So I’ve been helping another writer from the Sacramento News & Review with an article about foodie-ism (it’s so flattering to be sought after as a consultant these days!), and it got me thinking about something I didn’t mention in my last tip post. I talked about buying what you need & reading price tags as carefully as possible, but I didn’t talk about needing what you buy. Allow me to expand on this and philosophize for a mo’.
When Nick from the SN&R interviewed me, he asked if there was any particular food I missed buying since my finances took a nosedive. My response? It wasn’t any one food in particular; it was the impulsive buying that I missed the most. Like most Americans, I’ve gotten used to instant gratification in almost every aspect of life: instant access to my bank account online; instant contact with anyone through my cell phone, etc., etc. This is also a society that is accustomed to instantly caving in to one’s shopping desires, buying more than what we probably should within our means, thanks to the trusty credit card (which, fortunately, I don’t have).
Though I’ve gotten much better about this, it used to be very easy for me to just start tossing things into my grocery cart without even flinching because I wanted it, I had the extra dough and I just could. Brie en brioche, 3-4 bottles of wine, high quality cuts of pre-marinated meats, etc. I’m sure some of you can relate to this, too. There will be times you’ll go to the store and just start putting stuff in your cart without really thinking about it, because it just looked good, or perhaps it was a new product that was recently advertised and you wanted to try it. It happens to us all. With the amount of choices available to consumers and the fact that we as humans are impulsive by nature, buying what we want is almost inevitable.
That’s what got me thinking: how much of what I end up buying on one of these shopping binges is what I need vs. what I want?
How many times do you grab something random at the store because it seemed like a good idea at the time, only to realize a few weeks later that it’s still in your cupboards untouched, or even worse, in your fridge slowly rotting away? Then you mentally kick yourself for having to waste perfectly good food or try to figure out when in the world this item will make its way onto your plate. It’s not that you chose poorly, you simply bought something out of plain old desire instead of necessity. By focusing on what you need when you shop, and by exercising some restraint at the store, you will eventually start to see your bill go down. Or allow yourself the opportunity to buy more of what you may actually utilize.
This isn’t to say that you should only buy the bare necessities and never have anything fun. This type of behavior doesn’t do any good, because all you’re left with is the feeling of dissatisfaction, or even worse, deprivation, and that can lead to trying to overcompensate for that deprivation later. You should definitely treat yourself to at least one little splurge.
I liken this to how I went about successfully losing 70 lbs about 5 years ago (and how I’m successfully whittling my way back down to my happy size). Sure, I worked out religiously and ate very healthily, but I made sure to give myself a break every now & then and enjoy something really sinful. I never felt deprived this way, and reminded myself how to enjoy everything in moderation. I do the same thing when I go to the store. I keep to the basic necessities like fruits, veggies, grains, etc., but I also go to the dessert or cheese aisle to see what I can treat myself to. I spend far less than I used to, and I still get to have a sinful treat.
It’s okay to buy things you want, but try to keep the impulsive buying to a minimum. When you’re shopping and you see your cart is filling up a little too fast (thereby emptying your wallet quickly, too), ask yourself if you really need some of the items that have ended up in there. If you do, by all means, buy what you need! But if there are a few things you know you can live without or that you just don’t see yourself using anytime soon, save them for another day. You can save more money, or buy more of what you actually need; either way, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. But even if times are tough and you’re trying to save a little money, remember to grab at least one or two simple treats along the way and enjoy them. You deserve them!