They say the first tip for saving money is: ‘Don’t buy things you don’t need.’ But is it really that simple?
If we move beyond immediate needs, why do we buy things? Out of boredom? Peer pressure? Despair? Procrastination?
I assume the latter is just one of the causes of the popularity of online shopping. Imagine sitting down on a Saturday afternoon and having to pay bills, or write long emails, or do anything else when you’d rather be on a sunshine-filled terrace sipping rosé/craft ale/iced coffee.
Luckily, any shop these days has a website full of merchandise to distract yourself from the task at hand. When you emerge two hours later and at least £70 poorer, you realise that you’re not any closer to reporting your meter reading or figuring out what your login with the electricity company was in the first place.
Sometimes, after a tiring day, it’s just nice to go home and buy something.
Researchers A. Selin Atalay and Margaret G. Meloy wrote in the Psychology & Marketing journal that ‘retail therapy has lasting positive impacts on mood’. ‘Feelings of regret and guilt are not associated with the unplanned purchases made to repair a bad mood,’ they add.
To a certain extent, I agree. If we’ve ordered something online, we will eagerly wait for it to arrive. If we bought it from the shop, we will take it home and admire it, picture future scenarios of wearing it or talking about it.
But a month or so down the line, we may note in passing we haven’t actually gotten round to wearing that dress. And a further few months on, we may look at that still unworn item and think: ‘Well, this was a bit impulsive/silly/useless.’
Yet, this doesn’t mean we should give up on impulse shopping entirely – where’s the fun in being sensible?
There is a line between recklessness and being smart about splashing out. Here are a couple of damage control tips for making impulse purchases, whether it be for cheering yourself up, or reminding yourself that there’s more to life than life admin:
· Set yourself a budget. If you know you’re on the prowl, just decide on a figure you can actually afford. And don’t put it on a credit card if you know you can’t afford to pay it back right away.
· If possible, shop with a purpose. Is there anything you actually need? You can also try to be selfless and buy something for someone else.
· Look out for sales/discount sites/second-hand items. Or, if walking into a shop, pick somewhere that is not too pricey.
· Check the returns policy. This lace ball gown may feel somewhat inappropriate when you wake up tomorrow morning…
· If you are willing to wait, give yourself a bit of time. Agree that if you still want the item in 24 hours, you will buy it.