The funny thing about shopping is that pop culture has ingrained this idea in our heads that it is a hobby; something to do for entertainment rather than out of necessity. The power of marketing is truly incredible and has penetrated every bit of our culture. Black Friday is an extreme, terrifying example of the insidious effect it has had on the common mind. It has been taught that we need the newest phone, a new wardrobe for every season, and 100 pairs of shoes in order to prove our status and self worth.
Didn’t need a new TV before? But this one is on an insane sale, it would be crazy NOT to get it, right?
In reality, how many pairs of jeans do you truly need?
Is your bathing suit from last season actually unwearable or have you been told you need a new, fresh one for this season regardless of the condition of the others you own?
We have all been there.
When I graduated college my credit card was maxed out at almost $3,000, on top of the student loans I had accumulated. Luckily, $3,000 in credit card debt is not massive. However, to a recent grad with a starting salary of $15 an hour and $30,000 in student loans, it was significant enough to scare me into realizing what I had done.
I had a closet full of the cute tops and shoes and went shopping with my friends a couple times a month for no need or reason.
God forbid I wear that same shirt two weekends in a row. What it left me with was a closet of cheap Forever 21 and H&M shirts that were useless now. I can’t wear these in a professional environment and had only worn each one maybe a handful of times to the college bar.
It hit me hard what a huge waste of money this all was and that I would be paying for it for a long time, a monthly reminder of how irresponsible I was. That $20 shirt was no longer $20 with 16% interest that was accruing.
It dawned on me that the credit card debt I was in was purely a result of having the wrong mentality. This was not because of medical debt, supplying books, or feeding myself (although there were many buffalo wings purchases on the cards).
This was because I was caught in the trap that I HAD to have a new shirt for appearances, that I couldn’t say no to a shopping trip for the social time.
I am almost embarrassed to admit I had a tanning membership and it was another social construct. I want to make it clear this was not any kind of peer pressure either, I loved my life. We all had a blast and these were our pastimes. I simply didn’t understand the hole I was digging myself into at that time.
If you are in debt and trying to dig yourself out, the most important part is to change your mentality permanently. Just like a diet, if you eat well for a short time but stop when you see results you will only go back to where you started.
When you feel the urge to shop for fun, try one of these instead.
Learn something new online
There are an infinite amount of topics you can research and take free courses on. I love Coursera and Khan Academy. On Coursera you can take free college courses in practically any subject from leading universities. There are also paid courses you can take for certifications.
Either way, investing in your own education will pay dividends forever versus the temporary high of today’s hottest gadget.
I don’t mean a general whole house clean but try concentrating on a specific spot at first. Maybe it’s the junk drawer, your closet, underneath the sink, etc. Targeting one area feels great when it’s done and helps energize you for more.
Plus, the added bonus of getting rid of the stuff you don’t use serves as an additional reminder of the stuff you bought and didn’t use or need.
It is hard to get into the exercise habit and if you aren’t one that already is, it sounds like hell to do this over shopping. There are a ton of resources online to help start you off whether you want yoga, cardio, weights, or pilates.
You don’t need a gym membership or fancy machines, just some space and time.
Try downloading a 7 minute workout app, once you get your body moving you’ll be more apt to make it a habit and try more.
Read a book
Check out this post on reading while keeping a budget.
This is one I am personally trying to learn and make a habit of. I have used the Headspace app as well as How To Meditate for direction. Regardless of what type you are aiming for, this will have profound impacts if you continue to practice.
At the end of the day, the aim is to retrain your brain to not shop needlessly and continue to consume.