I basically live on the Internet. Considering my work for TFD, the fact that my other job keeps me confined to a home with a napping baby for most of the day, and the fact that I’m a 23-year-old millennial woman, it makes sense that I spend a lot of time browsing through blogs and online shops and other fun, exciting places on the Internet. I don’t think this is really an issue — online is a genuinely productive place for me to be, considering the fact that I read and write in exchange for money. Also, it doesn’t really prompt me to make any huge, ridiculous decisions — I’m by no means immune to advertising, but I’ve developed a pretty good system to keep myself from impulsively spending on the decidedly unwearable thing I saw a fashion blogger wearing that would literally never translate into a normal person’s daily life.
It isn’t just fashion — I see a lot of things I want online and add to my virtual cart, from makeup/beauty products to home decor to kitchen appliances — all of which are so ridiculously accessible to purchase with the click of a button, meaning I needed to figure out a way to make sure I don’t spend hundreds of dollars per week on unnecessary crap just because it is convenient to.
I’ve mentioned before that my current system is to write everything I covet down on a running list, put the date next to it, and refer back a week or so later to see if I still give a shit about the item. More often than not, the answer is a hard “no,” and I’m grateful that my system helped me avoid making a mistake purchase that would either a) mocked me for the rest of my life, or b) been returned a week later.
But every so often when I refer back to an item on my list to see if I still want it, the answer is actually “yes.” That’s when it gets tricky — if I still do want the item, how do I decide whether or not I should actually make the plunge and purchase it?
Let’s be clear — liking something, even after giving myself ample time to see if it was just a fleeting desire or something I genuinely would like to own, it simply not reason enough to purchase it. I’m by no means rich, and a lot of time and thought needs to go into deciding what I actually spend money on, so although my wait-one-week system is helpful in filtering out impulse purchases, it isn’t the deciding factor in whether or not I’ll actually swipe my card for something.
So, last week, I decided to write down every single item that had been accumulated on my “want-list” during the week, then refer back to it this weekend and see what I actually end up buying. I obviously only did this for a week’s-worth of desired purchases, but I might keep it up for a little bit — my hypothesis is essentially that if I look through the list and write down the things I ended up buying after the end of my weeklong wait-period, I will be able to notice patterns in my impulses, desires, and inevitably narrow down the types of purchases that actually add value to my life, and separate them from the ones that just come from the random impulse to spend. If I notice any obvious patterns, maybe I can cut out the middleman and eventually get to a point where I’m not having so many impulses to purchase things, and the “want-list” will be dramatically cut down. (A girl can dream, right?)
Here is everything that I wrote down on my list of Things I Want To Buy last week:
1. This Barefoot Dreams cardigan.
2. This comforter/bedding set.
3. This storage ottoman for the end of my bed.
4. A pink bell-sleeved sweater I saw in Marshalls. (Curse my local Home Goods for being attached to a Marshalls. I go in for home-things I actually need and get distracted-as-hell by clothes.)
5. New socks.
6. A replacement Lush moisturizer for the one I’ve just run out of.
7. An assortment of books I put in my Amazon cart.
8. Extra hangers for my coat closet. (Mostly for aesthetic reasons — I have some hangers, and some coats are gently folded, but I had a vision of all of our coats hanging neatly in the closet.)
9. A fake medium-sized houseplant.
10. A pair of brown boots.
A week after this stuff was all written on the list, I went through it to knock off the things I no longer wanted/had decided to put off. Here was the final verdict:
1. The cardigan was a no. This is one of the instances where I still very much want the item in question, but am not buying it simply because it is not in my budget. It is going to remain on a more long-term list, and I might check back in to see if I find it on sale at some point, but for now, $115 on a cardigan is too much and not in the cards.
2. The bedding, I think, was an impulse-thing. I might get some at some point when the weather actually gets colder — my apartment is covered in huge windows, and I imagine it will be a bit drafty during winter — but as of right now, our bedding is fine, and I think I just impulsively wanted this because it was on sale and looked fluffy and cute.
3. I actually picked this ottoman up and put it in my Target cart irl, which was no easy feat, so I’m certainly proud of myself for showing the restraint and motivation to pull it out and put it back on the shelf. A week later, I went back and realized I’m glad I didn’t get it. I’d like end-of-bed storage of some sort one day, but I want to save up and get one I love, not just buy a random cheap Target one that fills my weird storage-ottoman void.
4. I did not get this sweater either. Light pink is a color I love to look at, but hate to wear. (It is basically my skin-tone, so it just looks wrong.) Also, I’m not into the trendy sleeve thing — I would likely never put it on my body in real life, but I got impulsive and blinded by the trend because it looked cute on the hanger.
5. I did get new socks — seven damn pairs of new socks. When I looked back at this item on the list a week later, I realized I really did want to get it — there was nothing wrong with my socks, but I only had a few pairs of them, and I was tired of doing laundry so often just for socks. I think I tossed a lot of them when last spring rolled around vowing I’d buy new, less-dingy socks when the weather got cold again — so here I am, with new socks!
6. Instead of buying a replacement moisturizer at Lush, I went in and asked for samples of three new ones I wanted to try. I traditionally use their most expensive one, and as much as I love it, I tend to want something a bit more moisturizing for fall/winter, and I’d love to cut that huge expense down a little bit. I’ve only used two of the samples so far, and I already know which one I’m buying — I am so happy I did this instead of buying it right away just because I was desperate to not go a day without moisturizing. I was able to put off spending on my skincare purchase for an extra week, and I found a new product I think I love more than the last one I had.
7. I bought none of the books. When I looked back, I realized that I was just being impulsive because I’d watched a YouTube video of a woman showing a haul of new books, and I wished that I was the type of person who had the budget for 15 new books/the type of person who would make the time to read them. But I am neither of those people.
8. I did buy the hangers for my coat closet. I actually told myself on Friday when looking back at my list that this was a purchase I definitely still wanted to make, and I bought them today — my coat closet has never looked better, and I’m happy I spent the $5 it took to give my home that tiny but effective upgrade.
9. I killed a beautiful living houseplant a few weeks ago (RIP) and told myself I’d buy a fake one to replace it since the room looked a lot sadder without a pretty green plant. I didn’t want to do this impulsively because fake plants can be both tacky and expensive, so the week I had to mull it over really did wonders for me. I ended up finding not one, but two in the perfect size for extremely good prices this weekend, and I’m very happy I ended up buying them in the end.
10. I didn’t buy the boots. I have too many boots. I saw a cute pic on Pinterest of someone wearing these, so I wanted them briefly, but I ended up passing.
So there you have it — from what I can tell, it seems that the sweet-spot for me actually purchasing something intersects somewhere between “will upgrade my life in some way” and “doesn’t cost a lot of money.” The purchases that I tend to pass on seem to be the pricier ones, and (surprisingly) the clothing ones. As much as I love clothes, my closet feels more “complete” than ever, and I’m actually happy enough with what I have that I don’t actually find myself buying almost any clothing anymore (although I sometimes think I want some before I actually give myself time to think about it). I usually impulsively want something, then think about it for a week and realize that I have something similar or wouldn’t actually wear the item as much as I’m telling myself I will. Overall, I think I’ve learned a lot about what types of purchases I actually enjoy making, and which purchases I always think I want to make but actually have no real interest in.
Image via Unsplash