A love-hate relationship with shopping is all too common. Spending hours at the mall or scooping up deals online can be a fun treat on occasion, but your spending habits can get completely out of control if you’re not careful. For some people, shopping has the same endorphin-inducing effect that comes from exercise or falling in love – some people just can’t say no. Shopping can also become a bit of a crutch, especially if you use those new clothing and accessories as a way to combat negative emotions.
Unfortunately, because many of us enjoy shopping, we might not even realize it when our habits take a dangerous turn. Before you make a purchase, stop and think. Your regular shopping habits could be the bridge between harmless fun and a serious shopping addiction.
Bad Shopping Habits You Need to Break Now
No one’s perfect. One impromptu shopping trip for shoes isn’t going to sentence you to a lifetime of addiction, but impulse shopping could be seriously affecting your personal budget. Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?
1. Shopping With Plastic
When you’re shopping with a credit or debit card, it’s hard to keep track of a budget. You don’t physically see the money come out of your wallet, so you lose that reminder that you’re spending money at all. Debit cards often have overdraft protection, so spending more than you’d planned may feel like no big deal. Credit cards have a limit, but it’s all too easy to tell yourself you can pay them off “later.”
Fast Fix: Always shop with cash, and take the exact amount with you that you plan to spend. Indulging in a new purse is totally fine when you budget for it and pay it off instantly – the old-fashioned way. Once your money is gone, you know it’s time to stop shopping and go home.
2. Shopping Because of Boredom
If you have nothing to do on your lunch break, why not pop over to the mall? A free Friday night would be perfect for hitting up shops and restaurants downtown. Sound familiar? If so, you may be treating shopping as a hobby or pastime rather than a necessity. Shopping out of boredom – both in-store and online – can cause you to overspend and purchase items you don’t need, both busting your budget and cluttering your home.
Fast Fix: Prevent boredom by looking into other free activities you can do when you have a spare hour or two. Catch up on your favorite podcast, go for a run, call up a friend for coffee, or read a book. By having a few alternatives in place, the mall won’t be the only place to turn when you’re bored.
3. Storing Credit Card Info Online
It seems so much easier to just store credit card information with your favorite online retailers rather than having to leave your computer, find your wallet, and input credit card details for each purchase. But unfortunately, this makes it way too easy to buy something in just a few clicks. Other real risks include the possibility of hackers breaching those retailers, or losing your phone or laptop and having your information compromised.
Fast Fix: Don’t keep your credit card information on file for shopping websites. It makes the process too easy, and you may be lured into making impulse purchases that don’t always fit your budget. Nowadays, I keep my credit card information in my wallet, where it belongs.
4. Impulse Shopping
We all know impulse shopping is wrong – it causes you to spend outside of your budget. However, stopping yourself from making those buys is easier said than done. When you’re walking past a store and see a jacket you can’t live without, it’s very easy to whip out your credit card and walk out with exactly what you want.
Fast Fix: By knowing what clothing items you already have in your closet and acknowledging what triggers your shopping, you can avoid blowing your budget on unplanned purchases. Check out these strategies:
- Use the “Three Outfit” Rule. Have you ever purchased a new item of clothing, only to get home and realize that it doesn’t really look right with your existing wardrobe? Not only have you made an unplanned purchase, but one that doesn’t really add value. I use the “three outfit” rule: Before making an unplanned purchase, I think of three ways that pieces in my existing wardrobe can be worn with the new item. If I can’t, it goes back on the shelf.
- Know Your Personal Inventory. Have you ever purchased something, only to come home and realize that you had something nearly identical or which serves the same purpose at home? It’s one of the pitfalls of impulse shopping. By keeping track of what you own, you won’t be swayed by a new pencil skirt when you already have a great one at home.
- Check Your Triggers. Find yourself making unplanned purchases again and again? Identify what triggered them. Perhaps you have a specific store that lulls you to buy over and over, or you like making purchases when perusing online auction sites. Identify your triggers and you can work to avoid them.
- Walk Away. This is the ultimate in impulse-buy prevention. Even if you’re totally in love with something, walk away for a day. If you find yourself still thinking about that item, see where your budget might allow for the purchase before you take the plunge.
Impulse shopping can definitely derail the best-laid budget plans, so be on the lookout for anything that entices you to make an unplanned purchase.
5. Giving Into Peer Pressure
Whether it’s shopping with friends, meeting up at the mall, or keeping up with Joneses, you might find your biggest influences around shopping are other people. Peer pressure can definitely contribute to shopping without thinking or buying something that’s outside of your normal price range. If you shop with friends who have bigger budgets than you, you might find yourself tempted to overspend – especially if your friend insists that you would look amazing in a pricey dress.
Fast Fix: Choose your shopping partners wisely. I love all of my friends equally, but when it comes to shopping, I prefer to go with those who have budgets and tastes that are similar to mine. That way, I don’t find myself in out-of-budget stores or being talked into an unplanned big-ticket purchase.
6. Skipping Savings
You might turn your nose up at people who shop with coupons, but in today’s digital world, there’s really no reason to pay full price for clothing, shoes, and accessories. Coupon efforts used to involve clipping ads, but now you can download coupons and promotions right to your smartphone.
Fast Fix: I’m obsessed with the SnipSnap app (available for free on iOS and Android) which allows the user to search for and use coupons right in the store. You can either scan coupons into the app for later use, or search the thousands of coupons available in the app itself. I’ve made it a habit to search for coupons while waiting to check out at my favorite stores. It’s a simple, painless way to save money on stuff you were going to buy anyway.
7. Not Returning Goods
If you order a shirt and it doesn’t fit, do you return it? Common sense says yes, but you might find that item languishing in your closet simply because returning stuff is inconvenient. Yes, returning things often means heading to the post office or waiting in long lines, but there’s no point blowing your hard-earned cash on something you won’t even use.
Fast Fix: Always make a point to review return policies before you purchase something online or in-person. If the return policy is confusing or inconvenient, you may want to rethink shopping with that retailer. Shop with stores that offer longer return policies or free return shipping.
We all have our habits, but when those habits cause you to habitually overspend, it might be time to think about ways to rein yourself in. Shopping is not a hobby, so moving forward, try to think about shopping as a necessity. By making your clothes shopping more purposeful and less impulsive, you might be able to score a little wiggle room for some of those bigger purchases you’ve really been craving.
What bad shopping habits are you guilty of?