man with credit card in hand online shopping

Stay Strong: Five Tips for Mindful Spending

It seems like everyone—be they a real or armchair psychologist --has been heralding the benefits of “mindfulness” lately.

But…what does mindful spending mean, exactly?

 

 - Well, when we’re talking about food, mindfulness means being completely aware of what, when, and how much we are eating as we are eating it. This reduces stress and aids in weight management, enjoyment, and nutrition.

 - In terms of parenting, mindfulness means noticing our children and how we are relating to, interacting with, and disciplining them as we are doing that. This results in more loving, respectful, and effective relationships.

 - And in terms of spending, mindfulness means…wait! Uh-oh. You see, spending isn’t an area we commonly associate with mindfulness. Finance, after all, is a less touchy-feely subject than most.

Or…is it?

 

Man spending on investments

The truth is that finance and personal spending are at the core of almost everything else in our lives. And, just as with your diet and relationships, and so much more, mindfulness can help you keep your (fiscal) health in check.

Here are 5 easy tips for doing just that, beginning today:

 

1.) Ask yourself first

Before you throw something in your real or virtual shopping cart, make it a habit to ask yourself, “Do I want this, or do I need it?” We get absolutely bombarded with marketing and sales pitches all day long and it’s so easy to say, “I’ll treat myself this time…I deserve it,” or “But it’s SUCH a great deal, I have to.” Remember, it’s only a great deal if it’s a great price on something you truly need…and need right now. Notice what you tend to respond to so you know when to put the brakes on.

 

2.) Always shop with a list

Whether it’s groceries, holiday presents, or school supplies you’re after, you’re going to be distracted by a cool add-on or higher-priced items than you were planning on, and at every turn. Are they on your list? No? Take a deep breath and move on.

 

3.) Do you have it?

Regularly ask yourself, “Do I already have something like this?” You spy a black tee shirt. So slimming…so you. “No one ever has enough black tee-shirts,” you rationalize. But, yes, it’s possible to have enough black tee-shirts, or anything else, for that matter. We are often drawn to items very similar to things we already have. So before you shop, do an inventory of your current possessions. You’re bound to find many things you’ve completely forgotten about and/or already have so don’t need.

 

4.) Don't pay for convenience 

Understand that you pay big-time for convenience. Think about the grocery store. Yes, it’s so much easier to buy pre-cooked food and warm it up rather than prepare a huge meal, and if you sometimes need to do that, ok. However, no one doesn’t have the time to wash and separate a head of lettuce, or cut carrots, watermelon, or an apple…and no one doesn’t have the time to grab a handful of cookies and place them in a baggie instead of buying separated bags of cookies for school lunches. Those tasks take seconds. Make sure as you shop that you are not giving in to laziness. It costs.

 
women paying with her credit card

5.) Research

Remember, just as there has never been an easier way to shop than the present, there has also never been an easier way to understand what you’re buying. Take the time to research the best prices and brands for everything…talk to friends…read reviews. Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping magazines conduct research on the best brands at the best prices for everything. Many shopping sites post favorable and unfavorable product reviews by customers (see QVC, Sephora, and Trip Advisor, for examples). Make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy it. Returns can be expensive and your time is also worth a lot.