The Washington Post

Guilt free Christmas shopping

Target customer Nancy, last name not given, waits with televisions purchased at aTarget Store. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

She shops for others, too, keeps for birthdays and other occasions at the ready. She has lied to herself about her intentions and left her credit cards home on purpose, only to end up laughing with a familiar cashier who allows her to charge her purchases without the card in hand.

 I had asked her for advice on how to curtail my spending since my income is currently limited. I try tricking myself into picking up less. I will deliberately decline a shopping cart or basket, thinking I will only buy what I can carry in my hands. But I end up with items spilling from the cradle of my arms as I ease up to the cash-out line.

I have spotted other women in stores doing the same. I asked Aunt Carolyn, and my friends on Facebook for their tips and tricks, and was pleasantly surprised. One of my friends said she gives herself time constraints. “Get in and get out!” she tells herself. “Stay focused! That’s NOT what you came in here for!”

She rewards herself with a sweet treat sometimes. I am not the only sister who fails to stay on the straight-away set forth by financial gurus like Michelle Singletary.

At one point, I surrendered my bank cards to my husband to reign in my impulse spending. That didn’t work. I ended up simply stopping by the bank on my way to the mall and then hiding my goodies in the closet.

  As a young woman, I promised myself that I would never be one of those women hiding purchases. But here I was doing it. Aunt Carolyn says don’t try to explain to husbands. They won’t understand. To them, one pair of slacks and one pair of shoes is enough.

“If it was up to them, we would have one pair of black shoes that we would take to the shop for repairs,” she says.

Even when my bank funds are low, I will shop at the Dollar Store. One of the cashiers jokingly called me a Dollar Store Junkie. “See you in about two hours,” she laughed. She was right.

I returned and brought more of the perfect props I found to use in writing workshops next year. Junkies can always justify the behavior, right? I have shopped with delight at thrift stores – unashamed. 

I recently complimented a woman on her beautiful faux snakeskin jacket in a royal blue. “Seven dollars!” she boasted. “I got it at a thrift store.” We traded thrift store stories in the time it took me to ring up her purchase of $100 worth of books at the book store where I work.

 To all the women struggling with shopping habits, I give you the relief Aunt Carolyn gave me, “Just continue to pay your bills on time, keep a roof over your head, food in the fridge and a couple of dollars under the mattress. Do everything in moderation. Don’t lie to yourself anymore, because we were BORN TO SHOP!

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