a post from Esther
Shopping. I believe that shopping should be an activity we enjoy and use to educate ourselves. There is a kind of shopping I love and a kind of shopping I definitely do not love. I've been reflecting and trying to piece together what it is that I don't love about shopping... and then I realized something. The kind of shopping I hate shouldn't be called shopping. It should be called "retail bondage" (after all, isn't my mission in life to avoid bondage and promote quite the opposite?!). What I don't love about shopping: the crankiness, "accidental" overspending, being tricked into buying something that wasn't what I expected, and, at the end of it all, the resulting exhaustion.
I wanted to create a shareable guideline that would
1.) Make the shopping experience easier,
2.) Make the shopping experience more enjoyable, and
3.) Encourage me to discern good product and service choices from the bad ones.
Simplifying means pruning – trimming the fat on things that increase the stimuli that make me shop often and lead me to buy things that will overall not add to the quality of my life. I was inspired by the KonMari method, and the thought of simplying your shopping life by just doing a massive clean-out of your home, Sell/donate/toss things that don't give you joy or don't have deep meaningful significance, clothes that don't fit you anymore (if they're still in 'like new' condition, try a service like ThredUp), recycle or donate appliances and utensils that you never use, toss those expired cosmetics/fragrances (which can actually cause more damage than good), and give away home decor that doesn't fit who you are today. By doing this, you're training your brain to know what matters to you and to make concrete decisions.
Simplification also means avoiding your triggers. For example, I have a weakness for stores that literally sell everything I can't afford. I have unsubscribed from their emails and do not go into the store when I walk by it. That store will always be there when/if there is something that I really need and can afford it, deals will keep coming (really, there's no such thing as a "last chance" sale), and it frees me up to do something worth more my time. Taking the triggers out of your life will liberate you and keep you more in control of your dough.
This is about tailoring your shopping experience to make it more enjoyable. I will admit with vigor that crowds and long lines make me feel anxious and grumpy, even though I know that that this is unavoidable sometimes, especially at the grocery store, I will make a point to shop either early in the morning on the weekends or during another time when I know this place will not be crowded. Second, I will also eat lunch or breakfast before I go out. The last thing I want to happen is to make shopping choices while I'm hungry. Third, a hard-copy shopping list is also very helpful – it makes my shopping goal more tangible. When I work from a paper list, I feel a lot more willing to be obedient to it and get back on track. It also makes it easier to communicate to a sales associate what I'm looking for and if they try to upsell to me I will show them my list and tell them "I'm only here to buy this and I have to stick with that."
I believe that ultimately elevating my shopping experience means generally shopping less and buying higher quality. In a recent conversation with one of our new do-gooder partners, I had heard them reference how after the recession people are paying more attention to what they're buying. I think this is true and a really good practice to maintain no matter the status of the economy. As I do the research on where my food and clothes come from, I am able to more clearly define what quality means for me and follow that guideline as I shop. Elevating how I shop has led me to elevate my standards on what I purchase.
Discernment means being able to wisely distinguish and make good choices. The quality of what I purchase ultimately depends on my ability to discern well. I can simplify and elevate as much as I want, but the discern part is what seals the deal. What leads to good discernment? Doing my research, knowing my prices and my budget, and not being afraid to return something that wasn't what I expected. I would also say that being a good customer leads to good discernment. I'm constantly trying to learn when to pick battles and to let things go. Through this process I'm finding that being a customer who wants to learn and understand creates a good space for the person selling to me to be more transparent about what I'm buying. If they're listing a ton of numbers I can't keep track of, I ask them to write it down for me on paper so that I can see it and understand it better. Me taking the time to learn where my money is about to go is respecting the work that went into earning it to begin with. So at the end of the day, good discernment is also helping me take care of myself and my family.
Have any great shopping tips? We'd love to hear them! :)