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Ask Sarah: Shopper's Remorse

Sarah tells you how to control yourself

I love shopping! The hunt, the find, the bargain ... And since I learned how to use Taobao things, ummm, have gotten a bit out of hand. Any advice?—Shop Till You Drop

Dear Shop Till You Drop,

Shopping has become a widespread pastime, a pleasurable and often addictive form of leisure activity, of cheap entertainment.

Neurogically speaking, shopping is a complex process. In 2007 a team of researchers from Stanford, MIT and Carnegie Mellon looked at the brains using fMRI technology as they made decisions while out buying clothes. They found that when they showed one of the study’s subjects a desirable object for sale, the pleasure center (nucleus ambens) in the subject’s brain lit up. The more the person wanted the item, the more activity the fMRI detected.

While pleasure kicks in just from the act of looking, there’s also pleasure in purchasing, or more specifically, in getting a bargain. In other words, part of the joy you get from shopping is not just that you bought something that you really like and you’re going to use, but also that you got a good deal. (Source: www.theatlantic.com)

So what can you do? In the land of Alipay and WeChat Wallet, dramatically cutting up your credit/debit card(s) won’t help you curb your spending.

Impose on yourself a buying moratorium. For a full month don’t buy anything but the bare necessities: Groceries as well as toiletries and household goods you’ve run out of. All other items you have the urge to buy you write down in a document (in Excel, Evernote, or another app) listing the price. At the end of the month sum up all amounts and see how much money you’ve saved. By all means, if there is any item on the list you still want to buy, go ahead and do so.

Then go through your home and list all items you’ve bought this year and have either not or barely used. Add up what you paid for them and see if there is a reaction in you.

Buy quality instead of quantity. One high quality blouse made under fair and sustainable conditions, and which will last you a few years, is cheaper for you and our planet than buying five low quality ones, which will fall apart after some uses and washes.

Don’t be the person with a home full of stuff you don’t really want and an empty bank account!


Have a question for Sarah about how to convert your mess into something more? Send her your questions at sarah@organizeme.guru

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