Thursday, November 27, 2014

Shop Like a Pilgrim

My family doesn't observe Thanksgiving. Considering how Ma makes her chicken soup with turkey legs, we get sufficient gobble-gobble year round. Plus that gratitude thing is in our daily Amidah, so we are happy to have an excuse not to cook exponentially, yet again. 

But, like any red-blooded Hungarian, I have my eye on the holiday sales. No Black Friday for me—I would like to live to see another day—yet I keep a careful eye on possible reductions.
My shopping style has evolved over the years. The whole pastime did not interest me until my late teens, and it took time to calculate what is a valid buy. 

Initially, I made the fatal error that cheap = purchase it. If insanely reduced = MUST purchase it! But what simply resulted was a backlog of unwearable attire that was too soon ushered into the charity thriftstore. 

Every item under consideration now undergoes strict mathematical computations. What purpose does this item serve? Will it be worn enough? Is the fabric and construction of sufficient quality to the price? For how much it costs, is the potential use valid? Does it require alteration? Much or little? Do I have to rehaul my wardrobe to match other items to it?

Like I have said, shopping is a sport, involving speed, stamina, and savvy.

Now, a suggestion from David DeSteno on "How to Defeat the Impulse Buy": Gratitude. 

Aw, shucks. 

Humankind has a tendency to indulge in immediate gratification, and that's how "they" get you. So what to do? Invoke Thanksgiving. 
Of course we can. We all have a proclivity for immediate gratification, but we are also all capable of self-control. The real question is: How do we ensure that we exercise that control?
A natural suggestion is to rely on willpower. But when it comes to holiday shopping, that is likely to fail. Research has shown that willpower tends to be limited. Each successful exercise of it actually increases the likelihood of subsequent failure if temptations come in quick succession (as they do, for instance, in shopping malls).
So rather than trying to override your decision-making impulses, a better strategy might be to try to change them. And recent research suggests that an effective way to do that is by cultivating the emotion of gratitude.
This reminds me of the basic message in "Sur mei'ra v'asei tov," turn from bad and do good. Simply refraining from the bad won't do, one must actively do good. That's how habits can be broken; not by simply sweating out unfulfilled impulses, but by replacing those unhealthy actions with beneficial responses.

Online is usually the place where I mess up, shopping-wise. I surf  a shoe section even though I don't need anything and there is only one pair left of these really gorgeous moccasins and they are on sale too and couldn't I use moccasins? 

I ended up returning those stupid moccasins. Of course I didn't need those moccasins. 
The emotion of gratitude, viewed from a cost-benefit perspective, stresses the long-term value of short-term sacrifice (e.g., If I’m grateful to you for a favor, I’ll work hard to repay it and thereby ensure you’ll help me again in the future). Consequently, my colleagues and I suspected that gratitude might also enhance patience and self-control . . .
What these findings show is that certain emotions can temporarily enhance self-control by decreasing desires for immediate gratification. While feeling happy doesn’t do much to increase patience, feeling grateful does.
Yes, I will make a point to be mindfully thankful as I scroll through Yoox.       


Daniel Saunders said...

I'm mostly immune to impulse buying, except for books and sometimes DVDs. The sums of money are small, but shelf-space is a constant issue.

Have you ever read the Freakonomics books? I think you might get something out of them.

Princess Lea said...

Non-fiction makes me sleepy, usually, but perhaps I will give it a whirl.

Daniel Saunders said...

I have to say I can't remember what made me recommend it to you! Unless I was still in librarian mode. Maybe something about behaviour not being motivated by what we think motivates us.