Last week, I went to a free photo exhibit at the National Gallery around lunchtime and hung out there for several hours. At some point late in the afternoon, I got a text message from my boss, SuperK wondering where I was. I was seeing more stuff. I recently attended a conference in Barcelona. I got a early start each day but I put a giant X across the daily conference activities between 1 and 5 PM. I was in Barcelona, after all, and I needed to see more stuff. Seeing more stuff is very important. I think of it as recharging my creative batteries. My one caveat is that I see more stuff, not buy more stuff.
It’s all about your location
The secret to seeing stuff instead of buying stuff is all about the location, and I don’t just mean while traveling. Over the last few years, SuperK and I have been using Amazon Prime, in place of visits to Costco and cutting back on visits to big-box stores. This really works. Even for a very frugal person like myself, it’s hard to walk into a Target or a Costco and not spend over $50. And for someone like SuperK, that figure is more, much more. For some reason, the shiny displays and super deals trigger some I’m going to miss out if I don’t purchase this now and hoard it reflex. You’re guaranteed to come home with extra stuff. Plus going to malls and big-box stores makes me hungry AND gives me hives so there are health benefits to skipping the trip as well.
Just Skip It.
I used to run to Home Depot every couple weeks. I would take the boys and they would play with the vacuums and grills, knock over some stuff. And guaranteed I’d end up with more stuff. At one point, I had four separate toolboxes, not kidding. I am still working on getting rid of all this stuff. An excellent solution I’ve found is to just not go to Home Depot at all. I just skip any home repair that would involve a visit to the hardware store and go for a walk in the woods instead. In the rare instance of some sort of repair emergency (last weekend’s toilet implosion) I visit a small local hardware store and take advantage of their knowledge and customer service to learn something while I also support local business.
If I need something, I now take a hunter’s approach.
I need furnace filters, an item that is absurdly overpriced especially in small quantities.
I jump on Amazon Prime and search my past orders which are auto saved by size, brand, price and rating. No more scribbled lists.
Quickly paste the item name into Google and click “shopping” above the search results to make sure I am getting a great price on Amazon, then pull the trigger. Total time invested – 5 min.
I keep a running list saved in Amazon so I can batch or group my purchases together when necessary. All Amazon Prime items ship 2 day air for free, some other items ship free as part of a larger order.
Done. In the past, buying these filters would have necessitated jumping in the car, sitting in traffic, trying to park, looking at power tools, etc……….If you put a $ value on your time and add the extras like gas, and impulse purchases, the hunter’s approach for stuff you absolutely need makes a lot of sense.
SuperK has spent the last month or so testing this “stay out of Target” theory. She’s confirmed that reducing the total number of visits to malls and big-box stores will save you more money than any sale coupon or circular ever could. The less stuff you see, the less you buy.
So, here are a few more ways to live a more experiential lifestyle and save time + cash.
Stop running to the store the very moment you need something. Do without, skip the chore, skip the errand and go for a walk instead. Your family will survive without duct tape for a day. Your house will still be standing a month from now even if you don’t buy those filters right now.
Go for a walk with your kids or significant other and talk about what you see. Have a conversation instead of buying something.
Nasty outside? Go to a public gallery, museum or library, you’ve paid for them!
Clean out your closet, garage, basement. You’ll find something you lost and something you’d like to give away.
Play with that Frisbee you found in the closet. It’s been a while.
Work from home at least a few days a week. This will keep you out of random places like gas stations, convenience stores, coffee shops, and lunch buffets.
If you’re stuck in a store some reason, practice delayed gratification by putting that purchase off for a few days. Most likely you’ll forget about it.
Skip the trip Use Amazon Prime you can also add Smile.Amazon.com and a percentage of every purchase goes toward your favorite charity.
Here are three related books and posts on:
My one year experiment with Amazon Prime
Working remotely Remote: Office Not Required
Frugality and Valuing your Time Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money
I’d love to hear what helps you see more stuff.