I have struggled with a shopping addiction in the past. Mindlessly spending $1,000 at Sephora really woke me up to this issue, and shortly after I took some steps to ensure something like that wouldn’t happen again. Most of my mindless purchases were made online, and these four steps truly helped me to minimize them. As always, your mileage may vary.
1. Unsubscribe from EVERYTHING
Almost every time I make an online purchase from a new store, I end up giving them my email address in order to get 10, 15, or sometimes even 20 per cent off that first purchase. This results in a ridiculous amount of emails under the promotions tab in Gmail.
It feels impossible not to click on an email advertising “40-60% off” at my favourite store. Even if I don’t need any new clothes, I end up scrolling through their sales offerings trying desperately to justify a purchase. I may miss a few fantastic deals after my mass unsubscribe spree, but I’ve drastically lowered my online shopping bill.
If you’ve accrued as many subscriptions as I did, unsubscribing from all of them can be a massive pain in the ass. Unroll.me used to be the popular way to do it, but this year it was discovered they were selling user data to Uber. Not cool. An alternate option is Gmail Unsubscribe, an open source Google Script.
2. Install an Ad Blocker
Avoiding temptation is just one of the many reasons to install an ad blocker. Many websites have become obnoxious with the amount of ads they host, leading to distractions and slowness. Some ads even contain malware.
Your choice of ad blocker really depends on your personal opinion. This article lays out a comparison between two of the most popular blockers, AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin.
Adding to the debate, AdBlock Plus introduced ‘Acceptable Ads‘, a controversial approach to whitelisting ads that are non-intrusive. The main point of controversy comes from the fact that payment is involved from some of the whitelisted companies. I encourage you to read through and form your own opinion.
Don’t forget to white list websites that you want to support.
3. Lose the points system
We all know that gamification can make sticking to habits easier and more fun. But what happens when it’s used for evil instead of good? Okay, evil is stretching it, but many savvy companies gamify our shopping habits, furthering the addiction by making it a challenge. Both organizations I spent most mindlessly at in the past–Sephora and Starbucks–involved the collection of loyalty points.
Each time you make a purchase from Sephora, points are added to your “beauty bank.” These points can be saved up and redeemed for some pretty cool deluxe samples. This is great in theory–free stuff!!! However, Sephora wouldn’t offer it unless there was something in it for them. They know that a loyalty points system keeps consumers coming back, and perhaps even encourages them to spend more money than they would otherwise.
Loyalty points can be awesome, but when you are trying to give up an addiction to mindless shopping, I recommend completely avoiding them by shopping elsewhere or just ignoring your balance for a while.
4. Make a list
Sometimes I actually do need to buy something, but now I try to be proactive instead of reactive about it. I have a spreadsheet that I add to when I realize there is something I
need really, really want. Then I can keep my eye out for it at garage sales, second hand shops, consignment shops…and yes, sometimes even a 60% off sale at an actual retail store. Right now that list consists of sharper knives, comfy work shoes, and a toaster oven. All things that I should be able to secure at a lower price if I’m patient.
If you don’t have a shopping problem, a loyalty system or promotional emails from select stores can come in handy. But for me, they were encouragement to make mindless purchases instead of saving for what I really needed or wanted. While these tips are more of a band-aid than a cure for shopaholism, they have worked well for me.
Out of sight, out of mind(less consumerism).