This is part nine of the Ways to Save Money Series.
In one of my graduate-level classes, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. We stated our educational and professional background, as well as our personal interests. One woman who I seriously thought might be Single Ma (until later) stated the following:
“I love to shop, I love TV, I love to shop, I enjoy cooking, did I say I love to shop?”
I wonder if she loves to shop. She literally stated it 3 times in a 10 second span, so obviously she REALLY loves to shop. What I never asked was how much she bought, how she shopped and what she shopped for. I assume she’s not crazy about shopping for groceries or cars or houses. From her pretty pink backpack and coach handbag, I assumed it was a love for clothes.
But before I begin to assume whether she paid retail, or just loved shopping at thrift stores or online, I want to ask “Why does she love shopping?”. Is it her only escape from the home? She has 3 teenagers and isn’t working now so she can finish school, so perhaps it’s either the only time she gets away or it’s a bonding activity with one of her kids. Perhaps she really doesn’t know what else to do with her money.
But shopping probably isn’t the best hobby if you’re trying to save money. “Save money” in the sense of stashing it away in a money market account, investing it in a mutual fund, or plain old avoiding spending (like “I saved $2 today because I didn’t get a soda at lunch like I would every other day”). But if you’re out just window shopping, you’re one step closer to the temptation to spend.
But not all of us are shopaholics. We might just decide to go to Target, Walmart or the mall for something to do on a lazy Sunday, with no intention to buy something. But how many times have you gone to the store either for one small thing, or just to browse, and came home with something (or at least a very strong desire to get it the next time you go back).
The purpose of a store is two-fold:
1. To sell you stuff
2. To entice you to buy more stuff
That’s why there are “Sale” and “Clearance” signs everywhere. You never go into a store knowing an item is on sale or clearance unless someone told you, or you saw it on TV, online or in a print ad. There’s almost no such thing as shopping online or going “in and out” of the store without noticing everything placed around that item you want. I wonder if stores are always understaffed just to make you walk around the racks longer while waiting for help.
So the lesson here is to avoid going to the store, whether it’s the mall, Walmart, the grocery store, or the knitting shop, unless you know specifically what you need and where to get it. If your purpose really is to save money, then really try to go in and out of the store without stopping to browse. Only shop when you need to!