In these uncertain times, there remain certain truths, and one of them is this: It very often feels good to buy things, to spend, to accrue items small and large, to show your power via your wallet — especially if something is on sale, or unique/very beautiful/delicious, or in a limited quantity. Or all of the above!
But it comes with a price. Soon after our purchase, whatever it may be, we may feel quite badly, especially when we look at the rapidly dwindling funds in our bank accounts. Especially when we realize we've fallen prey to the forces of capitalism; we've been yet again duped in our consumerist society. We've done exactly what they wanted: We bought. And the high of the buying never lasts long.
To make matters even more challenging, it's the holiday season, when you feel like a fool — a grinch, even — for not buying. Which is why, now more than ever, it is important to take precautions against becoming a shopping sucker. Herewith, a list of methods I have undertaken to steel myself against the numerous forces conspiring to separate me and my paltry funds. Use as you see fit — knowing that sometimes, as with everything, rules are made to be broken.
1. Remind yourself that this is what they want from you. If you're like me, maybe you've got a healthy contrarian bone in your body. Stick it to the brand by refusing to play their game. Doesn't that feel good? Reward yourself by putting some money in your own pocket, and then using it to buy tacos.
2. Delete all emails from marketers. UNSUBSCRIBE. Go on a spree! It feels so good to delete, delete, delete. At first you'll fear you'll miss something, but that is simply not the case. All of those places that you really like buying from? You're going to keep buying from them anyway, even if they don't remind you of their deals. What you don't see, you don't want. It's a fact. (Okay, maybe keep subscribing to your favorite three stores/brands/luxury purveyors/whatever, just in case.)
3. Go into actual brick-and-mortar stores to make purchases! You'll have to carry whatever you buy home, which helps immeasurably in limiting purchases, especially if you don't have a car. (Don't buy a car.) This also helps develop arm muscles, meaning you can save on gym memberships. If you're truly a genius at control, make yourself leave a store without purchasing when tempted the first time. If it's still there and you still want it upon a second visit, you may purchase.
4. Don't buy yourself presents while shopping for other people. This is the worst and the best rule, because this is my holiday shopping Waterloo. Just don't. Say you won't, and do not bend. Make a list of what you're buying for others, and keep to it. Make a list of what you're tempted to buy for yourself, and take home the list, not the item. You can reward yourself when holiday season is over if you still want whatever that thing was and feel perfectly pure and whole and good about that, because hopefully someone nice just gave you some cash to spend.
5. Don't shop under the influence. I did this once and came home with several floppy, colorful hats. I do not wear floppy, colorful hats. There's a reason you shouldn't drink and drive, and there's a reason you shouldn't drink and shop, either. Both are dangerous.
6. Don't buy things via Instagram. This is how they get you! It looks so pretty, so perfect, it's right there among your friend's pictures of their food and their pets and their kids and whoops you've liked it and what filter is that oh maybe you should take a swing through the merchandise and pretty soon you bought a pair of boots you don't really need or want.
7. Become impervious to sales. If it's on sale now, before the holidays, it will almost definitely be on sale later. But pretend you don't care, either way. Don't even look at it. Unless it's on your list, and then you can buy it. If it's on sale. What is a sale anyway? It's like convincing yourself to buy something for the tax deduction, but that sure doesn't mean it's free.
8. Keep a list of everything you purchase. Use a budget app, or freeform it in your iPhone notes. Tracking what you purchase is one way to purchase less, if in part because it's exhausting to keep track of so many purchases.
9. Give to people and places in need instead. If you really really really need to lay down some cash, consider donating to a worthy cause, something to help others rather than yourself. That way you don't take anything home afterward — other than good feelings, of course.
Embarking on this mission during the holiday season is not the easiest thing in the world. But imagine the satisfaction you'll feel. You will feel free, blissfully in love with your own incredible self control, and, best of all, ever so slightly less broke.
What's more festive than that?