Would you like to spend less and shop more mindfully? It’s easier to focus on starting something new rather than stopping something old, so I’m rethinking the way I approach browsing and buying things.

I’m in the middle of a serious clear-out. I’ve traded in books, DVDs and old electronics for cash. I’ve been selling clothes, jewellery and all manner of other items on eBay and Gumtree. It’s helpful to acknowledge that I don’t need these things and decluttering feels very freeing, plus every penny helps make a dent in the debts I’ve run up. In a way though, I’m like an alcoholic pouring wine down the drain. However much I sell or give away, it won’t magically remove my reasons for buying it. If I’m not careful, I’ll just replace it with yet more stuff. I’m trying to change my habits and it all comes down to shopping with purpose.

Here are my tips on how to shop more mindfully:

  • Make a list of things you need, will use and can afford. Don’t aimlessly browse for things that catch your eye. You’ll always find something to tempt you.
  • That doesn’t mean you can’t ever browse. You just need to set clear limits. If you love charity shops or record stalls, put a specific amount aside for this. Try to set some rules for what you will and won’t spend on.
  • That said, try to avoid browsing for pleasure. Think of some other things to do instead.
  • Don’t just put limits on price. You’ll be tempted to spend up to the limit. Set other boundaries too, like the number of shops you’ll visit and the amount of time you’ll spend shopping.
  • Don’t try to stockpile everything you might like, read or want. You can’t buy everything that’s nice or interesting. Read one book, then look for another. Don’t keep browsing for cushions or tea towels or jackets if you already have enough of them. You don’t have to buy all the nice ones.

Think about why you’re tempted to spend. As I suggested in my last post, it helps to stop and make notes. Why do you want to buy this thing? How are you feeling? Do you really want and need it, or are you seeking a fantasy experience of buying it or having it? Do you have other, similar things that you haven’t used? Are you buying for the person you actually are, or the person you wish you were or think you ought to be? It helps to really think about the sorts of things you keep buying, yet don’t use, and the things you actually want, love and enjoy. I have this idea that I should like knitting and making things, when really it bores me silly. I buy books about things I think should interest me, then berate myself for not reading them. I don’t feel good in skirts, yet I keep buying them because they look nice on the hanger. It’s exhausting trying to be someone else. There are people in the world who love knitting or who read books about politics or enjoy tackling tricky cookbooks. I’m not one of them, and that’s fine. It’s okay that I hate sewing. It’s okay that I just want to watch films without ever reading the collections of film criticism on my bookshelf. That’s who I am, regardless of what I buy. And you know what? That’s okay, too.