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Safe Shopping with Psychology

Emotional shoppers, have I got a trick for YOU. I’ve had an $80 store credit to TJ Maxx in my wallet for months. I might have returned something, but I think it’s more likely my mom returned something and then gave me the store credit (thanks, Mom).

So I’ve had this thing for months, and I’ve probably gone into the store maybe five times without using it. I’m sure you’re thinking: “Oh, no! Shopping and not finding something is the worst!” But you are wrong. This is the best. This is a big deal. Because I’ve found stuff, I’ve just decided all that stuff isn’t worth giving up the promise of the perfect thing. (Am I becoming a consumer genius?) 

Anyway, I am going to carefully reproduce my thought process for you here so that you, too, can be as good at having fun while shopping and not spending money as I am. The only equipment you need for this exercise is a store credit or gift card. (Cash might work, but I don’t think so, as then you’ll be stressed about the other things you should buy with that cash—groceries, insurance, medication—and will wonder why your broke little butt is even in a store. And that adds a layer of complexity to the situation that we neither need or want.)

1. Today sucks.
2. I know, I’ll buy a new thing!
3. Here I am at the store. Look at all these things I can buy.
4. I can buy these $80 jeans!
5. Or I can buy this $80 shirt!
6. Or I can buy four of these $20 shirts.
7. Or I can buy this $30 dress and this $30 shirt and also this $20 shirt.
9. But: If I spend my store credit then I won’t have it anymore.
10. Do I really actually like any of this stuff enough to never be able to shop again?
11. Nope. It’s all a bore. These things are boring. They won’t make me happy.
12. Let’s just ignore the fact that I’m choosing the promise of future shopping over the completion of current shopping.

P.S. Did everyone already know this?


14 Comments / Post A Comment

bookworm (#481)

I have a Lord & Taylor gift card like this – it mysteriously came in the mail last year with $175 on it (I don’t even shop there, so it wasn’t from a previous purchase). I’ve spent it down to $63 (mostly on Christmas gifts), and I can’t seem to spend the rest of it. I think I’m just waiting to spend it on something I really need vs. something I want just for wanting’s sake.

I would spend that T.J. Maxx card slowly in the gourmet food aisle. $7 bag of premium coffee here, $5 awesome scone mix there.

wearitcounts (#772)

i think there’s some kind of gift card magic that makes you suddenly think about what you *need* instead of what you *want*, and i’m not sure why. maybe it’s the psychology of, ‘i only have XX monopoly dollars to spend in this store, what do i always get from this store and regret spending real dollars?’ and then you save it for when you absolutely *need* that certain thing.

I’ve gone on countless trips to Sephora/Macy’s (THE WORST) with my gift cards and find it absurdly hard to spend money too! Finally I decided to just leave them at home until I need a replacement for something, except I hate even seeing them on my desk and now they’ve become more of an annoying liability than anything else.

I also got a $50 American Express giftcard from work that’s probably going to suffer a worst/similar fate. I have this psychological block against spending it on practical things, so I keep waiting for something that costs $50 that I can justifiably indulge on.

chic noir (#713)

@Laura Yan@twitter – Really, Macy’s? Oh I find it so easy to use Macy’s cards since Macy’s has a good selection on mid price range handbags and a good selection of beauty brands. I get Macy’s gift cards from my Discover card.

mbmargarita (#781)

@Laura Yan@twitter I got $150 in AmEx gift cards from work and I’ve been loving spending them away slowly at Starbucks. I get to treat myself to the indulgence of a $5 latte 30 times– it feels amazingly extravagant and this gift card seems to be lasting forever! I’m going to be devastated when it finally runs out.

ThatWench (#269)

@Laura Yan@twitter I love mbmargarita’s idea, also. But in your shoes, I’d totally walk right into the grocery store. Most supermarkets in this town are always trying to do the “buy 6 bottles of wine and get 10% off all of them deal”, but of course, when I’m shopping for groceries and going through the wine aisle, I just need a bottle for that night’s recipe. (I also grocery shop on foot/mass transit, so weight is usually a major issue; while I can carry six bottles of wine, that plus the groceries I’m buying at the same time is not good.)

So, six of your favorite $10 bottles, minus 10% = $54 = $4 out of pocket to feel like you’re super-prepared for the next time you feel like wine with dinner, or friends come over, or whatever else.

Or, if stocking up on $10 bottles sounds too close to practical, stock up on $20 bottles for the out-of-pocket cost of $10 bottles.

chic noir (#713)

Does your TJMaxx credit have an expire date?
Check because some store do. Loehmanns certainly does, I think I had about 3 months from the day I was given the credit to use it.

Megano! (#124)

I don’t do this with a gift card, but when I do go clothes shopping, especially when it’s a bit more than I would usually pay, I’m like, “OK, I like it, but do I $50 like it? Do I have to have it now? Or can I wait until it goes on sale?” It probably works 80% of the time.

@Megano! haha you know how you’re supposed to be like “ok I like this at the sale price but would I still like it at the real price?” I so try to do this and then I’m like yeahhhhhhhh okay I would still like it at the real price I guess but it’s not at the real price it’s at the sale price which is a great price soooo *dollar signs in eyes*

Megano! (#124)

@redheaded&crazy Well usually my size is gone by the time it’s on sale, so like, I also have to gauge whether or not I want to take that risk!

@Megano! My mom taught me a great trick: leave the item at the store, and if you still think about it two days later, go back and get it. If you don’t really love it, you’ll forget or be too lazy to go back to the store. And if it isn’t there anymore, that’s $X you didn’t spend, so good job!

Megano! (#124)

@Roxanne Rholes@twitter Yeah I do that too. But sometimes I am super far from home and have to decide there.

I do this all the time, searching for the absolute PERFECT purchase that will solve all my problems and make me so happy that I’ll forget whatever depression was in one big shit-eating grin. I end up leaving so many stores empty handed, which makes me feel virtuous yet slightly rumpled that I’d wasted so much time.

Dan@twitter (#788)

I got a $500 amex cash card after a brutal stretch at work as a spot bonus. I sat on it for a few months until this week, not really considering anything as “special” enough to qualify using it. I’ve had some indulgences I’ve paid for otherwise, but mostly things for my wife and I, and this was MY bonus… which my wife was ok with.

And then I got my car inspected and needed $900 worth of fixes to the drive train so it will pass inspection. Hoo. Ray.

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