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Living / Shopping Smart

How I Went From Total Shopaholic To Mindful Spender (While Being Surrounded by Temptation)

By Thursday, November 12, 2020

“It’s simple: when you’re writing about products with the end goal of persuading people to buy something — sometimes, you end up persuading yourself it’s meant for you to buy it too.”

When you used to use shopping as a coping mechanism for just about anything that emotionally ailed you (anxiety, stress, PMS, self-doubt, an episode of This Is Us, etc.) as well as a means of rewarding yourself (like exceeding your goals at work, meeting a deadline ahead of schedule, getting paid, or going three days in a row without weeping), it’s a weird move to take on a job as a shopping editor. 

And yet, I did.

A little over three months ago, I accepted a position to run a parenting website’s shopping vertical. Most of the work entails a lot of research on baby formulas, toddler accessories, and breast pumps. While I’m strictly a pet-parent at the moment, some of the work also includes scouring the best deals on the internet for all people, not just moms and dads, including: furniture sales, beauty sales, clothing and accessory sales, kitchen sales — you name it. I spend hours scrolling through products I think might speak to my website’s audience, as well as what people might also be googling. It’s basically what I used to do for fun, but now I’m getting paid to do it, along with a lot of data-mining and reports involved.

But to say it’s not tempting to casually add a couple of products into my cart would be a lie. My biggest “test” so far was covering Amazon’s Prime Day. For two whole days, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., I hunted the best deals, including toys, kitchen appliances, vacuums, beauty supplies, clothing, and tech. I even nearly bought a Stila eyeliner that was on super sale but reminded myself I had *just* purchased the same one from Sephora a couple weeks ago. I did — and still do — all of this non-stop. An editor and I joked that we should be allowed a break so that we ourselves could shop some of these “Lightning Deals,” which are deals that only last for a few hours and have a limited inventory, so you’re encouraged to quickly add items to your cart before they sell out.

In the final few hours of Prime Day, I really thought about buying everything from a new skillet that was marked down 40%, a cordless vacuum that was 30% off, and new speakers I didn’t actually need that were 25% off! As someone who used to hunt deals and use multiple browser extensions to get the very best price for I wanted, I nearly caved in and bought the damn things.  Almost. 

In the end, a lack of sleep coupled with product research fatigue was probably what kept me from simply clicking on products and purchasing them. That, and knowing I literally could not afford a $500 vacuum, and nor did I need one. I don’t even like vacuuming. But when you’re writing about products with the end goal of persuading people to buy something, sometimes, you end up persuading yourself it’s meant for you to buy it too. Maybe with a cordless vacuum, I’ll learn to love vacuuming. Or, Maybe if I love vacuuming then my house will always be clean, and if my house is always clean, won’t I be more productive?

In the end, I didn’t buy the vacuum. I didn’t buy anything. I closed by laptop at 10 p.m. on the last day of Prime, congratulated myself on not actually buying anything, and fell asleep.

Aside from sheer willpower alone, these three things also help me not buy everything in sight, and on sites:

1. Keeping my credit cards away when I’m on my work laptop

I could easily enter my card information in and re-add all my browser extensions like Rakuten and Honey, but I choose not to. That way, it’s much more of an effort to actually buy something on impulse. Instead of just being one quick click away from buying something, I’d have to get up, go rummage through my bag to find my wallet, and so forth.

2. Knowing there’s always a sale makes sales less appealing

While Prime Day was happening, Target, Walmart and several other large brands were having major (and honestly, better) sales. It became clear to me that there was no urgency to shop. If I really need or want something that badly, I know now that I’ll inevitably find it on sale again. 

3. Being forced to read all the reviews for products has made me a pickier shopper

While I’d casually scroll through reviews, I’d never let them stand in the way of my purchase. Now that I have to sift through hundreds of reviews and descriptions, and knowing more about the products has made them far less appealing. It’s kind of like when you finally go on a date with someone you’ve been crushing on and after hearing them talk about themselves for an hour, you realize, ‘You’re not that great.’

4. I don’t get free samples sent to me to review

From storage containers to skincare products, I’ll occasionally get free stuff sent to me with the hopes that I feature the brand’s products on the site. It’s an awesome perk I’m super grateful for, and it’s also helped quell the desire to shop for the sake of getting something in the mail. With more and more stuff in my life, the more I’ve realized I don’t need more things.

Sometimes, I do inspire myself when I’m reviewing products and will make a note to myself to bookmark items I genuinely like and feel like investing in. But it’s rare, and I generally wait a week before I decide whether or not to click the “Purchase” button. I ask myself questions like, “Why do you actually want to buy this?” and “Are you sure you don’t have something similar in your closet already?” Ironically, during my three months as a shopping editor, I’ve done less shopping than I have in years.

And I plan on keeping it this way.

Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

Image via Unsplash

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