I usually find myself roaming the mall without a purpose, stopping into stores and going home with lots of small purchases – most of the time with more than I actually need. I recently noticed that I’ve accumulated a ridiculous number of bath and beauty products, which are now piling up on a side table in the corner of my office. As a student my budget doesn’t stretch very far, and that has made me re-evaluate what I consider a want and a need. I now have to ask myself – Do I really need this? How I ended up with five generous blocks of LUSH soap is beyond me. I have embarked on a little project; to use everything I own before purchasing anything new. This has been ongoing for about month or so, and I continue to play by my rules until every product I’ve been hoarding is gone. The main challenge of this project is not to deprive myself of anything I really need. I try to find a happy medium between staying budget conscious, and not compromising on the quality of the products I buy.
My obsession with shopping started when I was a teenager. I had a very affectionate grandmother who loved taking me to lunch each week, followed by an afternoon of shopping. In high school, I tried to stay current with the latest fashion and beauty trends and always kept a part-time job to pay for my habit. Until recently, I’ve felt free to buy whatever I want, but I knew I had to stop or I’d end up like a character in a Sophie Kinsella novel.
However, shopping wasn’t always something I loved to do. I can remember a time when I loathed it, dragging my feet through department stores following my mother around, or playing games in racks of clothing. My turning point was being a teenage girl at a public high school, combined with my mother’s great fashion sense. Now shopping seems to be therapeutic, kind of like an escape. I shop when I’m sad, happy, or frustrated, or if I need something for an upcoming event. I am a distracted shopper. Sales entice me, like signs for Buy One, Get Two Free. Why would I buy one? It only seems to make sense to pick up three. I’d rather shop alone than in a group. My boyfriend however shops with purpose. He goes into the mall knowing what he wants, and leaves immediately after he’s found what he needs. We don’t go shopping together often.
The rise in online shopping has only worsened my addiction. Now it’s not only about makeup or clothing, but everything else; books, magazine subscriptions, home décor, pet supplies, and much more. It’s so easy to search for coupon codes online and most websites offer free shipping if you spend over a certain dollar amount. I now own tons of books that I don’t even have time to read; all because I needed a third book to qualify for free standard shipping. Everything I could ever want is now only a click away and I don’t have to sit in maddening rush-hour traffic on the 417, or be confined to stores’ hours of operation. Heck, I can even online shop in my pajamas.
To stay competitive, most department stores now carry just about everything. Awhile ago I noticed Canadian Tire carries select grocery items. Are you shopping for a new bike, but just remembered you need to pick up milk? Don’t worry, Canadian Tire has it all. Talk about the challenges of impulse buying. I also don’t find comfort in buying my dairy at the same place I buy motor oil. Grocery stores are known for placing small items like magazines and candy next to the checkout lines, most of which are marked up substantially, targeting forgetful or impulsive customers. This all plays into buying more and more junk.
But I think the hardest part of this project is finding the inner strength to identify what I really need versus what I want. I have to look at my purchases with a more critical eye. Yes I need to buy food, but I don’t need that scented candle I found in the home décor section in the back of Loblaws. I’ve also learned to save for bigger purchases, like a new dining-room table and chairs which I finally bought this past January. It has definitely been a struggle changing my ways. I still visit the mall, but now I’m browsing rather than buying. Out of all the things I continuously purchase though, clothing never seems to pile up since I regularly donate what I no longer wear each spring. Seeing that pile of beauty products lined up on that table in my office has served as motivation throughout this project. Seeing my bank account balance keeps me smiling as well.
With her inviting style, Elizabeth shows a real grasp of "voice." She writes thoughtfully but accessibly, as if speaking to the widest possible audience. – Katrina Onstad