Are you shopping for the real you or the ideal you?
Written by Cait Flanders

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

For the last two years, I've been on a complete shopping ban. That means no new clothes, no shoes, no books or electronics. Nothing for two full years. I originally started the ban in an attempt to both save money and learn how to appreciate what I already had. While challenging at times, it ended up being a life-changing experiment because it taught me so much about my consumerist tendencies.

The greatest lesson came partway through the ban, when I looked around my home at all the stuff I had once shopped for and realized the reason it was collecting dust was because it was purchased for someone else: the ideal version of myself. There were clothes I wanted "professional Cait" to wear, books I wanted "smart Cait" to read, and projects and hobbies I wanted a "more interesting Cait" to enjoy.

I used to think I could buy things that would help me become the person I thought I should be, which is exactly what good marketing does. Products are created to solve problems. But by not accepting myself, I bought things I never used and wasted countless dollars.

In the last two years, I've learned the difference between buying something "the real you" needs and shopping for something "the ideal you" thinks you should have. To make sure you're always buying things for the real you, here are a few questions you can ask yourself.

1. Did you need it when you walked in the store?

If you think about it, every store is stocked with niche products that serve a purpose. You buy furniture at a furniture store, clothes at a clothing store and craft supplies at a craft store. The problem is when you walk into any store, even if you only intended to purchase one thing, it's easy to get sold on sale prices or things that catch your eye. The next time you find yourself thinking about buying something, ask yourself if that's why you walked into the store. If the answer is no, don't buy it — or at least not until you've answered the next two questions.

2. When are you going to use it?

Be honest with yourself when you answer this question: Will you actually use it right away, or will it go on a shelf for a while? It's easy to convince yourself that you'll read that book or learn about photography, but when are you actually going to make the time? If you can honestly say you've been waiting to buy it, will use it in the next two weeks, and it's in your budget, make the purchase. However, if you can't estimate when you'll make the time to use something, consider waiting 30 days and seeing if you still want it then.

3. What story are you telling yourself?

Finally, if you're still thinking about buying it, think back to your answers to the first two questions and try to figure out what story you've been telling yourself. Did you convince yourself the product would solve a problem? Did you tell yourself it would help you cross an item off your bucket list? Did you magically remember it's something you've wanted for years, but forgot about until today? Based on the story, only you can decide if it's a purchase worth making. Make sure you'll be happy with your decision.

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