Thursday, June 13, 2019

I broke my no buy. It's fine. Don't panic.

Many a psychologist has pointed out that our shopping tendencies have little to do with our wants, needs, or financial realities and more to do with how our brains our wired. The fact that we buy stuff we don't need and spend more than we should because of our habits has become common knowledge; it's a factoid that appears in just about every blog post critiquing capitalism and every "stop shopping" YouTube video. And that's what made me break my no buy this month: a habit.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've moved to a rural area with few physical retail options, but I'm originally from Pittsburgh, where shopping opportunities abound. This means it's tough to get nice clothes where we live now unless we do a ton of online shopping and returning. However, we have plenty of options when we visit my family. So twice a year, we have a "refresh the closet" budget, slash, shopping spree. This includes visits to numerous thrift, consignment, and discount stores, including T.J. Maxx. And after a hundred T.J. Maxx visits, I'd built up a routine: spend 15-20 minutes scouring the beauty section for any products that might remotely interest me.

Sure enough, when we went to T.J. Maxx last week, I followed the same routine: I perused piles of Perricone MD skincare, Kat Von D palettes (oh, how the mighty have fallen), recently-discontinued Bite lipsticks, and nearly-expired Shiseido sunscreens. Then I noticed a few Bobbi Brown lipsticks, including the relatively new Crushed Lip Colors. I went through my usual procedure with T.J. Maxx beauty products: I checked the shade (Baby, a soft pink I've been wanting for a while), I opened the box and rolled up the lipstick to see if it had been tampered with (it was fine), I considered the price ($15.89 with tax--not bad), and I checked the batch code (it was from a later 2018 batch). I'm so used to doing this that I didn't even think of my no buy as I tossed the box in to my cart and wandered off to peruse the clearance sweaters.

My T.J. Maxx habits are so engrained in me, in fact, that even going through the checkout lane twice didn't set off my "WAIT WAIT NO BUY" thought process. I bought my clothes on the first go-round, noticed the Bobbi Brown box sitting in the cart under our bag, realized I'd forgotten to pay for the lipstick, and went right back through the line to buy the lipstick on a separate transaction.

This week, we finally got around to hitting up our local thrift stores and found tons of great, like-new clothing for all of $43. (Why can't my experiences in department stores crowded with $100+ blouses and dresses be as successful?) We decided to wash all of our new-to-us clothes so we could just throw them in our closet when we got back, and when I reached in to the T.J. Maxx bag to grab my $10 sweater, I realized...oh, wait. There's a new lipstick in here. And I didn't use a gift card to get it.

I broke my no buy.

Now, I didn't give you this whole story to make excuses for this new lipstick. It doesn't really matter that I bought it because shopping the T.J. Maxx beauty section is a habit; I still made an adult decision and broke my no buy. Rather, I'm pointing out that behavior modification is tougher than we think it is, and it is very likely that you will make mistakes with your own no buy. So much of what we do in our lives is based on routines and habits. In my experience, our financial habits are even harder to break. In a recent Reddit thread, I admitted that I used to prepare for each paycheck by looking for something to buy as soon as the money hit my bank account; it was a habit I didn't break until I was well in to my 20s.

It's also important that we realize that mistakes are normal, and as I've said before, flagellating yourself every time you slip up during your no-buy isn't helpful. You're just going to feel bad for a few days. How is that productive? Rather than downing yourself, think of ways you can address the problem and learn from your mistake. I've realized, for instance, that I should remind my shopping buddy that I'm not buying new beauty products this year. Then, when I make my habitual drift toward the beauty section, they can remind me that I'm on a no buy. If you prefer to shop alone, trying using cash to pay for your purchases instead of a card (we tend to spend less when we use paper instead of plastic), write a note on your hand, or jot down a list and stick to it. For instance, my wardrobe is now pretty well updated, but I still need a new pair of tennis shoes, a white bra, and maybe a back-up pair of jeans. I'd write down those three items on a list, and that would be all I'd look at when I was in the store.

Long story short, I broke my no buy, but I'm not mad about it. I got halfway through the year without spending my own money on any unnecessary purchases. I'm back on track. And I've learned something beneficial: the T.J. Maxx beauty section is the devil.

1 comment:

  1. Always enjoy reading your posts. I'm someone who is into beauty but more so on personal finance (and the reasons behind why we act the way we do when it comes to consuming). Would love to read more on this!