How Buyer's Remorse Can Be Used to Cure Mindless Shopping

Here's an eye-opening experiment that might inspire change:

  • Open your closet door, dig past the first items you see, and look at ten things you've shoved toward the back.  Out of those ten things, how many of them fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten you owned?

  • Find an old grocery store or Target receipt.  How many items on that receipt fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten?

  • Look at the last ten purchases on your Amazon account.  How many of them fill you with buyer's remorse?  How many of them had you completely forgotten?
  • Look at your credit or debit card statement.  Ask yourself the same two questions about the first ten purchases.

stuck shopping

Buyer's remorse is a good thing.

Don't despair.  No one is perfect at this test.  I'm certainly not.  Whenever I dig into closets or drawers or look at my Amazon history, I usually find at least a couple of items I've forgotten or feel that I wasted money on.  Why on earth did I buy this?

This kind of assessment can be painful, but it also provides insight into my shopping habits.  They're not as good as they should be – but they're better than they were before I started thinking like a minimalist.

I want to see the items I've forgotten about or wish I'd never spent money on.  I want to know how I messed up.  Why?  For me, those feelings are an excellent reminder that I'm nowhere close to perfect, and that I want to continue to improve.  I don't mean that I'll never purchase anything again, just that I want to get better at controlling impulse spending that leads to waste and clutter.

By figuring out where I'm tempted and how I'm making mistakes, I can devise specific ways to improve.

For example, I might notice when I examine the credit card statement that we ate in restaurants thirteen times last month.  We need to keep such meals to less than half that number.  Why did we go out so much?  What can I change to get where I want to be?

Maybe I notice that I bought four books one month (not for gifts).  What was the reason for that?  Am I really making sensible book purchases, or should I be using the library more often?  How can I be better at determining which books I want to own for the long term as opposed to books I simply want to be able to read?

It's all about being more intentional about my purchases.

If I'm finding forgotten and barely-worn clothes and shoes in my closet, I don't need to buy clothes again for a long while.  The same goes for books, hobby supplies, downloaded music and movies, or anything else.  Maybe a spending fast in in order, at least for a month or two, and maybe even longer.

If I'm finding "extra" items on grocery store receipts, it's a sure sign that I need to be shopping with a grocery list.  I have far fewer unplanned purchases when I use a list.

If I'm finding too many meals out, or too many visits to Starbucks, I need to think about which behaviors I can adjust in order to change that outcome.  Maybe

  • I need to plan more quick-and-easy meals to make at home.
  • I need to use my slow cooker more often.
  • I need to cook more double batches so I can have ready-made meals in the freezer.

  • I need to carve out a cozy nook where I can sit and read and enjoy my coffee or tea, the way I do when I visit the shop.

If I'm finding forgotten or regretful purchases in my Amazon order history, I definitely need to visit Amazon less often and make purchases less convenient.  Maybe

  • I need to add enticing items to my shopping cart and then leave the site.
  • I need to give myself a "cooling off" period to keep me from purchasing things that are just an impulsive interest, rather than something I really need or want.
  • I need to cancel my Prime membership and decide if an item is worth the added shipping cost.

  • I need to remove credit card information from my account so that the purchasing process becomes slower and more thoughtful.

The only way to make a change

Do you want to avoid clutter, debt, and stress?  When we examine forgotten purchases and feel that buyer's remorse, we can start asking these questions and searching for answers.  Awareness and mindfulness can help us do better.  

Updated March 2023


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