MINDFUL SHOPPING TO SAVE MONEY
If you’ve ever struggled with overspending, you might be wondering how mindful shopping could help stave off your worst impulses to shop. After all, if you’ve always existed on the “impulse buying” side of the spectrum, it seems like a long way to go to “mindful shopping,” doesn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be that hard or complicated. In fact, one of the reasons why I LOVE mindfulness—especially when it comes to shopping—is it’s insanely accessible. And it will help you save money fast.
First of all, what is mindfulness? If you haven’t practiced mindfulness, you’ve certainly heard of it. At this point, it’s all over social media. But you might not understand precisely what it is.
It’s not meditation, exactly. It’s also not woo or spiritual. It’s more straightforward than that:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.Mindfulness.org – What is Mindfulness?
Importantly, there’s an element of acceptance to mindfulness:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. … It means living in the moment and awakening to our current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.Psychology Today – Mindfulness
This background will help set a foundation for your mindful shopping practice.
Basic Mindfulness Practice
I once had a professor who was a mindfulness expert. (Pretty cool, huh?) When he would guide his students through mindfulness practice, he focused on the following elements:
- Being present.
- Being fully aware.
- Being calm.
- Focusing on your breathing.
- Focusing on the sensations in your body.
- Pulling your thoughts back to the present moment, whenever they would stray (because they will, inevitably, stray from the present).
- Never judging your thoughts or feelings, but rather gently accepting and guiding them through your mindfulness practice.
One thing that this professor focused on, that doesn’t come across in many mindfulness articles I’ve read, was bringing calm awareness to all the senses, in the present. He would do things like brew a cup of jasmine tea, and encourage us to: feel the warmth of the cup in our hands, observe the steam rising from the liquid, and inhale the scent of the jasmine.
All in the name of calm, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. A way to guide the frazzled mind away from the past and the future, and to what is right before us.
It’s an exercise I still use, years later, when I am tempted to shop and need to utilize mindfulness.
(If you haven’t tried mindfulness practice or meditation before, I would encourage you to check out the Insight Timer App. This will give you an idea of how simple it is to take a few minutes out of your day to check in with yourself, and calmly bring nonjudgmental awareness to your thoughts and feelings.)
Okay, you’re probably thinking, what does all that have to do with shopping?
Frankly, mindfulness (or lack thereof) has EVERYTHING to do with overspending, especially impulse buying.
The reason for this is simple: Because mindfulness is all about bringing your awareness back to the present, it pulls you back to earth when you’re about to shop impulsively. Indeed, it is especially helpful when you’re in the middle of shopping.
And although No Buys are a useful tool to stop overspending generally, it is nearly impossible never to buy anything. Once in a while, we do need new clothes, toiletries, and electronics.
So one way to keep our spending, and our tendency to make impulsive purchases, in check is to use mindful shopping.
It makes perfect sense: When the mind is overstimulated, as it often is for a shopaholic in the middle of a binge, it is incredibly easy to overspend. It is also easy to make purchases we regret.
Mindfulness is the perfect antidote to this tendency.
Now that you understand why mindful shopping works, and what it means to shop mindfully, let’s discuss how to do it.
A quick note on the existing mindful shopping “literature”
Many of the existing online resources for “mindful shopping,” in my view, miss the point. They focus on standard tools to stop shopping or overspending, without a real emphasis on core mindfulness, i.e., open and active attention to the present.
For instance, advice like “bring cash only” and “plan ahead with a shopping list” are actually not mindfulness tools. Yet, plenty of articles on “mindful shopping” provide this advice as though it has something to do with mindfulness. Sure, it’s thoughtful—but it’s not mindful.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: the advice above is helpful to stop shopping and overspending generally, and I advocate similar steps in some of my other articles. But if you want to employ mindful shopping, you have to approach shopping a bit differently.
In my view, that’s a good thing! That way, mindful shopping becomes another tool in your stop-shopping toolbox, rather than a tool you already have, but under a different name.
So let’s get to it.
How to shop mindfully
The next time you need to make a purchase—and are, ideally, already following the rules of your No Buy—use the following steps for mindful shopping.
These steps assume you are either in the middle of, or about to make, a purchase online or in a store.
1. Bring awareness to your environment.
First, bring awareness to your environment. That means pay attention to your five senses: what do you see, smell, and hear?
If you are in a retail environment, what type of music is playing? Are shoppers milling about aimlessly? Is the store pumping fragrance through the vents?
If you are at home and shopping online, take a look at the room in which you are sitting. Is it clean or messy? Are other people home?
Ask yourself whether your environment is lending itself to your shopping mindlessly.
2. Bring awareness to the triggers around you.
Second, bring awareness to the triggers around you. This necessarily follows from the first step.
Both online and brick-and-mortar retail locations are quite literally constructed with the end goal of your spending money. That means you need to bring careful attention to the triggers around you.
So what might these triggers look like? “Limited Time Only” sale offers, or “Limited Edition” novelty pieces are prime examples of triggers to get you to shop mindlessly.
Another example? The items placed by the cash register in a store, aimed to get you to impulse shop. Or in online settings, pop-up “Don’t Miss This!” offers.
Bring calm attention to these triggers.
3. Bring awareness to your physical state.
This third step is key in your mindful shopping journey: bring awareness to your physical state.
There is one foolproof way to do this: check your breathing.
Observe the rise and fall of your chest, or check your pulse. Is it fast, short, and shallow? Or is it full, deep, and long?
When we shop mindlessly, or spend compulsively, our breathing and heart rates are through the roof. Pay attention to this.
4. Bring awareness to your mental and emotional state.
Fourth, bring awareness to your mental and emotional state.
Is your mind racing? Are your thoughts clear or cloudy?
What about your emotions? How are you feeling today?
Calmly, and without judgment, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. If they are negative, you might want to revisit shopping at a later date.
5. Bring awareness to your meandering thoughts, and gently guide them back.
Next, bring awareness to the fact that your thoughts may be wandering. Yes, even when you are trying to shop mindfully.
This means, when you are mindfully taking stock of your external and internal environments, triggers and feelings, you likely will lose the thread of your thoughts.
This fifth step encourages you to gently guide your meandering thoughts back to the task at hand: mindful shopping.
Think of why you wanted to shop mindfully in the first place. Are you trying to stop spending compulsively? Are you trying to save money? Then, guide your thoughts back.
6. Bring awareness to the purchase you are about to make.
Finally, bring awareness to the purchase you are about to make. That means bringing calm attention to the item in your hands, or in your shopping cart (online or in person).
This is where the “outer” work in your journey to stop shopping comes in.
Think of your goals. Is this item aligned with them?
Think of your No Buy rules. Does this purchase violate the contract you set with yourself?
Think of the item’s place in your life. Do you really need it?
Mindful Shopping: Next Steps
So what are you to do now that you’ve applied mindful spending to your shopping habits? How else can you clean up your overspending?
Free Resource Library
My first suggestion is to head on over to the free Resource Library and take a spin through the printable worksheets and checklists to help you stop spending and start saving. If you need the password to the Resource Library, click here.
Articles on How to Stop Shopping
Here are some follow-up articles that will help you stop shopping:
- How to Rock Your No Buy
- 10 Things To Do Instead of Shopping
- How to Love What You Already Have—So You Can Stop Shopping
- 12 Critical Warning Signs of Emotional Spending
- How To Stop Shopping After You’ve Filled Up a Cart
- 7 Approachable Minimalism Strategies to Stop Shopping
These posts have all sorts of tips and tricks to help complement your mindful shopping journey, and to help you stop making unnecessary purchases generally.
The Best Workbook to Stop Shopping
Finally, if you want a free, printable workbook to help you work through your shopping habits, look no further:
This workbook will walk you, step-by-step, through the process of determining whether you need a No Buy, No Spend, or Spending Freeze; why you might need a No Buy; and how to complete a No Buy successfully.
Mindfulness is such an important tool in your journey to stop spending and start saving. And that’s because it quite literally places a wrench in your tendencies to overindulge, over-shop, and overspend.
When you shop mindfully, your frazzled mind will settle, and the usual deluge of impulsive shopping habits will start to fade away.
By bringing awareness to the things that so often go unnoticed when we shop compulsively, you may find yourself making better choices when you shop. In fact, I bet you’ll buy much less with mindful shopping—and will save money in the process.