Mindful shopping

With Christmas quickly descending on us, it’s only too easy to spend too much money and make spur-of-the-moment purchases that we later regret. Getting caught up in the buzz and lights of the shops and stalls can push us into a frame of mind where the instant gratification of compulsive buying overrides our normal focus. In the past, I've often found myself wandering around the streets in a kind of trance, with a feeling of anxiety about what I should be buying and whether I've remembered everyone I 'needed' a gift for. Here are a few pointers to more mindful shopping:

  • Make a list, be alert and allow yourself enough time. Never shop when you are tired, as it’s easier to make bad choices then. If it’s not on your list, give yourself time to reflect before purchasing (whether you’re online or in the shops). Make sure you know why you are buying something (that it’s not just an impulse or fulfilling an emotional need) and how you will pay for it.
  • If you feel you ‘deserve’ to buy anything you like, question your inner motives. Shopping can never be an escape from painful emotions. Maybe treat yourself to a relaxing massage or have a coffee with a good friend instead.
  • Don’t worry if you’re on a tight budget. Your nearest and dearest will not think any less of you if your gifts are not brand new or pricey. Thoughtful and considered gifts are more important than expensive ones. Try making homemade food items; or buy good secondhand items or books from local charity shops; or design a gift voucher to volunteer your time for babysitting, gardening or car-washing, etc.
  • Our purchasing decisions help form the kind of community we live in. Think about supporting a local business or craftsperson. Give some thought to the manufacturing process, human labour and sustainability if these are important values to you.

You could also increase your self-awareness by exploring your motivation to buy all these things. Do you want the recipients' approval or praise? Do you believe that giving presents is what 'nice' or 'kind' people do? Do you feel you have to match (or exceed) what others buy for you? Are you a bit competitive about giving gifts? Would you feel let down if those you gave gifts to did not reciprocate? Does the process of shopping give you a rush of adrenaline? How would you feel if you didn't buy much this year or just gave tiny gifts? 

It’s time to get our priorities in perspective and stop being swayed by those with vested interests in parting us from our money. Try to add meaning to Christmas without too much added expense. Research has shown that people get more happiness from experiences (than objects), so focus on these instead. Meet up with people you care about; you can all bring food to share. Focus on creating happy times with families and friends as these will provide memories that you will all cherish and remember.