Mindful ShoppingShopping is another activity that we put as much thought into as we do to digesting our food, says Dr April Lane Benson, author of the book "To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop" . For many of us, shopping has become impulsive, recreational, spur-of-the-moment, and this is most evident at Christmas, when stores and malls are filled with people ready to fall victim to the habit of "mindless shopping".
Yet in the current economic climate, perhaps now is a good time to be more mindful about what we buy, what we can afford to spend, and what is really controlling our urge to purchase and how that compares with what really matters to us.
The pressures to overshop are everywhere, says Benson, a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of compulsive buying disorder. And the opportunities to do so are greater than ever: you don't even have to leave your home, as well as catalogue shopping we now have Internet shopping.
Benson says the way to make shopping succeed for you is to plan your shopping trips. In chapter 4 of her book she describes a very useful method for mindful shopping called the "Daily Weigh-In". This is where you itemize your shopping expenses and assign each item a "Necessity score". This helps keep track of shopping expenditure in a way that prioritizes rather than just records the amounts spent. It's a reality check of your spending habits.
You can also do the necessity scoring before you shop. Before each shopping trip, make a list of the things you intend to buy, and then review the list and give each item a necessity score. If the item seems "completely unnecessary", then give it a zero. If it's "somewhat" necessary, give it a third, if it's "very necessary", two-thirds, and if it's "essential", give it a 1. Now look at the list again, with the scores, and reconsider carefully the low-scoring items.
Benson suggests you also decide beforehand where you are going to shop, how long for, who you will shop with, whom you will be shopping for, and last but not least, what your affordable budget should be.
As well as this strategic method, Benson has some tactical mindfulness tips for when you are in the shop and have actually picked up an item. Before you place it in the basket, she suggests you ask yourself six questions to bring your attention into mindful awareness of the act you are about to commit:
- Why am I here?
- How do I feel (good, bad, uncertain, guilty, sad, frustrated, etc)?
- Do I need this (how much would it score on the necessity index)?
- What if I wait?
- How will I pay for it?
- Where will I put it?