Love shopping, love money: Lessons from smart shoppers

Obsessive shoppers fascinate me, particularly those who shop even though they know they can’t afford to. Why do they do it? Because shopping is like any other addiction: You know it’s not healthy, but you just can’t help yourself.

When my friend turned 30, she decided she wanted to party in style, so she organized a four-day trip to Vegas. The first two days were spent doing two of my least favorite things: 1) Walking and 2) Shopping.

Vegas isn’t cheap. You aren’t going to find a Walmart or Target on the strip. What you will find is a lot of high-end shops where even window shopping seems extravagant.

One of the women who came along on the trip was a very well-paid accountant who honestly could have bought anything she wanted. But the only time she plunked down any cash was at an upscale boutique that was having a sale. She refuses to pay for anything full price unless it’s really worth it. I have to admire her for that, which makes me hate her more than I already do – but that’s besides the point.

All this got me thinking: Are there people who love to shop but who are also good at managing their money? And if so, how do they differ from shopaholics? Here’s what data from Queendom’s Shopaholic Test reveals:

Smart shopping tip 1: Don’t fall into the credit card trap

A little obvious perhaps – smart shoppers own fewer credit cards than shopaholics. According to our stats:

  • 34% don’t own any (compared to 25% of shopaholics)
  • 33% own one credit card (compared to 19% of shopaholics)
  • 13% own two (compared to 14% of shopaholics)
  • 9% own three (compared to 10% of shopaholics)
  • 11% own four or more (compared to 32% of shopaholics)

Smart shopping tip 2: Don’t be an emotional shopper

When I’m going through a downward emotional spiral, I eat. When shopaholics are going through an emotional low, they shop. According to our stats:

  • 88% of shopaholics shop when they are angry or depressed (compared to 36% of smart shoppers)

And speaking of emotional ups and downs…

Smart shopping tip 3: Don’t resort to “retail therapy” to help you cope with stress

We asked our group of shopaholics and smart shoppers what type of strategies they use to unwind at the end of a tough day. Here’s how the nine different coping strategies were ranked, from most popular to least popular:

Rank Methods shopaholics use to deal with stress Methods smart shoppers use to deal with stress
1 Shopping Talking things out with a friend or loved one
2 Comfort food A relaxing bath
3 A relaxing bath Comfort food
4 Talking things out with a friend or loved one Taking a long walk
5 Having a drink (alcohol) Reading a book
6 Reading a book Exercising
7 Exercising Writing out their feelings
8 Taking a long walk Having a drink (alcohol)
9 Writing out their feelings Shopping

Smart shopping tip 4: Don’t be a fashion slave

image 1

Fashion is highly subjective, in my opinion. Yes, there are probably a few things in my closet that would compel the fashion police to put a warrant out on me, but I wear what I like – and a lot of the stuff that’s trending, I am not a fan of. Like what’s hot for Fall 2015, according to Elle. Loafers for women? No thanks. Pleats and plaid? Nope. Flouncy hems? No. Furry shoes that look like I’m wearing Muppets on my feet? Heck no.

The bottom line: Smart shoppers know that just because something is “hot” it doesn’t mean 1) it will suit them and 2) it’s worth buying. According to our stats:

  • 84% of shopaholics are obsessed with buying the latest fashions (compared to 5% of smart shoppers)

Smart shopping tip 5: Think twice before you buy anything expensive

It’s rare for me to walk into a store or shop online and not want to buy at least one thing, like Frame Denim’s “Le High” flare jeans. But if I don’t control my impulses, all I’ll have is a beautiful pair of $300 jeans and no place to live.

According to our stats:

  • 61% of smart shoppers won’t buy something unless they absolutely need it (compared to 4% of shopaholics). They’ll either put an item on layaway to give them time to think about it, or they just won’t purchase it.

Smart shopping tip 6: Cash only, please

Walk into any casino and you’ll probably find an ATM machine at almost every corner. Why? Because after losing your first $100 in about five minutes, casino owners know that a lot of people won’t be able to resist taking out more money. What’s another $20 right? That’s the danger of debit and credit cards: You don’t see the money disappearing.

According to our stats:

  • 89% of smart shoppers set a budget for themselves, and make sure to leave the plastic at home (compared to 4% of shopaholics). Moreover, 72% make sure to keep track of every dollar they spend while shopping (compared to 1% of shopaholics.

Here are some other smart shopping tips:

  • Treat yourself when you feel you’ve earned it. Rather than shopping just to shop, use it as an incentive. In other words, reward yourself for your accomplishments. For example, if you’re aiming to lose a few pounds, make that your goal and buy yourself a new skirt or pair of pants when you do. Just try not to exceed one treat per month. Plan for serious achievements, not frivolous ones.
  • Get a hobby. I am not trying to be condescending here. If I spent more time on hobbies than I do on worrying or over-analyzing every aspect of my life, I’d be the best darn board-gaming, creative writing, foreign language learning, genealogy exploring, jigsaw puzzling, pet-fostering kick-boxer this world has ever seen. (Get it? It’s all the fun hobbies I’d be engaging in if I wasn’t spending so much time in my own head).

Instead of spending all your time shopping, occupy yourself with another interest. It doesn’t matter if it’s golf, gardening or go-carting – if your time is spent elsewhere, your mind will likely be too. You never know, you might find something you enjoy doing even more than shopping!

  • Find strength in numbers. Try shopping with a friend or family member – preferably someone who doesn’t like to shop. If you find your fingers itching to spend money, ask for their opinion. This may reduce your tendency to buy on impulse because you’ll have an objective objector.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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