Think before you spend; how does this help?

Written by Lisa Pallavi Barbora

Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a Senior Consultant for Content at WFAN. Lisa is also a founder of In her earlier avatar, she was a National Writer and Consultant for HT Mint - a premier business journal in India.

February 19, 2022

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Sometimes, when I have had a hard day or a bad week, nothing calms the nerves like some retail therapy. Good or not, I live next door to a huge mall, which means access is easy. This means indulging in retail therapy is also easy.

The thing is that if I indulge too often, well the therapy gets overused. When we overuse anything, the magic we first felt, starts to wear off. However, this is not a simple dilemma because shopping and spending are so tempting. The way to manage this, like almost everything else in life, is balance. Balance out the money, time and the temptation to achieve a joyful, yet tempered spending experience

When it comes to spending, the balance comes from just bringing in a pause before you pay.

Whether it is a supermarket, digital or physical, or an apparel store or any other place where the choice is overwhelming, tempting you to get multiple things instead of just what you need when you stop before you pay and relook at your basket, you will realise there are several things you can do without.

Just stop, and think. Review the basket. Then pay.

Indulgence can be therapy but it needn’t be mindless.

Here are three ways in which you can spend meaningfully on your wants, get the retail therapy you need and not feel anxious or guilty about overspending.

1. Set a limit

Setting limits is a good way to work with money. While buying shares, for example, you are allowed to set a limit price so that your requirements are considered. Similarly, why not have a limit when you go shopping. You can have a limit on the number of items you purchase or the total value.

Often when I go for my own retail therapy and walk into this apparel store which I love to shop at, it helps me to put a limit on the number of clothes I buy from there. I know there is no point in putting a rupee budget because I can easily overshoot it. Once I have reached my limit of number of items, anything additional is looked at with greater scrutiny.

Do I really want this? Will I really wear it? Do I have to buy it this month?

These are some of the questions I ask myself about the additional purchases and more often than not, in fact, almost always, I walk away feeling satisfied with my top purchases and zero temptation to buy anything else. A different sort of limit might work for you, use what works and see the transformation.

With a pre-determined limit on the number of items or on the value, whichever works for you, your mind will be prepared and you’ll find that reasons for wanting or buying more simply fade away.

2. Manage your time

Rarely do I take an entire day’s break for shopping. Usually, my shopping is between two unmissable events during the day. Sure, I can hack it because the mall is next door, but also the trip to the mall becomes that much more purposeful. When I am time-bound, I visit only a select few stores which I am more inclined to buy from, rather than walking into each and every shop.

This also means I spend lesser time in each store, so the purchases are quick and tidy.

Not allowing yourself too much time in the mall is a good way to keep your spending in check.

There are many of us who may be going to the mall as a weekend outing. Nothing wrong with that, given that sometimes a city has only a few recreational activities over the weekend. Strolling through malls is a good way to see the crowds and feel invigorated by being part of them. It is also a good way to overspend money which is better utilised in a more meaningful way. Instead, try to choose more physical activities and family events over the weekend, leaving you less time for shopping and overspending.

The same holds true if you are shopping online; allowing yourself the luxury of time while indulging in a heavy expenditure activity can invariably lead to overspending on things that you simply won’t value for long.

3. Needs vs wants

This is not your traditional needs versus wants discussion because retail therapy is rarely going to be about needs. You are perhaps, out there to buy your fourth handbag or fifth pair of denim. This needs versus wants is more about understanding whether you are making a purchase because it is something you are looking for or alternatively is it because you saw your neighbour wearing it and thought it looked great.

It’s not really your style of clothing or shoes or home décor, but you know it looked so nice in their house or on them, you must have it too. Such wants can really corrupt your spending pattern. Mostly, after you buy it, you will realise that not only does it not suit you or your home, it is actually something you even dislike, hence, are not going to use at all.

Keep your spending to what you like, rather than wanting what others have bought. You don’t know how your neighbour copes with things she has overbought or whether she feels anxious after overspending on expensive running shoes, which she only wears during her evening stroll.

It’s best to think of your needs and the suitability that works for you, rather than blindly desiring what others have, just to keep up appearance.

Another hack is going alone for shopping, there is minimal pressure to overspend and chances are you will get bored soon and head back home. Managing your spending habit is not hard to do if you put some thought into it. You just have to follow simple rules and limits, to ensure that you efficiently use your money to bring joy and satisfaction to your life. Just think before you spend!

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