Main Contents

Trying to limit my shopping madness: The program works!


Yesterday, I proposed a method to help control my shopping madness. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have some sort of plan when I head out on a shopping trip (online or offline), I tend to wander about aimlessly for a while and generally spend more money than I probably should. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes it’s fun to just wander around. But for those times when you need a more structured outing, then some kind of method or process might help.

That’s where my plan comes in. It’s a simple, four-step plan.

  1. Budget
  2. Prioritize
  3. Discriminate
  4. Enjoy

I went out yesterday to test out this method. So, how did it work?  It worked great! I was surprised at how well I stuck to it.

1. Budget

First, having a set budget was a good idea. I’m sure most of you shop with a budget in mind, but usually I just trust that I won’t spend “too much” without ever putting an exact value on what “too much” is. Yesterday, I put a dollar value on that. And I only spent $1.30 more than I budgeted, which I figure is pretty darn close, so it counts. Just keeping that number in mind (and knowing I was accountable to everyone who reads this blog) made me put back several items I didn’t really need or want.  Step 1: success.

2. Prioritize

This worked well, too. I had only one goal in mind yesterday – a pair of tailored denim walking shorts.  I tried on tons of pairs in various washes, lengths and styles in at least six stores.  I finally found a pair that were perfect at Banana Republic. And, they were on sale! So I still had money left over to buy three summer tops (second on my list, if there was money left in my budget). Since I started the trip knowing I needed to find these shorts, it was easier to walk past racks of pretty summer colors and head straight to the denim section.  Step 2: success.

3. Discriminate

This step was a bit harder for me.  Just walking into Banana Republic yesterday, it was hard not to get excited about all the cute summer dresses and breezy tops on display.  I tried on a ton of this stuff before I caught myself. I had to almost force myself to put back a few things.  I tried on a few dresses that, as I really thought about it, I decided I wouldn’t wear more than a few times, and given my budget on this trip, it would be smarter to buy a few tops I would wear more often. I actually had to just walk past White House/Black Market on this trip. Sometimes it’s better to not even go into the tempting stores.

Normally, this is where I usually give in and buy a bunch of other stuff. Maybe something is a good deal, a pretty color, or I convince myself I just might need it for something.  Yesterday, I put all of those items back. Just because a shirt is on sale for $15 does not mean I need it. I should instead spend those $15 on a better pair of shorts.  Today, I am happy I made those decisions because really, what do I need with a bright purple tube dress?  Step 3: tough, but a success.

4.  Enjoy

Shopping with strict rules can feel frustrating and restrictive. But it can also free you of the guilt related to spending too much on things you don’t really need.  Once I let go of the “well, maybe I’ll need it someday” mindset, it was easier to focus on my plan. I had a great time, and felt extra good when I got home and I had stuck to my budget and found the shorts I wanted. Step 4: success.

So, overall, this plan worked for me yesterday. It’s not like me to be so structured when shopping, and I was worried I’d feel like I had too many rules, but it actually was a good experience. So now I’m wondering, what am I missing? Are there are other things you consider when you shop? How do you keep yourself from going crazy and spending way too much?

UPDATE: I elaborated on the “science” behind this experiment on my personal blog, if you’re interested in the some of the more technical details.

Jenn @ June 23, 2008


  1. David Giesberg June 23, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

    Isn’t it great when that discipline works out?

    I had to resist yesterday when I was out running errands: Linens N Things at Parmer & I-35 is closing and they were marking down everything. We’re in the market for stuff we could find there on sale, but we resisted because the 20% off deal was the same deal we could get beforehand with a BBB coupon – so nothing really changed, but the artificial “urgency” of the sale tempted us to buy stuff that weren’t any cheaper than they would have been otherwise…

  2. Heather June 24, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

    Just wait til you have to shop for maternity clothes! I’ll start with a normal clothes budget (ex $30-60 for jeans) and then I am shocked when the maternity stuff cost way more than I expected (jeans $70-200). I guess with a limited market and competition it is easier to charge more. I like your tips though… happy shopping!

  3. Are you a hunter, a browser, or a howser? | Appozitegeist July 11, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

    […] may recall that I explored some of my personal issues with hunting vs. browsing in the great shopping experiment of ‘08. Browsing, though fun, is not a good way to be a productive shopper. Hunting, on the […]

Leave a comment