Shopping can be relaxing, fun, and a great way to spend time with friends and family or just to give yourself a little treat.
That’s great, but the rush of happy chemicals we get from shopping can sometimes lead to bad buying decisions or getting a lot of things we don’t really want or need once the shopping rush wears off.
One of the best ways to counter the urge to shop and buy things we don’t need, without giving up shopping entirely, is to become more mindful about how and why we shop and use mindfulness to inform our buying practices.
Here’s why mindful shopping can be more rewarding and empowering than regular shopping, and some tips to make it easier to start bringing mindfulness into your shopping habits.
What Is Mindful Shopping?
In the United States, we are bombarded with advertisements, product placements, and marketing all the time. Whether we’re listening to the radio, watching TV, or even just working on our computers or online, chances are we’re being exposed to advertisements.
All those ads are designed to hijack our desires and create a need for products that might or might not be useful.
Even in stores we’re hit by advertisements, sale postings, and other attempts to get us to buy things we wouldn’t normally consider.
That constant bombardment of advertising makes it very difficult to be mindful about shopping and what you’ll buy - but not impossible.
Bringing mindfulness into shopping isn’t as hard as it might seem. Mindful shopping is just taking the time to really think about what you want and need, whether you need something immediately or in the future, and whether you have room for what you’re buying.
Basically, it’s taking the time to consider a product before you actually buy it.
No, being a mindful shopper doesn’t mean you’ll stop buying spur-of-the-moment items, or even that you should. Instead of preventing yourself from buying things on a whim, mindful shopping just means stopping for a moment and thinking about why you want to buy that item. If you have a good reason, have the space, can afford to buy it, and don’t have any good reasons why you shouldn’t, you can still buy that spur-of-the-moment find.
The benefit of mindful shopping is that it puts shopping and purchasing back in your control and makes it easier to buy only the things you genuinely need or will enjoy.
What Are The Benefits Of Mindful Shopping
There are a lot of potential benefits when it comes to mindful shopping, but I want to highlight three of the most important ones:
- You’ll feel more confident in your purchases.
- You’ll have more money left over in your budget if you aren’t buying things you don’t need.
- Your overall carbon footprint will decrease if you aren’t buying things just to throw them out or never use them.
Let's talk more about these three benefits and how they can help you in everyday life:
Feel More Confident About Your Purchases
Have you ever bought something only to realize that you really didn’t need it, or maybe didn’t even want it, when you got home? Or bought something you thought was really cool at the time, only to put it in a drawer, never to be seen again?
Don’t worry. I have too.
It’s not a great feeling to realize that your money was wasted. You might have felt good in the moment, but not so much after you realize you didn’t need to make that purchase.
Taking a second to really think about what you’re going to buy - and why - can give you a lot more confidence in your purchases and help you keep those good feelings from shopping a little longer.
Plus, your home will look and feel better when it’s not cluttered with things you don’t want, need, or even like.
Enjoy More Money Leftover When You Shop
As a culture, we spend a lot more money than we need to, or even think about, just buying stuff. Not necessarily stuff we need or will use, but just stuff. Maybe it struck your fancy in the store, or you were with friends and decided to buy what they were getting, or you got caught up in a fad, or advertising convinced you it was a good idea.
Whatever the reasons, chances are you’ve bought things you didn’t need.
I’ve done it too.
But the reality is that all that stuff costs money. Money that you could better spend on the things you actually need and enjoy.
Being mindful while you shop and about your individual purchases can help you save money in the long run.
And trust me, those extra dollars at the end of the month will feel a lot better than some trinkets you don’t even use.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Buying Only What You Need Or Will Enjoy
This last reason is for the environmentalist at heart.
Consumer culture often means buying things we don’t need, things that come with a lot of extra packaging, or that we’re only going to be able to use once or twice before it breaks.
Being more mindful about your purchases and saving up to buy more durable versions of the things you need and use can greatly reduce your personal carbon footprint.
More importantly, if more of us were shopping mindfully and thinking about our carbon footprint and environmental impact, the demand for wasteful products would go down, and fewer of those products would be made in the first place.
Honestly, individual environmental actions can only go so far. But, our personal choices, like shopping more mindfully, can change our culture and social norms. Those changes, gradual as they are, do make a big difference.
Tips To Start Shopping Mindfully
Here are 5 quick tips to help make shopping mindfully easier so you can reap the rewards of mindful shopping sooner:
See What You Already Own Before You Buy
Whether you’re buying new jewelry or just getting groceries, one of the easiest ways to be a mindful shopper is to take stock of what you already have before you leave. Do a quick mental inventory of what you have in your fridge, closet, jewelry box, or crafting supply bin.
If you aren’t sure what you already have, take a few minutes and go look.
This way, you’re less likely to buy duplicates of things you already have and more likely to buy something that will work with what you already own.
For example, suppose you think you need eggs but discover that you already have a carton in the fridge. In that case, you can buy your favorite vegetable to add to omelets or pick up the ingredients for a quiche instead of buying eggs you don’t need.
Mindfulness can be part of any purchase, so long as you know what you have, what you need, and what works well together.
Make Shopping Lists
When you get to the store, it’s easy to get carried away and buy things you don’t really need. In fact, most stores are actually laid out and designed to encourage spur-of-the-moment purchases.
Why else do you think there’s always candy and soda by the registers?
You might not need that piece of chocolate, but they’re going to put it right in front of you in hopes that you’ll buy some anyway.
Having a list of what you need can help keep you on track and avoid some of those absent-minded purchases. And, if you decide you do want some register candy every once in a while, that’s okay too.
Think About Likely Upcoming Sales Or Deals
Timing is as important as thinking about what you’re going to buy or what you need to buy.
It never feels good to buy something only to have the same item go on sale the following week.
Since sales are a huge part of store culture right now, it’s a good idea to keep track of holidays, seasonal sales, and other times when stores are likely to discount certain items. Sometimes, it pays to hold off on a purchase until you can get a deal.
Just try not to use sales as an excuse to buy things you don’t really need!
Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
Our brains can get a big rush from buying a lot of things, but that isn’t always the best way to go. When it comes to some products, like clothing, jewelry, pots and pans, or crafting supplies, higher quality is often better than buying more to have more options.
In the long run, you almost always pay less for quality than buying a lot of cheap things you’ll need to buy over and over again.
Even when it comes to things that are designed to be used, you’ll probably get a better result from buying higher quality versions of each item rather than buying a lot of the cheapest kind.
Looking for a deal is a great way to be mindful, but getting scammed on brittle or ineffective products isn’t.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Rid Of, Recycle, Or Reuse Items You’ve Replaced
It can be tempting to hold on to our purchases, even when we don’t really use them or long after we need them.
The problem is, holding on to things you don’t need or don’t use means you have less room for the things you do need and enjoy.
When it’s time to say goodbye to something, don’t be afraid to let go. Consider donating to thrift stores anything that someone else can still use. For broken items, see if they can be recycled or upcycled into something new.
If neither of those is an option, it’s okay to throw some things out when you don’t need them anymore, or they break.
As you continue to shop mindfully, and especially if you prioritize quality over quantity, you’ll notice that you’re getting rid of less stuff, and more of what you do get rid of will be recycled or donated instead of going into the trash.
That kind of real, noticeable change feels great when it happens. So give yourself a chance to enjoy it!