How shopping can be more dangerous than dating Taylor Swift

Have you ever had that thought, “If only I had that [bag/pair of shoes/car/watch…], my life would be so much better”?

I think it ALL THE TIME.

Whether it’s the perfect pair of shoes, a luxurious quilt cover, or even a whiz-bang kitchen appliance – it’s going to change my life, right?

Just like Taylor Swift*, as soon as I get a glimpse of that wonderful new thing (or Hollywood heartthrob in Tay Tay’s case), “I’ve got a blank space, baby,” and I’m ready to write its name.

I find myself having the coveted item conversation in my head whenever a big event is approaching. Like Christmas parties, job interviews, work functions, and generally whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Fixating on something that will *definitely* make me happy/more likeable/more organised is actually a distraction from what’s really happening.

Anxiety.

This anxiety leads to shopping, which leads to overspending, which leads to debt.

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So how do you stop that thought process in its tracks?

The first part is realising what you’re doing. Acknowledge whether you want the item for practical reasons (i.e. you’ve ripped a hole in your pants and really need a new pair) or whether you want to buy something to change how you feel or how you’re perceived.

Blogger Cait Flanders went on a year-long shopping ban as a personal challenge and discovered she owned tonnes of things she’d bought just to impress people:

I’d purchased most of it to exhibit some level of success I wanted people to believe I had reached. I had bought books simply because I wanted them to be on my bookshelf when people came over, so they thought I was well read. I purchased outfits for the same reason, but didn’t feel good in any of them so they remained hung up and unworn in my closet. And my home was full of brand new, matching furniture, because that felt like success to me, which is how I wanted to be perceived. 

I think this is a pretty common experience. We buy things to create a life that looks good. Sometimes it’s to impress other people, sometimes it’s to impress ourselves – to help us believe we are clever, confident, or successful.

It is totally true that a new outfit can boost my confidence especially before a job interview or performance of some kind, and I don’t think it’s wrong to want to feel good. But if I don’t stop and think about the why before I buy it’s easy for me to head down the rabbit hole of “if only I had this… and this… and this…”.  And soon enough I could have a maxed out credit card and definitely not enough good feelings to justify it.

So, whenever that coveting feeling comes along, I think we need to ask ourselves, WHY do I really want this?

  • Do I actually need to replace something?
  • Do I want this to reduce my anxiety and help me feel more in control?
  • How will wearing/using the item make me feel?
  • How will I feel a month afterwards?

When Cait Flanders did her shopping ban, she allowed herself to buy things from an ‘approved shopping list’.  First, she did a huge reassessment of the things in her life and then allowed herself to buy things like an outfit for upcoming events, a pair of exercise pants, a new bed, a paddleboard, items her friends had created – all things she thought would truly add value in her life that year. This didn’t entirely stop her thoughts about buying other things, but it kept her focused on the end game: having a life filled with things you truly value and appreciate, rather than things you wish you’d left at the shops.

What are your shopping triggers? Do you shop to impress others?

*I have no issue with Taylor Swift, so please don’t hate on me 😉

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