Monday, March 10, 2014

Safe Window Shopping

image from NY Times real estate listing
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to regular readers that I like to shop. And like many people, I window shop for fun -- either in-person, or through my browser's windows.

The trouble with browser window shopping is how easily and often it can lead to purchasing something one does not need. Sometimes I find myself debating a potential purchase... That sweater just went on sale, plus there's free shipping? Well, I don't really need another cable-knit sweater, but it could be useful… And occasionally, before I know it, I even made a purchase in just a couple clicks.

Although I've made a conscience effort to curb my spending, I've noticed that I still like to look at these nice things available to me. And if I fall into the trap, and make a purchase for something that won't really fill a hole in my life or wardrobe, I'm setting myself up for failure: All the money-saving small things I do won't amount to anything long-term if I still absentmindedly buy a sweater here, and a new dress or bag there.

With this in mind, recently I've been consciously switching away from certain types of online browsing, and towards others. Instead of signing into Gilt, or browsing Bergdorf's site, I've been obsessing over things I have no chance of impulse buying: Really expensive apartments.

My current favorite site to browse is NY Times, because the advanced options allow me to choose multiple amazing options, which, let's face it, few people in NY can actually afford. Outdoor space, washer/dryer in unit, swimming pool, and loft-feel on the UWS? Those options turn up exactly zero options as I type, but I enjoy tweaking and changing choices until I find wonderful listings. When I do find outlandishly beautiful apartments, I stare at the floor plan, imagining where my furniture will go, what each of the rooms will be used for, how many people we can have over for a party, where I will spend my time, or finding a good place to curl up with a book…

Basically, I'm daydreaming. But daydreaming over something one isn't actually tempted to buy means not spending money on small things. And not spending money on small things means eventually heading in the direction of those beautiful apartments, because that money goes to savings instead of another cable-knit sweater.

The beauty of these searches is that they trade out one shopping site for another, which is easy to do, but all the while, they remind me of a long-term goal. It might sound funny, but these daydreams help keep me on track with my actual day-to-day spending. Passing up that cable-knit sweater doesn't feel nearly as hard when one has a clear picture of where that money is going instead.


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