Thursday, May 9, 2013

how to stop shopping

Spending my college junior year abroad influenced me in a lot of ways; but perhaps the most significant is how good I became at not shopping. Having to eat out on weekends and wanting to travel then too made me more aware of my finances than I ever had been. I didn't wish to "waste" money on clothes and cosmetics like I had so easily before. Not to mention that I had such limited room in my suitcases, especially including gifts.
Shopping just wasn't a priority. And, it fell out of habit as a pastime. I've held onto such a mindset ever since.
{Appertizer: escargots de Bourgogne belle grosseur, buerre maison: a l'ail et au persil}
Why? Well, for one thing, I've never had a lot of money. I graduated from Syracuse University with debt and then went on to small internship/freelance paychecks. Yet I was always conscious of how important it was for me to learn more about the world; in my case, tasting new cuisines and visiting new places, both of which are ideally experienced with friends and family. I'm not alone in that either. Science has proven that, "experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality--a feeling of being alive."
So, how? Know what you're saving for.  In this New York Times article, Ms. Liebmann of WSL Strategic Retail said, "before credit cards and cellphones enabled consumers to have almost anything they wanted at any time, the experience of shopping was richer." It's not necessary to stop spending all together (though that is an option, especially for those of us in extreme debt), but to be more critical about what it is we spend our money on so we can enjoy it more. A short-term example: before my friend's sister came to visit, I ate all meals at home so that I'd be able to afford to partake in the classic Parisian brasserie experience.
{Main dish: quenelle de brochet artisanale, sauce Nantua}
Buy from the list, quickly. Of course there are times when we do need particular things that can only be found on store's shelves. I tend to approach these situations with shopping lists as well as a time constraint. Without an extra 30 minutes to browse the aisles and/or racks, there are less chances for me to make compulsive purchases. By default then, I stick to basics and necessities. Such a big money saver!
Refuse to invest in remorse. No good will come from feeling bad about spending money, I promise. In this Fast Company article, Cali William Yost advises: "Make purchases that improve your happiness." Though I certainly understand the importance of savings accounts, more often than not, we work hard to use the money we make. That's why it's so important to do so wisely. In the past few years, for instance, I have always bought myself an outfit on my birthday. I can afford it as a single (not married, no children) twenty-something. And it's become a ritual I appreciate and look forward to. I'm thinking Naf Naf this 29th :).
{Dessert: baba au rhum, creme chantilly et glace rhum-raisin}
Anyway... shopping has been on my mind as I wrap up the second of three term papers. My topic? Critically analyzing how our roles as citizens have been reduced to those of consumer-advocates. There's a sense that we vote with our wallets, the "neoliberal assumption that capitalism itself can cure societies' ills," (Anderson 2008) and sadly, in most cases, it hasn't proven effective yet. Although I'll continue to choose ethically when I can, I've decided to actively try to participate in causes I care about, not simply purchase a logo that says I do.

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