6 Ways to “Go Shopping” Without Actually Spending Any Money

published Sep 8, 2019
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Credit: Anna Spaller

Retail therapy. Whether you indulge or restrain yourself, the reason it’s even a phrase (and the name of a newsletter) is that many of us find some kind of solace in shopping. Leaving aside the psychological underpinning of the “hobby” and the question of whether it’s healthy or harmless, we can all agree on one thing: Shopping purely as recreation is not so great for finances.

Many times, after that high of obtaining things is gone, the guilt of spending money and acquiring more stuff sets in. So if you’re working on spending less and you want to get off the roller coaster of shopping followed by buyer’s remorse, that shop-a-holic habit has got to go.

Rather than quit cold turkey and set yourself up for failure, here are some ways to scratch that shopping itch without spending a dime.

Here are some smart ways to “shop” without spending money:

Set up Subscribe & Save for items you would buy anyway

By setting up automatic deliveries for household items you buy regularly, you’re not only eliminating items from your grocery list, but you could end up saving money, to boot. If you subscribe to five or more items on Amazon, you save 15 percent. And “outsourcing” your shopping like this will help you feel just a bit more on top of your household affairs.

Add items to Wish Lists

Many shopping apps and sites have a way to heart items or add them to your favorites. This way, you can browse and “do something” with (other than buy!) the items that catch your eye. It’s like window shopping with a friend, but not spending a thing.

Set up CamelCamelCamel alerts for items you’ve been thinking of purchasing on Amazon

For items that you’re thinking of springing for (right now, this carpet cleaner is on my radar), looking up the price history on CamelCamelCamel lets you know what price you should expect to pay for a good deal, and lets you set email alerts to know when the price dips down in the future. The site gives you the pause you need to so you don’t pull the trigger on impulse buys and also lets you know when is a good time to responsibly make that purchase. (In the meantime, budget for it.)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Shop for deals, coupons, or upcoming sales that might be coming up for bigger purchases you need or want to make

For instance, you know you’ll be needing a new washer and dryer soon, but rather than a “let’s just go look and see” browsing trip that ends up in a successful (for the store) sales pitch and a large purchase you weren’t quite ready to make, research online (with your credit card safely across the room) to explore which models are the best options and when and where you might score the best price.

Set up savings goals or budget categories to fund your purchases before you make them

Instead of seeing something and wanting it and getting it, take action on a desire by setting up a budget category so you can save for it. You may find that once you actually have the cash for it, you don’t even want it anymore.

Make a mood board for a space you’re dreaming about re-doing

These are fun. If shopping for home decor is your weakness, creating a mood board may make you even happier than actually shopping. You can make mood boards with basic Photoshop skills, or, even easier, pin things to an inspirational Pinterest board.