4 Financial (and Emotional) Advantages of Shopping Alone

By Jessica Sommerfield

| Photographs By SunKids

Much of our culture views shopping, even when it’s done online, as a social activity. This is especially true around the holidays because there are inevitably friends or family who will ask whether you’d like to shop for gifts together. Shopping is much more fun when done in a group, but doing so is often painful for the pocketbook.

If you’re a parent or come from a close-knit family, you might not even have the choice to shop alone (or even prefer to), but those looking for a way to save money or curb spending should definitely consider the following benefits of shopping solo.

1. You Will Be Less Influenced by What Your Friend Thinks or Does

Most of us are influenced, at least partially, by what others think. When peer influence is combined with spending, the dangers are obvious: buying something you don’t like or won’t use just because someone said it was “cute” on you, told you it was fashionable, or sold you on how it transformed their own lives (or their kitchen, or their garage, etc.).

While you may be able to simply return these kinds of purchases, it’s not always easy if a friend or family member expects to see you using it.

What may be worse is the stuff you will actually want to use. The retail industry is extremely good at making us buy something that’s marginally better but costs twice as much. A new iPhone that’s a bit faster? Ka-ching. A top with three quarters sleeves instead of long sleeves? Take my money!! They are nice to have, absolutely. Now couple that with seeing your friend shove all those goodies into her shopping bag and it’s hard to resist. The problem, though, is that your life gets only a tiny, tiny bit better while you have to pay big bucks for it.

2. You’ll Be Under Less Pressure to Spend in General

If you’re participating in a No-Spend November or just trying to stick to budget, it’s easier to shop without the direct or indirect pressure to compare your spending to others. Some friends or family might even feel the need to get you to buy something, anything, just so they feel less guilty about their own spending. All this pressure can be avoided by simply going solo, even if it’s just for a set period.

3. You’ll Save Money on Lunch Breaks and Other Activities

Shopping as a social activity often leads to other activities like eating out or catching a movie, which quickly adds up. If you decline, you risk looking anti-social, judgmental, or any number of things. Going alone gives you the freedom to grab a protein bar and a water bottle and call it good — free of opinions, hurt feelings, and spending guilt.

David Ning’s Note: Jessica’s mentioning the cost of related activities when doing something socially is so timely. I started mountain biking recently, and I find that going with my friend makes the sport cost at least twice as much because we often eat lunch afterward and we also have to stop by the bike shop and egg each other on to buy something for the bike. On a related note, going with my friend also makes the activity take three times as long because a two-hour bike ride often turns into a full-day event.

Obviously, going with friends is makes everything more fun, but just be mindful of all the added costs.

4. You’ll Avoid the Comparison Trap ­— and Stay Content

There are numerous rewards that come from having self-control, following a budget, and curbing spending to funnel money into important savings goals, but it doesn’t make it any easier to shop with someone who isn’t limiting his or her spending (at least as much as you are).

Shopping alone can help you avoid the tendency to compare your purchases or feel sorry for yourself, even if you know there’s no reason to. What’s more, time alone getting used to your intentional spending choices can help solidify your resolve and contentment so you’re less susceptible to this comparison game in the future.

Shopping alone might not be as fun as shopping socially, but it can help you achieve your financial goals a little faster and with greater contentment this holiday shopping season.


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