Pre-Purchase Structures at Home and on Vacation

The following is an email I received from reader Jamieson, who wrote to me in response to my recent post on shopping support structures.  Jamieson shared some of the structures she has in place to prevent overshopping, and she also related a recent success story of how she shopped more consciously while vacationing in a location that is known for its incredible shopping. I was inspired by Jamieson’s story and asked if I could share it with all of you.  Thankfully, she not only said yes but also sent me some fabulous photos to accompany this post. 

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I have been working on my own version of “pre-purchase structures” and I thought maybe you might be interested in hearing about them. Your blog has definitely informed my journey away from “grasp-y” consumerism, so thank you. My biggest pre-purchase structure I now have in place is that I pretty much always check in with my husband first before buying anything. I was resistant to do this for so long because it felt too much like I had to ask permission or something weirdly patriarchal. But really, it’s more about being honest with your life partner and best friend, and surprisingly it feels more like a relief than anything else.

Belt alteration

Jamieson getting a belt altered on the spot in Marrakesh. 

I think I always knew deep down inside that I was lying to myself and isolating myself with my shopping. Now I’m not alone and I can truly celebrate the few purchases that I do make. However, that also means that my husband gets to hear me whine about the purchases I “miss out” on!

Traveling to a Popular Shopping Locale

Shopping for clothes at a souk in Marrakesh

Shopping for clothes at a souk in Marrakesh.

We recently traveled to Marrakesh of all places, not the best vacation spot for someone with compulsive shopping issues! The thing to do there is shop in the souks, where there are amazing handmade leather bags, carpets, etc. My saving graces in this environment were my determination to always have my husband with me and to enact “power pauses” frequently. I was amazed at how empowering it was to put something down and say, “I’ll have to think about it,” and then keep walking as the shop seller followed me out with lower and lower prices. It was a new experience for sure.

purchasing raw indigo

Jamieson purchasing raw indigo for a friend.

Several times, we walked away from a souk where I would have easily bought twice as much, but we had decided that buying in small amounts was important. We wound up spending more time shopping, but in so doing, we were able to open our eyes to the other aspects of the experience like talking to the makers, stopping to eat fruit from a cart, listening to music on the street, noticing the architecture, etc. This really helped me to remember that there is more to the shopping experience than grabbing every item I want.

The Results of My New Measured Approach

There were some great results of this measured approach in that I got several top-notch quality items I probably wouldn’t have even seen if we hadn’t been going so slowly. We bought a few larger items, like a couple of hand woven carpets because we were making the purchase decisions together.  In the past, I would have blown the same amount of money and more on small trinkets by lying to myself and saying that they didn’t count.

shoes in a Marrakesh souk

A variety of shoes available to buy in a Marrakesh souk.

Now that we are back home, there is definitely regret that I didn’t manage to buy a couple of specific items that I walked away from while promising myself I would come back…. and couldn’t. So dealing with that “grief” is what I am processing right now, but fondling all the great things I did get is a more rewarding experience because I took my time to shop wisely. For instance, my vintage handmade leather satchel that I got for $95 is so much more than a bag.  I have fond memories of the two hours I spent in a tiny souk with my husband and a sweet old Muslim gentleman, drinking tea and talking about everything.

handmade berber carpet bag

A handmade berber carpet bag that a merchant tried to sell to Jamieson.  

I hope you liked hearing about my Marrakesh vacation.   It was a challenging experience that really helped me to re-wire some of my shopping habits.

A big thank you to Jamieson for sharing her story with me and agreeing to have it published here. If you have any thoughts regarding this story or would like to share similar experiences, please feel free to comment.  I will be back later this week with my October accountability update (see previous installments here). 

11 thoughts on “Pre-Purchase Structures at Home and on Vacation

  1. i love this! thank you both for sharing.

    Jamieson, you make a good point about how we can be prone to “grieve” lost purchases and one tactic to counteract this is enjoying/focusing on the wonderful thing(s) we did buy. i also think it’s a good thing to experience in that eventually, you realize you can “live without it”, you move on, you gain perspective… reminds me of a line from U2’s “Beautiful Day” – what you don’t have, you don’t need it now. (oddly the line sometimes irks me but also rings true 🙂 )

    Debbie, so sorry you are having a flare-up of symptoms :/ so frustrating, i know. hope you can do whatever it takes to take good care and put yourself first, and that you improve soon. xo

    • I remember that line from the song, Claire. It’s so true! I have also grieved lost purchases and I agree that it is best to focus on what we do have. I often forget what I didn’t buy not long afterwards, but there can be those things that we have a harder time letting go of. Thank you for your kind words about my health. I know that you know all too well how hard it can be. I hope you are doing better, too. Virtual hugs to you…

  2. What a lovely article. I recently started to include my husband in shopping decisions & it has made a significant difference in the quality of purchases & more importantly the resultant enjoyment of the item. Funny story for you Debbie – your last email arrived on my husbands iPad. i was woken up by a concerned hubby asking how bad my problem was. We had just watched a nurse Jackie episode & it transpired hubby thought Debbie from Shopaholic was my sponsor! Moi giggling hysterically didn’t immediately eleviate his worries. I should add he is a financial advisor who regularly hears confessions of secret credit card debt from his female clients which doesn’t help haha

    • Love the story, Sharon! It’s good that your husband is so supportive and concerned for you. How great that involving him in shopping decisions is helping you to make better purchases and enjoy what you buy more. I’m sure he hears a lot given his type of work. There should be 12-step groups for compulsive shopping! There is Debtors Anonymous, but that is a little different. I sometimes get help from my husband on purchases. If he is with me when I am shopping, he will challenge me to pick just one or two things instead of getting everything I’m contemplating buying. That can be hard, but I think it is good practice for me to narrow things down.

  3. This was a great article to share!

    I have certainly noticed that whenever I feel like hiding my purchases from my husband, I’m buying things I don’t need, spending more than I should or just using shopping as a pacifier for bad feelings. On trips I also actually always consult with my husband but not when we’re at home. I have had actually wonderful experiences while doing this where he forces me to question buying things I don’t absolutely love, that don’t seem good enough quality for the price or that I already have one version of. What perhaps has stopped me from taking this on as a continuing habit myself, is that my husband is VERY frugal. So in some ways I fear if I always asked him I would have to justify my purchases so much it would take all the fun out buying. But perhaps my fear is unwarranted because it’s money I’ve earned myself and generally he doesn’t mind how I use it as long as I still can afford my half of the living costs. And perhaps taking the fun out of shopping actually wouldn’t be a bad thing! There are many more fun things in life in the end, could focus on more immaterial ones for a change.

    Perhaps I should bite the bullet and re-introduce this habit of checking in with my husband (or someone at least, before I got married it was my sister) before I make any purchases over let’s say 40 dollars or so. Gave me some food for thought!

    • Thank you for your comment, Raleigh. I’m glad you liked this post and that it gave you food for thought. It did for me, too. My experience is very similar to yours. I tend to do better with my purchases when I consult with my husband, as he asks me powerful questions which help me to make more appropriate choices. Like you, I don’t consult with him all the time, often because he isn’t around. I do think it’s good to have someone who will support us in being wiser and more conscious shoppers. Perhaps you can try consulting with your husband on all bigger purchases for a few months and see how it goes for you. Best wishes!

  4. Shopping on vacation like that is hard for me. It’s hard to know what will fit in back home.
    I think the bag is really interesting and the kind of purchase you won’t be running into right and left at home.

    • I agree, Ginger. I have a hard time shopping on vacation, too, and often make mistakes in such instances. What makes it harder, too, is that we can’t return vacation purchases. I think that if we stop to ask ourselves a few questions (like Bridgette Raes’ staple, “Where are you going in that?”), we will stand a better chance of making good choices, but it is tricky for sure…

  5. My partner is very helpful at both dissuading me from buying poor quality or unnecessary things, and encouraging me, if we both really like the item, to spend more than I would normally do on something that really works. This is great for helping me move towards fewer/better. Although sometimes I miss rummaging through sales and bargain bins, I know this has just wasted lots of my time, time that would be much spent in going for a walk together, visiting and exhibition – well just about anything!

    • I enjoyed reading about Jamieson’s experience, too, Alice. I wrote a post awhile back on an experience of vacation shopping and how I have changed since writing the blog: I used to want to shop any chance I got on vacation and otherwise, and I missed out on a lot of other experiences as a result. How wonderful that Jamieson was able to find a way to still enjoy shopping while also taking in more of the experience with her husband and enjoying the culture. It’s definitely a balancing act and something I am still learning!

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