Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about the root causes of impulse purchases. I think one major driving factor of the “I need this NOW” mentality comes from lack of confidence, at least on my end. There are many different types of unnecessary buys, and I sometimes wish I could categorize them based on emotion, instead of based on whether it was a food-related or medical-related expense, etc. In fact, what if I had did my entire March spending tracker with different categories, and instead of having an “eating out” column, I’d have a “underconfident spending” column, a “thoughtless purchase” column, an “anxiety-induced spending” column, and maybe a “purchases made while attempting to live my best life” column. Going off this logic, I thought about what I’m most tempted to buy when I’m feeling down on myself, or when my confidence slips. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Food. In terms of lack of confidence-driven spending, food is at the top of my list because it is my go-to treat. I have heard people say to never opt for a food-related reward system, and I have never followed that advice. When I’m feeling down on myself, I know a meal out is something that will cheer me up. However, this is only a temporary fix, and only a brief way to push away any feelings of underconfidence. While I sometimes lean into this, I mostly try to shake it off by getting myself excited about cooking a really nice meal at home, because that’s an activity that will actually make me feel better.
2. Face products, or any sort of face-care products. Weirdly enough, this isn’t driven by a lack of confidence in the skin department; it’s driven by wanting a “miracle product” that can seemingly solve every problem. I go to the drug store about once a month (to pick up a prescription), and if I’m in a funk, it’s really hard to keep myself from the face-care aisle. I love drooling over the face creams and anything with exfoliating beads, because to me, their branding is so enticing, and buying one new product would give me the rush of positive energy we crave when we’re down on ourselves. I typically manage to talk myself out of this by simply remembering I have the exact same products at home. If this is a weakness area for you too, I would definitely recommend keeping a list of toiletry items you actually need, because it will help prove that you don’t need that second pot of under-eye cream.
3. Yoga classes. This satisfies two really low confidence areas for me: not working out, and not being calm. Not only am I an anxious person, but I also have a lot of insecurities about whether or not I’m working out enough. I used to be a competitive gymnast, and when I stopped prancing around in a leotard 16+ hours a week, I took up running cross country. I ran cross country meets for three years, and ran a half marathon. But in the last two years, I’ve been in the worst shape of my life, mostly thanks to the reality of demanding work, crazy commutes, and the general adjustment/learning curve that comes with joining the professional workforce. Whenever I feel like I need to be forced into exercise (which will make me feel healthier and calmer), I impulsively consider buying yoga classes for $100. (In fact, I followed through on this and bought a one-month trial membership. I went once during the 30-day period. It wasn’t a good investment.)
4. More produce than I can actually eat in a week. When I’m at the grocery store, I make fairly healthy choices: I eat a lot of vegetables, and while I like meat, I don’t need it in every meal, so I save that way, too. I don’t buy a ton of alcohol, other than the occasional six-pack or a bottle of wine. However, if I end up at the grocery store on a day when I’m questioning myself heavily (bad combination), I will end up overbuying in the produce aisle. Because apparently, there’s nothing that I think will cure my confidence more than tomatoes, spinach, or kale. Typically I shop with someone (my roommate or my boyfriend) which helps me only buy produce items that I will actually use, because letting produce go to waste just makes me feel worse.
5. Something I spotted in a friend’s wardrobe — past items have included a small leather purse, a flowy vest, ripped jeans, and clog heels. Nothing shakes my confidence like feeling like the way I dress or act is not good enough, not fancy enough, or not chic enough. Ordinarily, I wear clothes I feel good in, and that work for my body, and all is well. But every so often, I come across someone’s wardrobe that has everything mine doesn’t, and it bothers me for a hot sec. Of the low confidence-drive purchases that have come out of this, the vest and jeans have actually gotten a lot of use. The heels and the purse were mistakes, and I definitely did not need to buy them.
6. Organizational tools/office supplies. Home officespo is a dangerous thing for me to look at, because it will make me feel like I’m not living out my best freelance life. And that’s ridiculous, because the tidiness of my desk does not say anything about my work ethic, or my ability to get shit done on a deadline. And yet I’ve learned that any lack of career confidence should never be paired with a trip to Staples, because I don’t need more notebooks, more pens, or a protractor for my workspace.
7. Self-improvement apps. First, there was the time I was worried about the fact that I should be waking up earlier, and I bought an app that tracked my REM-cycle and woke me at the “right” time. It did not make me more confident, because it did not force me to go running at 7 AM, as I hoped it might. Then, there were the calorie counting apps which, thankfully, were free. I like the idea of calorie counting, especially when I’m not feeling confident because I’ve been very distracted by fried foods and chocolate for a couple of weeks. But whenever I download them, I either get obsessive, or forget about them completely. Either way, it’s not worth buying more storage space on my phone just to make way for my impulsive app choices.
8. Movie tickets. When I’m feeling underconfident, or even just feeling down, I am sometimes tempted to buy something that will completely distract me. I like movies for the same reason I like playing a lot of games (I am a game person, just FYI): it takes my mind off whatever problem is in my head completely. There are very few activities that will fully occupy my mind, such that I actually stop dwelling on things, and seeing a movie is one of them. On the negative side, seeing a money in a major city is not an affordable weekly activity. So this can be a temptation I give into once and a while, but I have to talk myself out of it more often than not. (My solution? Netflix and HBOGo. I know, so original.)
Image via Pexels