Shopping and buying new stuff makes us feel good. But those good feelings never last, which can lead us to chase that “shopper’s high” again. Today I’m sharing fun things to do instead of spending money that can help you save money, improve your mindset, and enrich your life.
Did you know that the average person makes up 3 impulse purchases per week? This can add up to $5,400 per year on impulse spending alone.
We are naturally attracted to novelty, which can explain why we appreciate and seek out new things. Whether it’s a new throw pillow for the couch, a new dress, or the latest iPhone, our brain gets a hit of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) whenever we buy new stuff.
While buying new stuff feels good in the moment, it’s not always a good option for our finances or the planet. Choosing to live and shop more intentionally can help you stick to your goals and avoid debt.
Minimalism and living simply looks different for every single person. The key is to find a happy balance that works for you.
If you want to learn more about how to shop with intention and take back control of your spending, consider checking out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender.
So how do you stop buying stuff? Fortunately there are many things to do instead of spending money. Today I’m sharing more mindful and constructive ways to satisfy your need for novelty without sabotaging your financial goals.
If you want to dive deeper on how to overcome a shopping problem, check out my free audio training.
- How to stop impulse buying for good
- How to do a low-buy year successfully
- 5 reasons why it’s SO hard to stop shopping
Table of Contents
Seek an experience
Studies have shown that seeking new experiences can create positive memories that outlast the good feelings we get when acquiring possessions. In the long run, this means that experiences can make us happier than our stuff.
The initial joy that we feel after buying a new item quickly fades as we get used to seeing it everyday. For example, a woman who wears a new pair of boots for the first time is probably happy when she puts them on.
This is because the item is exciting and new. But by the fifth time she wears the boots, the thrill of the new item has probably worn off. And by the fifteenth time, she has gotten used to seeing it in her closet and might get tired of it.
Experiences on the other hand, continue to make us happy when we reminisce about them, even years after the event occurred.
If you’re looking to reward yourself for working hard, consider treating yourself to an experience instead of buying more stuff. Below are some of my favorite alternatives to shopping:
- Plan a staycation at home
- Go for a hike – One of my favorite ways to clear my head is to go for a nature walk or explore a new hiking trail.
- Walk around a new neighborhood – If you can’t travel right now, exploring a new neighborhood in your city can be a fun option. Set aside some “fun money” in your budget to cover a coffee or lunch date.
- Check out a free event in your city
- Visit a museum during their free hours or on a free day
- Have a picnic in the park and watch the sunset
- Go to the beach
For more tips, check out my post: 75 fun things to do when you’re bored at home
Learn a new skill
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to stop shopping is because we aren’t comfortable with who we are.
The truth is that when you shop, it’s not really about buying “stuff” – it’s about buying a story. Companies know this, which is why they’re so good at convincing us of what we want and need.
How many times have you told yourself, “If I could get “X”, I would be happier”?
I know I have. It’s not easy to admit, but think about what really motivates you to buy something. For example, when buying eye cream, you’re really buying the promise of eliminating dark circles and fine lines.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who buys eye cream has a problem with shopping. But it’s important to dig deep and think about what really motivates you to make a purchase.
If you treat shopping as a hobby and can’t stop buying more “stuff”, then you should ask yourself if your self-esteem is driving your purchases.
Studies have shown that learning new things is a core need for our well-being. Learning can build our confidence, boost our self-esteem, and help foster a sense of connection with others. As you can see, learning can make a positive impact on your life and broaden your perspective.
What to do instead of online shopping? If you’re looking for hobbies to replace shopping, consider learning a new skill. Below are some ideas to get inspired:
- Cook or bake something – This can be a good way to save money by eating at home. Check out Pinterest for tons of free recipe ideas.
- Exercise – Instead of paying for an expensive gym membership, I started following an at-home fitness routine. Exercise is a skill because it takes practice to learn how to do a proper push-up or pull-up. It also makes you feel more confident in your own skin.
- Learn a new language
- Watch a YouTube video about decluttering or minimalism to get inspired
- Learn how to play an instrument
- Do a puzzle or learn Sodoku
- Paint a draw a picture
- Learn how to sew your own clothes – This can be a fun hobby for fashion lovers.
- Practice photography
Enrich your mind with knowledge
Studies have found that high levels of curiosity can increase mental well-being and life satisfaction. This means that seeking out new knowledge, experiences, and having the willingness to engage with unfamiliar or challenging endeavors can make us happier.
One of the reasons why we shop and buy so much stuff is because we’re trying to distract ourselves from our negative emotions, such as stress, depression, and anxiety.
What to do instead of buying stuff? While it feels good to buy stuff in the moment, those good feelings are usually short-lived. That’s because shopping is just a band-aid solution to manage uncomfortable emotions and doesn’t address the root cause of why we’re feeling stressed or sad to begin with.
Research has shown that those with high and consistent levels of curiosity also display resilience or “grit”. This means people with grit have the perseverance to push themselves through obstacles in order to reach their long-term goals.
To develop grit, you need to cultivate a growth mindset. This is the belief that your abilities and qualities are not “fixed”. Instead, they can be developed through dedication and hard work.
If want to learn more about how to shift your mindset from scarcity to growth and abundance, check out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender.
In the meantime, acquiring knowledge is a great way to build a growth mindset. Below are some ways increase your knowledge:
- Take an online course
- Watch a TED Talk
- Listen to a podcast
- Watch a good documentary
- Read a good book from the library – Consider starting or joining a book club. This is one of the best things to do that doesn’t cost money with friends.
Do something productive
Many of us shop because we want to distract ourselves or fill a void. In the past, I would use shopping as a way to distract myself from all the other tasks on my to-do list, such as folding the laundry, washing the dishes, making the bed, running errands, studying for an exam, updating my budget, and so on.
By getting into the habit of tidying up my home each day, this creates a calm and productive space. This helps nourish my mind and prevents me from shopping online as a way to “take a break” after a long day.
Shopping made me feel like I was being productive. But I was really buying more “stuff” because I had no direction or goals. I was bored and didn’t know how to find fulfilling ways to occupy my spare time or unwind after work.
What to do when you want to shop? Below are some productive things to do instead of spending money. Use this list as inspiration.
- Clean and organize your home
- Declutter your closet
- Host a clothing swap with friends
- Create a budget
- Revisit your financial goals
- Make a meal plan for the week
- Make a plan to pay off debt
- Start a side hustle
- Start a blog
- Update your resume
- Make time to do the things you’ve been wanting to do
- Rearrange your furniture
- Sell items you don’t use or want anymore – Find out how I made $700 in one week selling my old stuff on Facebook Marketplace.
- Unsubscribe from store emails – This can help prevent you from being tempted to buy more stuff.
Become more mindful
Sometimes life gets so busy that we get caught up living in the past or perpetually preparing for or anticipating things to come in the future. This can make it easy to feel out of touch with yourself and look for mindless ways to distract yourself from life’s stressors, such as scrolling on your phone or shopping online.
Instead, a better option is to make a commitment to becoming more mindful and living in the present moment.
This means focusing your attention on the “now”, which can help keep you grounded and connected to yourself and everything around you. Being more mindful can make you happier, decrease stress, and help you manage negative emotions more effectively.
One of the reasons why we love shopping is because it’s a coping mechanism for dealing with stress or boredom. Scrolling on our phone is a passive and low-effort way to relax and “take a break”.
However, social media can encourage us to shop and buy stuff we don’t need (or can’t really afford). Influencers make a living by selling products. That’s why they are constantly asking you to swipe up on their stories to check out the product they are endorsing.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can become more conscious and mindful of your spending habits instead of letting your emotions hijack your wallet.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to curb emotional spending, consider checking out my new e-book, The Intentional Spender: Why We Buy So Much Stuff and How to Stop.
In the meantime, below are some helpful ways to become mindful and live in the present moment.
- Get off your phone – Scrolling on my phone feels like a vacation after a long day of work, but it’s not the best way to spend my time. Lately, I’ve been finding other ways to unwind, such as meditating, drinking tea, or giving myself a spa evening at home.
- Journal – I like writing in my gratitude journal to help me appreciate everything that I have.
- Take inventory of what you already have – This helps me to shift my mindset when I say things like “I would be happier if I had that too”. I remind myself that I already have something similar at home or that I already have what I need.
- Shop your closet – One of the reasons why we love to shop and buy new stuff is because we try to buy the lifestyle we want via our clothes and accessories. So when you shop your closet and find things that you rarely wear, try to create the situation or moment that you hoped to feel when you bought the item. Putting together new outfit combinations is one of the best hobbies for fashion lovers.
- Take a nap
- Invite a friend over for coffee – It can be a great way to catch up and it’s cheap to do.
- Play a board game – This can be a fun way to take a break from technology. Some of my favorite games are Telestrations, Taboo, and Apples to Apples.
- Meditate or try yoga – These are some of the best ways to connect and stay in the present moment. Focusing on your breath can help you slow down and fully experience the “now”.
- Do random acts of kindness – Making someone else’s day can make you happier too. There are many ways to do random acts of kindness that don’t cost a lot of money, such as listening without distractions (giving someone your full attention), volunteering your time, giving blood, donating your gently used items, paying it forward, saying something nice to someone, or being there for someone during tough times.