Of late my observation of my own shopping pattern has left me overwhelmed. My shopping trend, online shopping to be precise, has been like the first part of the bell curve! I have been buying far too many titbits than before. It’s not that I am a miser or do not indulge myself. But what is troubling me is the fact that I do not need some of the things I buy!
And let me tell you I am not too happy about it, for two reasons. One, it obviously offsets my monthly budget, and secondly, it hints at a deeper psychological aberration of which I may not be completely aware.
I have devised and implemented a logical plan to deal with the issue at hand and it seems to be useful. Here’s my grand plan.
- Unsubscribe from promotional emails: Myntra, Amazon, ABOF and every other online portal send a number of emails announcing irresistible offers that run out in the next 2 hours (which never do) and a million other gimmicks in a desperate attempt to get me to click them. One click is all it takes! So, I have outsmarted them by marking all their emails as spam. And it has worked for me. Yay!
- Change your ads preferences: Your Google account activity and the information is used to personalize ads based on your search by using additional information beyond what you just entered in the search box. You can change your ad settings and control the information Google uses to show you ads by going to https://adssettings.google.com/u/0/authenticated#general and unchecking the box “Also use Google Account activity and information to personalize ads on these websites and apps and store that data in your Google Account”. You can also go to http://optout.aboutads.info/#!/ to opt out of more ads. Believe me, this is a very useful tip. You may have searched for a “Pink scarf” on a whim, but the chances of your actually buying it increase manifold if Google shoves the image of the pink scarf into your face every time you open a page.
- Remove your “Associated Interests” from Google: Based on the websites you visit, the search terms you use and the advertising cookies that are stored in your browser, Google creates a profile of your related interests, which plays a vital role in the ads that you see. Visit the Ads Preferences page edit or remove your interests and opt out of Google’s preferential ad settings. Trust me, an ad free life is liberating!
- Uninstall shopping apps from mobile: I have uninstalled most shopping related apps except Amazon. If I need to look for something specific, I browse the portal on my laptop, which is rare. Curbing easy access to apps is a guaranteed way to curb my shopping urges.
- Go shopping with a list: If I go shopping to a departmental store or retail outlet I go with a pre-prepared list and stick to it. I do not wander aimlessly browsing from one aisle to another checking for sale or offers or generally looking at things.
- Pay bills, EMIs, and overheads as soon as you get your salary: As a rule, I pay my liabilities and fixed overheads at the beginning of the month, leaving myself with limited disposable income. And since I don’t own a credit card my expenditure is limited to my disposable income. For investments for which I need to make payments annually, I save the amount as equated monthly savings in the form of a recurring deposit, so that I am not short of funds at the time of annual payment/premium.
- Buffer between the urge and the actual buying: I have set a rule for myself to allow a buffer of at least 7 days between the first urge of buying a particular thing (usually expensive) and actually going ahead and getting it. If the urge lasts for more than a two weeks, I assume it to be a genuine want and not an impulse.
- Chuck the credit card: I don’t own a credit card and don’t intend to either. There can be nothing more stupid than buying things you don’t need on expensive credit. If you own a credit card, try not to use it for compulsive shopping payments. Credit card free life is blissful!
- Use an expense tracker: I use ET Money expense tracker and have linked it to my bank account. So all my expenses get tracked. I also make manual entries and notes to earmark spending. This is one of the best uses of a smartphone. At the end of the month when you see the heads your spent your bucks on you will get a realistic idea of your expense.
- Keeping up with the proverbial Joneses: Peer pressure affects our decisions and purchases more than we think it does. I was unconsciously led to believe I needed to own over 30 purses and wallets to match every outfit because my friends were doing do. With practice and conscious attempts, I have now grown out of the habit of trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. I buy what I need and when I need, my purchases are no more driven by my peers.
- Rewire your brain: Retail therapy is not bogus. Its exists. A study by The Huffington Post found that 1 in 3 people shop to deal with stress. More than half the battle is won if you can identify triggers behind your over-shopping. Triggers could be anything ranging from loneliness, boredom, peer pressure, argument with the significant other, stress and more. Retrain your mind to associate joy and pleasure with self instead of things. Do not treat shopping as therapy, make it need based.
“There is more to me than the things I buy or possess.”
Happy (sane) shopping!