CSO Blog: Real Simple's Tips for Mindful Shopping

Real Simple Magazine’s Mindful Shopping Tips

When my copy of Real Simple magazine arrives in my mailbox each month, I always look forward to pouring over the pages while enjoying my morning cup of Bhakti Chai tea. As I soaked up the recipes, the decorating ideas, and the beauty tips, my interest was immediately perked when I came across an article entitled “Mindful Shopping: Yes, it’s a thing. And like mindful eating and mindful breathing, this new sensibility ensures that every single purchase counts.” On my personal quest for a clutter-free and streamlined life, I’ve learned that the only way we can keep the clutter out is by being aware of what comes in. You can read my previous blog about shifting consumer habits: The Importance of Being a Cautious Consumer. If we want to eliminate excess from our lives, we have to control what enters it. Otherwise we will be in a constant cycle of ridding and replacing, without much meaning.

Not So Mindful Shopping

Most of our shopping habits, especially as Americans, are not actually need-based. We shop for recreation, for social interaction, for a cure for boredom, and for other, deeper psychological reasons. You may have heard that when you make a purchase, there is an actual serotonin (the happiness hormone) release in your brain. It’s a physical rush for your body to buy things. No wonder shopping addictions are real! Needless to say, this does not naturally lead us to “mindful” shopping, because most people just like to shop for shopping’s sake. I consider mindful shopping to be reflective consuming where you think about what you really need in your life, and in turn decide if you need the item in question at all. If you do need something new, you would research and do some comparative shopping to make sure you’ve found the right thing to properly fill that void. That way, whatever you end up purchasing is something you are likely to actually need, actually use, and hopefully enjoy for a long time to come.

The most mindless shopping happens impulsively. In the article, they site that “68% of consumer decisions are made at the point of purchase.” That means well over half of the times we choose to buy something, we decide right on the spot at the store. A good shift toward more mindful shopping is to plan ahead. One strategy that I like to use is to make wish list. I use the program Evernote to keep my list, but any document, notepad, or memo in your phone will work. When you decide you want something, say a new pair of wedges for spring, add it to your list. Make yourself keep it on there for a certain amount of time, say one month. At the end of the month, rank the items on your list and make sure you still really want each one. Then decide what you will actually buy and set a budget for that item. Hopefully this strategy can help eliminate impulse purchases, that often end up as what I like to call “PMs” or purchasing mistakes.

Shift Your Attitudes About Shopping

To be more mindful shoppers, we need to shift our attitudes about consumption. Eliminate the term “retail therapy” from your vocabulary. Shopping shouldn’t make you feel better, it should be something that you do because you need something in your life. When you feel the itch to shop for other reasons, do something else that makes you happy such as going for a walk, reading a favorite book, or meeting a friend for coffee. Often when people shop for “therapy,” they feel guilt after, and sometimes even feel the burden financially.

Remove shopping as a hobby from your life, because it’s a slippery slope. Once you browse through the stores and come across something you want to buy and do so, you are much more likely to keep buying if you’ve opened the floodgates. Avoid shopping traps from brands such as minimum purchase orders to get free shipping. Don’t add something to your cart just to get it to you for free, or use sites like Zappos that always have free shipping. That way, you won’t add on items you wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. Don’t fall subject to these marketing ploys to make you continue to shop. Clear your browser cookies too after you look online so you don’t keep seeing the items you were looking at on Facebook and on other online advertisements.

To Mindful Shopping

Once you’ve shifted your attitudes about shopping excessively, you can make the shopping experience conscious and mindful. Stick to brands that you like and that you know to be good quality and fit for you. Do your research and read reviews on an item before pulling the trigger to buy it. When you are purchasing something, use cash to feel the weight of the monetary exchange. Avoid having your credit card saved so you don’t have to think about the financial transaction. With these tips, you will only consume the things that you know you really want and need. Shopping will return to being a necessity, and it can still be a fun one, but it won’t be something that adds excess to your life or gets away from you.

Mindful Shopping Tips from Real Simple