Pitfalls of August Shopping

August is here and although it brings the end of the Nordstrom sale, it also brings a new wave of impulses urging us to shop. As our vacations end and we begin winding down the long summer days, the beat of drums rise slowly inside our minds as an onslaught of August related shopping triggers attack.

First, there is the lure of the End of Season Sale. Our email inboxes begin to overflow with songs of SALE! SALE! SALE! All our favorite stores are singing the same tune and it sure is catchy! Suddenly, we have caught the Summer Sale Fever! Everywhere I turn there are great deals which are very, very hard to resist. An aquamarine off the shoulder dress for 40% off..how can you NOT buy it? Those Vince Camuto sandals that were not a perfect fit last month somehow seem like they might be "just fine" now that they are 30% off! Of course there is no time to think about it - if I don’t buy them right away it may be gone tomorrow!

The second shopping attack we face in August is the Back To School Syndrome. I remember as a child, my mother and I always enjoyed shopping in August for new outfits which I couldn’t wait to wear. The new school year always offered a fresh start, similar to January 1st and the arrival of a New Year. Both times of the year are filled with wishes and hopes for the months ahead. It’s no wonder we yearn to shop when August rolls around and all the commercials on TV, magazine ads, and online emails remind us that the start of a new school year is quickly approaching and we must be ready with new things. Whether your inner child desires to relive past great memories of back to school shopping or wishes to fix negative memories (perhaps you never got to buy new school items but always yearned for them), you may feel the strong urge to shop for new clothing and more.

The last shopping attraction that prevails in August is the arrival of the pre-season Fall clothing lines. I love Fall clothing and I love buying it when it’s still warm out. I like to hang them in my closet just so I can see them, touch them and look forward to wearing them. I believe having new beautiful items hanging there, waiting for me, help make the end of summer more bearable. My late summer thoughts drift to knowing that soon I’ll have to hug my older children goodbye as I drop them off at college, then get back into my routine of waking up early to get my son fed and on the bus, helping with common core math homework, cooking lackluster dinners, and knowing that cold winter is right around the corner. So shopping for soft, cashmere sweaters, warm suede boots and a new fall coat helps to soften the emotional pain that comes with the end of summer.

What can we do to prevent ourselves from compulsive shopping in August? How can we help ourselves to discern what makes sense to buy and what doesn’t? Here are some thoughts to consider before making any purchases:

  1. Shop with a plan. Take a good inventory of what you already have and create your list of items that would complement your closet. Don’t head to the mall unprepared or start clicking online aimlessly. Make a list and be very specific. Instead of writing down black sweater, you should list details like “scoop neck, black, cashmere sweater that is tunic length with bell sleeves”. It would also be useful to set a maximum price you are willing to spend on each item.

  2. Ask yourself if you really need it. If you love that green and yellow maxi dress with the palm tree design on it, but truly have no purpose for it in your closet then take a pass. You might think it will be great to save the dress for next summer, but remind yourself that by then your style could change, your size might be different or you may no longer like palm tree prints.

  3. Think about whether you would really buy it if it weren’t on sale. Buying something just because the price is great is never a good reason to spend money. The only time this would make sense is if you’ve been saving up for an item and were patiently waiting for it to go on sale before you could afford it. But, let's face it, us overshoppers rarely have such patience. So chances are if you lived without it when it was $200, you can still live without it even if it’s now $100.

  4. It’s not a deal if you end up paying credit card interest charges. I never thought much about the interest I was being charged on my credit cards, but in truth it was anywhere from 18% to 24%. When you are carrying a balance over into the next month you are charged high interest rates and these charges can quickly negate any savings the sale provided. In fact, if you are carrying a high balance for several months you could end up paying more than the original non-sale price!

  5. Pause before pulling the purchase trigger. Put some time in between the shopping urge and the shopping action. If you are at the mall, you can walk out of the store for a coffee break (or ice cream), or even call a friend. If you are online then shut the computer and go for a walk or move on to do something else. Often times, simply waiting will provide sense to whether or not you must have an item.

  6. Find ways to distract yourself from shopping and fulfill your desires without shopping. We shop for many reasons. We may use it to build our self-esteem or gain the esteem of others. We may shop for a sense of belonging, out of boredom or to fill voids in our lives. For me, I have mostly over shopped to fill a personal void I felt for many years after I gave up my career to be a stay at home mom. While I wouldn’t change a thing, I know now that I struggled to define who I was outside of wife and mother. I allowed shopping to fill that void. I still shop for other reasons too and it’s important for us all to stop and think about what we are feeling inside when the urge to shop occurs. If you can identify what you are feeling then you can choose another action besides shopping to fulfill the need. For me, taking writing classes and starting this blog has helped to give me purpose outside of my family life. If I’m bored, I’ll now look to read one of the many books I have, or I’ll take the time to call a relative or friend. If I’m feeling emotional, I try to take a walk or do yoga to relax. These techniques may not always work, but often they do and I find myself dealing with my urges much better than I once did.

Dr. April Benson suggests asking yourself 6 key questions before any shopping purchase. They are:

  1. Why am I here?

  2. How do I feel?

  3. Do I need this?

  4. What if I wait?

  5. How will I pay for it?

  6. Where will I put it?

Taking the time to ask these questions provides a PAUSE and allows us to think more clearly about the purchase. You can write the questions on a piece of paper or small laminated card (credit card size) and keep it in your wallet by your credit card or taped to your computer.

Stopping Overshopping, LLC, founded by Dr. April Benson, now offers a guided self-help coaching package to assist all compulsive shoppers to become more mindful shoppers. The package includes an app that you can access at anytime from your phone, tablet or computer. When you have a shopping urge you open the app where you’ll be prompted to answer the 6 questions listed above. Each time you use the app you gather insight into what you are feeling at the moment, along with providing yourself that much needed pause. The data about your shopping urges is collected and you will learn how to analyze your data and set up an action plan for yourself. A 45 minute consultation, with a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in shopping issues, is included with the package. For more detailed information on this service, including pricing, visit https://www.shopaholicnomore.com/guided-self-help-for-when-the-urge-strikes/

I will be using this app and trying to implement all the ideas mentioned above while I find my way through August. I am going to avoid purchasing any summer sale clothing items and will focus on putting together my Fall shopping list which I will share once I complete it. Please send me an email or leave a comment if you have any other ideas on how to stay strong and mindful during August shopping urges. I truly enjoy receiving your comments and emails!

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