I left my sweatshirt on a plane while traveling in March. I wore it frequently, and it was a staple of my tiny wardrobe. I called the airline, searched lost and found, and when I couldn’t find it, I wanted to replace it immediately.
Instead, I decided to implement a purchase pause. Even though I really wanted an alternative for my lost item, I knew I didn’t need it. Fast forward almost a month, and while there have been a few times that I wanted to wear a sweatshirt, I didn’t think about it much. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying life or doing the things I normally do.
The power of a purchase pause allows you to …
- save money
- limit impulse buying
- consider your purchases
- avoid buyer’s remorse
- bypass emotional shopping
- create time (once you declare a purchase pause, you can stop searching sales and spend less time in the dressing room)
- gracefully bow out of trips to the mall (sorry, can’t make it … I’m in the middle of a purchase pause)
I used to buy whatever I wanted, even if I didn’t have the money. I also bought a bunch of stuff I thought I wanted, but lost interest after a few weeks or days. I shopped because “I deserved it” or because “it would make me feel better” or because “that new gadget would make me be a better ________.”
I always had what sounded like a reasonable excuse to buy. I also had a pile of debt, a garage and shed full of stuff that I didn’t use, and all of the side effects that come with that including discontent and stress.
Shopping never fixed anything.
1. Fake the purchase. Before you buy one more thing, imagine buying it. For example, if you want to buy a new pair of roller blades because you saw some people at the park having fun on skates, fake the purchase. Go through each step of the process. Imagine walking into the store, handing over cash or card, and bringing your new roller blades home. Are you so excited that you put them on and take them for a spin, or do you have to go back to work or clean your house first? Maybe you wait to try them until the weekend. Then it rains on Saturday, so you have to put your outing off a week. When you do get out, do you love roller blading and start using them every day or once a week, or after time do they work their way to the back of the closet while you look for something else?
When you finally give up on the roller blades, are you still paying for them? Roller blades might not be your thing, but whatever the item, fake your next purchase and think through the first 30-60 days with your new purchase. Still interested?
2. Buy it on paper. Declare a shopping fast for the next 30 days. Instead of buying it with paper or plastic, buy it on paper. Write down everything you think about buying along with the price. Keep track of the items you want and the money you would have spent buying them.
At the end of 30 days, look at the total amount of money you saved and ask yourself if you want to spend it on the items you listed or use it for something else. It’s easier to justify one purchase at a time, but when you total your expenses and realize how much you are spending each month, the individual purchases may seem less important. If your monthly total is $800, would you go out and buy everything on the list or use the $800 differently?
3. Define need vs. want. Get honest with yourself about your purchases. What percentage of your purchases are needs versus wants? Buying something you want isn’t a bad thing, but call it what it is.
4. Know what matters most. Use what matters the most to leverage your shopping decisions. If you don’t know what matters, buying things may be your way of searching for meaning.
Instead, identify a few things that really mean something to you. It will be different for everyone, but some examples might include:
- school tuition
- paying off debt
- quitting your job
- donating money to a cause you care about
Maybe there is a physical item that you really want like a new computer to grow your business, or a bicycle so you can ride to work. Whatever it is, identify it and whenever you are considering a purchase, ask yourself what you want more, Roller blades or a trip to Spain?
5. Make rules. Challenge yourself to stick with a few shopping rules so you can fully embrace the power of a purchase pause. Before purchasing, wait 30 days for anything less than $100 and 60 days for everything that costs more than $100.
You don’t have to be a shopaholic to benefit from a purchase pause. Most of us have purchased things we don’t need or want and later regret the decision to buy. With a small time out, we can fully consider our purchases and make informed decisions about what really makes us happy.