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Fighting the Shopaholic Urge

One of the main tenets of environmentally conscious living is to reduce consumption of manufactured goods.  However, when you're living such a lifestyle, you may find there are times when you feel an incredible urge to buy something, or anything. These urges are probably most common for those of us who are recovering shopaholics- our brains have been conditioned to enjoy acquiring retail goods, so it's difficult to let go of that source of pleasure. Here's a set of questions I find it useful to ask myself when I want to buy something at retail:

  1. Have I tried to find this at a thrift store, yard sale, etc.? Tip: Keep an ongoing wishlist of stuff you want. Periodically review the list and hit the thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales at least once a month to see if you can find anything on it.
  2. Have I tried to find this used through online classifieds (i.e., Craigslist) or online auctions (i.e., eBay)?
  3. Have I saved up money for it so that I am paying in cash, not in credit?
  4. Are there interest-accruing debts that I should be paying off instead?
  5. Do I have something already that will substitute, permanently or temporarily? Example: I wanted to buy a new, expensive shampoo. I looked in my bathroom cabinet, and saw dozens of half-used shampoos and travel-sized hotel samples. I resolved to use up ALL of them before buying a new shampoo.
  6. Is there something I want more, that I should save this money for? Example: My husband wanted to buy a new lawnmower even though our old one still worked. When I suggested that he could put that money towards his motorcycle fund instead, he abandoned the new lawnmower idea without batting an eye.
  7. Is this product consistent with environmentally conscious living? Example: That motorcycle my husband wants would be a great, gas-saving commuter for him, and would replace much of his usage of his gas-hogging pick-up truck.

Asking myself these questions does three things:

  1. It calms me down, taking me out of the spending fever.
  2. It enables me to evaluate whether it would really make me happier, on balance, to buy the product (buying a product nearly always makes you happier in the short run, so it's important not to forget to consider whether there will be a net gain in happiness over the long run).
  3. If I do eventually buy the product, I feel assured that buying it is consistent with my goal of living in a frugal and environmentally sustainable manner.

The Daily Citron is a blog containing tips for frugal living, money management practices, ideas for living "green," thoughts on parenting, and recipes that tie it all together.


Great Post

Boy - if I always thought like that my whole life I'd have a lot more money in the bank and the world would be greener.  Great post and a great reminder to everyone.

Love it

Excellent ideas - both to save money AND help the environment.  So often we get caught up in the moment when we are out at the store, and then come home with useless junk we will use once or twice...  These questions force you to take a moment and be mindful about your purchasing decisions.  Thanks!

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