or guilt over not having needed it AT ALL and, in most cases, that it was probably made by a poverty-ridden child in a sweatshop. That's really no fun.

So, the quest continues. Coming up with new ways to behave myself when I see the word "Clearance" is turning out to be kind of fun. It's like a game! Level One: Grocery Store, Level Two: Wal Mart, Level Three: Mall. And so on and so forth. By Christmas I'll be fighting off the sales girl at Michael's with a paper cutter.

Hmmm...I think I may have just figured out the first feasible video game idea designed exclusively for women...


Cooking Mama said...

K, I'll keep reciting your helpful hints mantra-style while I hit the Teacher store and Michaels for homeschooling supplies. I'm so scared!

Amanda {My Life Badly Written} said...

I reckon that a list is definately the way to go and giving yourself a time limit!

Tater Tot Mom said...

Clearance aisles/racks are SO hard to resist. I mean I see a yellow sign and I'm like a bee to a flower, buzzing over to see what I can get!

But I totally agree...then I get the great clearance price but I didn't need it so I actually threw that money away.

Time limit is a great idea, especially at Wal-Mart.

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm eBay queen. I guess that can become addictive, too, but I figure if I can buy someone else's crap, it's better than paying full price for it new!


hey - i'm JOINING your quest. i always have a list, but i always get crap NOT ON THE LIST, like a halloween troll wig for the dog. what? stupid. thank GOD it doesn't fit and so now i am taking it back. a clearance set of bowls. why? b/c they're on clearance, of course! STUPID!

btw, you had THE BEST answer to what you would keep in your safe, and you win the PURPLE BANANAS AWARD -a fake one i just made up- for best comment at SFTC. i almost wet myself.

hey get this word verification off of here before i pop you one

knitwit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
knitwit said...

So, I've been blogging for almost a year now, and I never even realized I had word verification turned on!! How annoying for all you loyal commenters! I've fixed the problem, though, so comment away!

Janine said...

Yea!!! No more word verification.. Now I don't have to pop you one either!!

Janine said...

Ooops forgot to say that I would LOVE this game!! Let's play!!

Diggestive said...

You could call it

"shopping mama" perfect for nintendo ds

the baddy could be a toddler putting stuff in your basket you don't need and then asking for sweets at the checkout.

MOMSWEB said...

GREAT tips! I dislike Walmart, but sometimes I just HAVE to go; they have everything!

My Baby Sweetness said...

Good luck with your quest! I am that worst at that stuff. Hmm.. maybe not the worst. That might be my husband! I need to send him to your post for the rules on making and sticking to lists at the grocery store!

PS - I'm going to have to come back to see how this works with Christmas shopping!

Nishant said...

I reckon that a list is definately the way to go and giving yourself a time limit!
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