How to Stop Shopping: How to (Not) Buy Unnecessary Stuff

Lindsay Goldwert
November 12th, 2020 | 5 min

More and more people are taking a pass on spending money for the holidays. And good, we say! COVID-19 has taken a toll on Americans and frankly, we should all feel free to give our credit cards a rest during Cyber Monday and Black Friday. One in three Americans are scaling back their holiday shopping, according to a 2020 survey by Wallethub.

We know it feels good to shop. Like really, really good. Studies show that hitting that “buy now” button triggers a dopamine response similar to gambling. In a year of lock-downs and remote learning, it’s okay to want to feel a little retail therapy. And sigh, all those sales can be so enticing.

That said, there are a few solid ways to rethink your Cyber Monday and Black Friday shopping in 2020. Back away from your cart and read this:

Leave things in your cart.

Fill it up! And then walk away. Chances are that after the thrill of clicking on the items and putting them in your cart, you’ll forget what it was that you were thinking of buying. If you can remember what you wanted the next day, you can clean out your cart and consider making the purchase. It’s a great way to get the "window shopping" feeling but avoid impulse purchases and the confused “I forgot I ordered this” when the package arrives at your door.

Delete the shopping apps on your phone.

We’re on our phones all dang day. Because for a lot of us, it’s a way to kill the long nights where we’d normally be out and about. And after perusing social media, our fingers may wander to apps where it’s super easy to shop. Consider deleting them from your phone until after Black Friday and Cyber Monday and after (since sales often go on longer to keep luring in customers). If you can’t get up the energy to get up and go to your computer, chances are you don’t really need it.

Repeat this mantra: You're not saving money.

Look, saving 30% off a $100 item that you didn't really need is spending $70 (plus tax). Sales only save you money when you've budgeted a certain amount for a purchase and come in lower than you expected. Sales can actually bombs to your budget and give you a false sense that you saved money.

Shop local.

This has been a brutal year for local businesses. Rather than give the big retailers your money, make a decision to only purchase gifts online or in person in your hometown. You’ll feel good knowing you’re supporting your community during this make or break time in 2020.

Stick to your list.

If you’ve been waiting until Cyber Monday or Black Friday to make an essential purchase but looking for a good sale, this is a good time to do it. Whether it’s a new winter coat or a new dishwasher that actually gets the plates clean without having to boil them first, think about how these purchases can make your lives easier every day of the year, versus the pleasure of buying something that you can get by without. A list will keep you on track and save you money.

Shop according to your values

What’s really important to you? If you and your family cherish time spent in the kitchen talking and tasting delicious food, choose to focus on cookware or cookbooks. Love to spend time in bed with your partner but your linens are feeling a little frayed? Maintaining intimacy is a value and investing in a good set of sheets or a duvet is a great thing to keep you warm all winter. Focus on items that make your hearts sing all year long. A $100 purchase that you enjoy for 365 days, now that’s a bargain.

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