Hi guys! Happy new year! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration! Things were hectic getting towards end of year at my place here, so apologies for been away.
Coincidentally enough, straight after I posted the post about decluttering, we’ve been doing lots and LOTS of shopping. Pre-Christmas shopping, presents, and Boxing Day sales shopping, etc. So today I thought I’ll share what I do to ensure shopping doesn’t get out of control and fits into a healthy lifestyle.
1. Shop with a purpose
My number one rule for shopping is to always shop with a purpose. Most of the time I only buy what I need, and not just anything nice to have, or because there’s a good deal. Before I make a purchase, I always ask myself two questions:
- Why should I buy this? There should be a need satisfied or goal achieved other than just pure pleasure.
- What would happen if I don’t buy this? If I can live with the worst outcome of not buying something, it’s probably something I don’t need.
Of course, everybody has different definitions of needs. But fundamentally, needs should be things that make us feel comfortable, secure, loved and dignified. If you just think about the basics, shopping list for those shouldn’t be too long. Make a conscious effort to be or become aware of what our real needs are is crucial to avoid unnecessary spending.
2. Do pre-shopping research
Once decided what to buy, I like to spend some time looking into more details about that product. The key aspects I look at are:
- Features – does it have all the features that can satisfy everything I need?
- Brand – is the brand reliable and is the seller trustworthy?
- Price – who offers the best price in the market?
- Accessibility – how easily can I make the purchase and how fast can I get the product?
- Warranty (if applicable) – how long do I have protection over my purchase?
- Buyers review – what do other buyers say about the product/brand?
By doing the research, I’m more likely to make a good purchase because I’d know exactly what I want. Also, plenty of research helps with price negotiation which I’ll touch on later.
3. Shop with a budget
Before buying anything I always like to set a budget of roughly how much I want to spend. Setting a budget serves as a guide and a guard to prevent ourselves from over spending. After doing my pre-shopping research, I usually have a pretty good idea how much money I would spend. Price range can vary quite a bit for the same product across different brands. I usually like to budget somewhere in the middle, where value for money is most reasonable. Cheapest might be due to poor quality, whereas the expensive might be due to additional selling costs such as advertising and sales commissions. This is not always the case, of course. Sometimes price might go over my budget for extra value that I appreciate such as longer warranty or free services. This would again rely on us being very clear on what we value and think about whether they are worth the additional price we pay.
I should also add, it’s easy to go over budget nowadays with credit card payments been made so convenient. That’s why I still use cash occasionally because I would only be able to spend as much as the cash I have on hand.
4. Check the price, FIRST
It may sound simple right? But this simple action can save you big money! Have you ever come across a situation at a store where the salesman makes you really really want to buy something, then gives you a heart wrenching price? Perhaps you want to walk away, but might feel a bit embarrassed to do that because the salesman has spent so much time with you, it feels unfair to turn him down. So you end up agreeing to pay that price despite it being way over your budget. I know for a fact that this happens to a lot of people, including myself. The way I get around with this is be upfront about the price FIRST. If the price isn’t right, I can at least save time for both myself and the salesman without feeling guilty or embarrassed. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being budget conscious. It’s about responsible spending and being respectful of other people’s time.
5. Can’t decide, don’t buy
How many of you have bought stuff that you felt needed to buy but ended up either regretting or ignoring them? I know I have, heaps of times. This is because even after being mindful of our needs, our impulse, mixed with a bit of marketing flare, can still trick us to believe that we need something when we really don’t. It’s hard to be 100% rational when it comes to shopping, so I try to follow this simple rule. If I can’t decide on the spot to buy something, it probably means part of me is not convinced that I need it, so I’d rather wait a little bit longer and see, than to feel sorry afterwards. If I find myself still thinking about the item later, then that gives me more reason to buy it.
6. Watch and wait for sales
Most of the things we buy these days, besides real estate and collectible items, are bound to depreciate and go on sales at some point. If you’re patient enough to wait, you’re guaranteed to save money over time. Personally, I’m not a fan of paying high and full price for a new product just because of the hype and for a short period of novelty. If I know something is guaranteed to go down in price, such as fashion and technology products, I’m definitely more than happy to wait for the sales to come on. For me, I don’t have to be the earliest to have the newest, I’d rather save money so I can enjoy other things in life.
7. Buy few but suitable things
I love bargains, but it’s never the primary reason for me to buy something. What’s needed and most suited are always the top reasons. If you just buy for the sake of cheapness, you’ll just end up buying a lot of wasteful things that you either regret or ignore later on. I’ve made plenty of this mistake before, so trust me on this. And later, I find myself needing to invest extra time and energy into:
- finding and buying more suited products, and
- organizing and decluttering the unsuitable old items
Be clear with your needs and priorities, do some product research, and focus your spending on the most suitable product will guarantee to save you extra effort later.
8. Negotiate prices
Are you afraid to ask for discounts? I used to be afraid because I don’t want to be seen as ‘cheap’. Price negotiation is definitely not something that most people can do easily and naturally. But it’s an important skill to have that doesn’t only save you money on spending, but can also help you get more income (eg. negotiate pay rises). Most of the time, price negotiation is as simple as just asking if this is the best price that can be offered. You’ll find a lot of stores are willing to give you some discounts if you simply just ask.
Another key to price negotiation is doing competitor price comparison while you do your product research. All you need to do for this is to jump on Google. The internet is indeed a world wide market place nowadays, and pricing on almost any item is pretty transparent across all sellers. A lot of stores are willing to price match, so equip yourself with some price references before you head to the counter is key to win that negotiation.
9. Buy one, get rid of one
Don’t we all wish we had unlimited space to store everything we buy? Reality is, it’s not healthy to keep taking in stuff without passing some out, just like our body. Life becomes complicated, distracted and confused if we have too much than what we really need. So I’ve started practicing immediately getting rid of things after I buy a new replacement, like clothes, furniture, electronic devices, etc. I find this simple rule and act brings several benefits:
- Reduce mess and time/effort required to sort the mess;
- Become clear on what I value among many choices, which makes decision making faster
- Better focus on the better and more important things in life
10. Find other hobbies, besides shopping
Last but not least, don’t make shopping a sole or main hobby in life. I know for some of us, especially women, shopping can be a really indulging experience. But it can also be an extremely expensive experience that undermines our future lifestyle if we‘re not careful. Until you become sufficiently self disciplined, I’d suggest find and build some other hobbies to distract yourself from the urge to shop and spend.
Hope this is helpful, enjoy your next shopping! 🙂