How To Only Buy What You Really Need When You Go Shopping

September 26, 2016 by Justine Schwartz
shefinds | Shop

We’re all guilty of buying things we don’t need. Whether it’s at the grocery story or when you’re clothes shopping (or for many people, at catch-all stores like Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond). I know I’m guilty of this at Target–I go in for paper towels and come out with a cute pajama set and a gold decorative bowl. I get carried away by the bright colors and how the products are merchandised on the shelves–obviously this was by design, but I can’t resist it.

If you’re like me and often find yourself spending a little more than your allotted budget when you go shopping, or you catch yourself putting things in to your cart that have no business being there, then you might need a mental tune-up. Your frame of mind when you leave for the store, and once you’re there, can be the difference between buying exactly what you need–and what you definitely don’t. Here are some expert tips for doing just that:

READ MORE: This 2-Second Trick Will Stop You From Making Impulse Purchases Online

1. Ask yourself–would I wear this now? There’s a trick in closet cleaning which goes that you should ask yourself, “Would I buy this if I were shopping right now?” for every piece of clothing. (Anything you answer “No,” for needs to go in the “toss” pile immediately.) And the trick can be reversed when it comes to shopping–ask yourself, “Would I wear this right now?” If you wouldn’t wear the item out of the store or to work tomorrow (provided it’s seasonal and not for a special occasion), then you shouldn’t buy it. Aspirational shopping, aka shopping for the person you think you will one day be (but aren’t currently), is what get’s a lot of people in to trouble. Just ask Oprah.

The rule can apply to things like groceries (“Would you eat this for lunch today?”), home goods (“Will you use this today?”), kids toys (“Will you play with this today?”), books (“Will you read this tonight?”) and more.

READ MORE: 7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Closet Got Out Of Control

2. Be aware of your triggers. Just like how I know that Target puts women’s clothing across from household goods, you should be aware of the tactics that stores employ to get you to buy more. Stores use sights, sounds and other sensory factors against you. Stores like H&M and Forever 21 keep the tunes loud and fast-paced so you keep working your way through the endless racks. Most stores put dressing rooms way in the back so you have to keep shopping even after you’ve found what you’re looking for. Even the use of red on sales tags is a psychological ploy. There are many tactics used to get you to buy more than you need–be aware of them so they don’t get the better of you.

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3. Classify everything by Need, Sometimes Need, Want, Never Need. You should have a quick classification system for everything you currently own and everything you’re about to buy. Do you Need (all the time, always), Sometimes Need (not every day, but once in awhile), Want (this is purely something you desire), or Never Need (this is the pure crap that clutters your home and never gets used). Obviously you want to keep your purchases of “Don’t Need” items to an absolute minimum (everyone makes mistakes, but your goal should be to get these down to 0).

For groceries, you know what you Need (milk, eggs) and Don’t Need (ice cream, brie cheese).

For clothing, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between “Want” and “Need.” Ask yourself the really tough questions–do you *need* a new coat or can you wear the one from last year? Do you need new jeans, or can the 8 pairs you already own suffice?

READ MORE: The One Thing You Should Never Do When Returning An Item You Bought Online

4. Agree to sleep on it. Make a deal with yourself to wait 24 hours before making a purchase that isn’t absolutely essential. Sometimes, this means that go home and do your research and find it somewhere else for a better price (or you read the reviews of it online). Sometimes it means that you forget about the item forever once you leave the store (thank god you didn’t get it!). Sometimes it allows you to think about different outfit options that you could wear it with–which becomes the deciding factor in whether it earns a spot in your closet. And of course, sometimes you still want it and you buy it ASAP. There is no harm in waiting a day or so to buy something–unless it’s going to sell out. (Which is rare!).


Editorial Director

Justine Schwartz is a veteran women's lifestyle editor; she's written extensively about style & beauty tips, health advice and wedding planning for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Huffington Post and New York Weddings. Justine has been with SheFinds since 2010; you can reach her via email at [email protected]

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