Contributing to a Financial Independence blog kind of makes it appear like I have my stuff together. Like I’m frugal, organised and careful with money. I’m like that sometimes. But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t make poor financial decisions on a regular basis (mostly daily).
The guest on the podcast, Anthony Ongaro, author of Break the Twitch, was completely right. He had changed his life and imposed a shopping ban after realising his “one click” purchases on Amazon had cost him £12,000 in only a couple of years.
He realised that he bought things to get himself out of momentary discomfort. We buy something to rid ourselves of temporary inconvenience or to get a hit or dopamine. Until the next issue crops up for us to solve with the click of a button…
I realised when listening that I do that too. There’s usually one of three causes for most of my online shopping: I’m either bored, tired, or anxious. Often a mixture of all three.
I’ve nicknamed this the Twitch.
Bored? Buy something.
My danger zone (hearing Kenny Loggins) is my commute. I listen to music or a podcast. But my mind roams. I end up flicking through my phone. My Pinterest (and my browsing history) is full of home decor and professional organisers’ pages. Beautiful but envy-inducing.
Pre-coffee, my mind wanders. I get that little flash of jealousy and then I click-through to the website. Either that or I go and browse John Lewis, Dunelm or M&S for something similar.
The worst thing is I’ll often buy something and then forget I did so. Mr YFG gets a surprise package at home. He opens the parcels for me dutifully and never questions the purchase. I mean unless it’s a frigging live parrot or something (p.s. that hasn’t happened… yet).
Out of guilt sometimes I gift it (realising I don’t want it any more) or I save it for another day. It ends up a year later in the charity shop.
Low self worth? Buy something.
It’s dangerous to scroll through Instagram these days. I see a blogger or another woman with a beautiful outfit (most likely a stylist with tonnes of money). I think “I would love to look like that, if I bought that outfit I might feel better”. The post is usually tagged with the shop. I get the Twitch. Off I go into the online shopping underworld.
The most dangerous trigger for me is skincare. Entering my mid-twenties sent my hormones and my skin into meltdown. I’ve spent the past five years buying promise after promise. Ridiculous amounts of money in the hope of “fixing” myself. I’ve spent hours of my life and thousands of hard-earned pounds trying to rectify my (in my eyes) awful flaws.
Skin looks shit? Let’s buy some overpriced serum or cleanser to help with that. I’ve already spoken at length about how my low self worth costs me thousands of pounds a year.
Around £350 worth of products in my bathroom cabinets right now. Some never used/opened. Most bought in the hope they will “fix” my face. This is a fraction of the products I’ve bought over the past year.
If I feel uncomfortable or fat in a certain piece of clothing, or frustrated that something doesn’t fit right, I banish it to the back of my wardrobe and logon to try to find something to replace it. I’m still in search of that one piece of clothing that is comfortable and makes me not feel shit about myself.
Feel guilty? buy flowers
I love to give and receive fresh flowers, and the Bloom & Wild app is one of the most dangerous (expensive) apps on my phone.
Unfortunately, flowers are something easy to send when I feel guilty. Guilty that I cancelled plans, or can’t go to a housewarming, or haven’t visited a sick friend. I am usually at work most of my life. So I can’t always be where I want to be. The Twitch appears. A few clicks on my phone and that uncomfortable guilt is temporarily gone. Along with £25 permanently. The recipient will love them, but that’s not the point.
I can spend easily £70-80 a month if there’s a few birthdays, new homes, babies or engagements. At our age our friends are prolific so it’s monthly.
Unfortunately, I do this and not deal with the issue at hand. I feel guilty for saying no and a bad person for not being present for my friends.
Home doesn’t feel luxurious enough? Buy reed diffusers and candles
I have an obsession with nice smelling expensive shit. Both Mr YFG and I enjoy our home smelling fancy. I spend around £50 a month on candles and diffusers. ESPA, Diptyque, Anthropologie.
Yes, I am completely aware that this is literally pissing away money. I justify it by saying I could have spent it on having my nails or my hair done or on eating out. And it’s something that genuinely gives me joy.
But I will not pretend I haven’t bought these things after scrolling through home decorating pictures on Instagram. I see a nice home, realise it’s a home I will never have, and promptly the Twitch nags me to buy something fancy just because I can. So that I can show off a £40 candle in my front room. Our house is lovely and we have everything we need. But it’s not like a home out of a magazine – I get house envy on a regular basis.
But I’m getting better….
I’m better than I was. My purchasing now at least results in things I use, or want to use (most of the time…)
There are a few things that help:
- Wait 24 hours. Often I find that after closing a browser window, I never reopen it or go back to that purchase.
- Buy on your debit card or in cash where you can. The immediate loss of money (as opposed to the delay from a credit card) often stings more than just swiping my phone or credit card.
- Don’t save login or card information on websites. This means you have to type in your login and credit card details each time. You’d be surprised how the thought of this 1-2 minute task puts me off. I lose interest and close the browser window. This probably shows my impatience and pure laziness. But it demonstrates how easy it is to make a purchase without noticing – and how retailers prey on the Twitch auto-pilot.
- It’s powerful to imagine purchases in units of time rather than money. I’ve worked out I earn (post-tax) about £25 an hour. A £50 purchase is two more hours at work. Often that thought will make the purchase not worth it (or I might be prepared to pay that price). Either way, it’s a hurdle you place in front of mindless purchases.
- If you can, disable Apple Pay, contactless or those other methods of easy spending. I’ve lost count of the times having to drag my purse out of the bottom of my bag has been too grim a thought to order a coffee. Again, my laziness is epic.