In America, shopping isn’t just a hobby; it’s a way of life. Many people maneuver their schedules around attending sales, organizing their many purchases, and browsing for their next must-have item.
This mentality around shopping is partially what led The United States to be the number one largest consumer market in the world. Although that’s not entirely a bad thing, it has contributed to the mounting credit card debt held by many families and individuals.
If you’re hoping to get your shopping under control so that you can become more financially responsible, here are five shopping rules you should always abide by.
1. Buy What You Actually Need
People who love shopping are excellent at convincing themselves that they need that new purchase they’re eyeing. However, more often than not, we don’t really need that new pair of black boots or an updated version of our favorite device. What we mean by “need” is that we really want the item.
The sooner you learn to differentiate between need and want, the better off your bank account will be. Plus, you’ll fill your house with fewer impulse purchases and more important items.
2. Learn to Tell When Something Is Truly a Good Price
Just because a product is discounted doesn’t mean it’s actually a great price. Sometimes, stores will even markup their prices significantly so that their sales seem more impressive than they really are Before you label any purchase as a great deal, pull out your cell phone and see if the prices online reflect that belief. In today’s day and age, you can often find a better price on Amazon or even eBay.
Additionally, don’t assume that buying something just because it’s discounted is smart. If you don’t really need or love the item, then it doesn’t matter how steep the discount is; it probably isn’t worth it.
3. Consider How Often You’ll Use the Purchase
You know you love that designer shirt on the hanger, but how often will you really wear something that fancy? Learning to recognize items that won’t be worth their price is a huge part of becoming a smart shopper. Personally, I like to equate prices with the potential number of uses to determine worth, especially when it comes to clothing. For instance, if I won’t wear a $30 shirt at least 30 times, then I put it back on the rack.
4. Distinguish Between Purposeful and Impulsive Shopping
Because so many of us view shopping as a hobby, the line between shopping for fun and for a reason often becomes blurred. You need to learn to recognize the signs of impulsive shopping in yourself. The more you spend without purpose, the more you’ll want to spend tomorrow and the day after. Think about your purchases carefully and avoid indulging just because you can.
5. Splurge on Things You Love, But Only Rarely
One thing people might be surprised to hear me say is that splurging is a good thing, but only on rare occasions. For example: I think that purchasing a $150 pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes for many years is a better choice than spending $10 on three different pairs of cheap sunglasses. You might not agree, but the important thing is to recognize when you think splurging is worthwhile and when it isn’t. You can only splurge every few months or so, so make those expensive purchases count.
In today’s world of high-spending and countless shopping options, it’s easy to get swept up in a consumer-driven world. By following these five simple (but effective) shopping rules, you’ll shop more purposefully and prevent yourself from needlessly spending money. I’ve been following them for years, and they’ve made a world of difference in my financial and mental health.