How to Surprise Yourself Into Happiness by Un-shopping!

london-scout-41031I used to shop. Kind of a lot.

I justified it by being super thrifty, only going to charity shops / hospice shops, shopping on sale or off season, and I would be sooooo proud of myself for scoring a "great bargain."

That buzz of pride was like a hunter catching a rabbit.

Two things happened that turned me around and un-hooked me from shopping:

a. I got on top of my bills and started living in the + instead of the - (except for my home bond/mortgage)

b. I moved house. Several times. In fact, since coming to South Africa 14 years ago, I've lived in eleven homes. That's ten times to pack up and unpack, and moving is just the worst, isn't it?

Only recently did I discover the scientific term for the deeper reason behind giving up shopping as a hobby/activity/pastime. It's called "hedonic adaptation."

Hedonic (from "hedonist," one who lives for pleasure) adaptation is that feeling you get when you buy something new, and you're crazy about it and it's the best thing ever -- and then you get used to it. It's just another THING. Something to clean, to take care of, to prevent from breaking, to move from house to house.

So, if I'm only going to get a week or a month of pleasure out of a thing, is it really worth it? NO. The hangover afterwards is a curse and a scourge, and I'll never fall into it again.

But how did I kick the habit, and how can you?

I'll give you my ways, and then I'll give you two articles that might take you even further down the path.

I now choose to enjoy experiences, rather than THINGS

Experiences, like going on a zipline, taking a stroll around Zoo Lake with a friend, or taking the Shosholoza Meyl to Durban or Cape Town, can still cost money. But experiences create memories, especially shared memories, whereas objects can often become burdens, both on my wallet and in my home.

I buy from need, not from want

Yes, I need a new tin opener, because mine broke. I need closed-toe shoes because winter is coming. But once I've determined the need, I research briefly, find the best object at the best price, and go get it. Without getting anything else.

I don't cross the doorway of a few "gateway drug" shops

For me, I can walk into a stationery store and walk out with a grocery bag's worth of pencils, notebooks, markers, calendars, birthday cards, and you name it. Which, by the way, I already have plenty of at home. I have now forbidden myself from entering CNA, for example, and if I need a pen, I buy it at the supermarket.

I stopped buying magazines

Every time I bought groceries, I would treat myself to a home decor magazine - you know the ones, with the glossy photos of perfect apartments. I stopped, because the magazines just made me WANT what I couldn't afford: luxury Persian rugs, Italian tiles, and an imported Aga oven. If fashion is your kick, you might want to avoid the magazines with "this season's latest look," or your credit card might melt.

The above are a few of my strategies to keep Mr. Debt away from my house.

And now, how to surprise myself into happiness:

I used to go out to eat at restaurants regularly (like 3x/week), and now I don't, so when I DO go to a restaurant (maybe once per month), it's fresh and unusual and awesome. This is how to counter hedonic adaptation: reduce the behavior, and then spring it on yourself, rarely.

I used to buy cappuccinos every time I went into a mall. One before shopping, to carry with me, and one afterwards. Now I don't, ever. I switched off coffee (that's another post, to come), and I don't need that "treat" any more. I surprise and challenge myself instead with exercise by seeing how many steps I can achieve per day, aiming at 10,000.

I used to buy books at the bookstore on a monthly basis. Now I go to the public library and check them out. If I have to buy a book, I use an online shop (amazon or takealot or loot), and when I'm finished with the book, I pass it on to a friend. The happiness from giving a gift is twice as much as the happiness from acquiring something new!

I used to shop because I was bored. Last tip about surprising yourself into happiness: novelty. If something is new, it will trigger happiness in your brain.

But it doesn't have to be a THING that's new. If you walk a different way home from work, if you speak with a new person, if you attend a different church one week, if you take a walking tour of your city and learn something about the history or architecture - all the bulbs in your brain light up, the same as if you'd bought a leather jacket.

Here are the articles I recommend you read:

What Is Hedonic Adaptation and How Can It Turn You Into a Sucka by Mr. Money Mustache

19 Reasons Why Frugality is the Best Thing that's Ever Happened to Me

and of course, locally you can check out Donna McCallum, the Fairy Godmother, who teaches the Money Magic course that gave my accounts a huge rocket boost.

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If you'd like divine guidance to sort out your situation, your angels and guides KNOW where your weak spots are, and they are always available to get you back on track. Please pray for that. If I can also help, just reply to this email and let me know, and we'll schedule a session.

Wishing you surprises, a clean and easy-to-maintain house, financial prosperity, and of course, happiness.



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