Cary Farrell

Do you live to shop or shop to live?

by Cary Farrell
July 22, 2019

Do you live to shop or shop to live?   


Do you shop for the thrill of the hunt, or to make yourself feel better, or as a hobby, or for the love a deal, or because you just love to shop? What do you do with a new item when you bring it home?  Do you have space for it or does it live in the bag forgotten? Does it seem like a super idea in the store but when you get it home it has lost its excitement and never gets used or considered again?  Do you feel guilty as that item sits around mocking you for having purchased it and laughs at you for never using it?  Millions of us fall into this trap, buying things that in the moment seem like great deals or great fun.   


My husband and I purchased a timeshare on our honeymoon hoping to have a vacation spot to enjoy as a newly married couple.  We didn't think through that decision very well because we were giddy in love and the sales lady did a great job of making this a "one time deal" we couldn't pass up.  We paid on that timeshare for three years before we got out of it and never spent one night enjoying it!  And I bet there are others like me who have been suckered into buying exercise equipment and household gadgets from TV or online.  I am always sorry afterwards.  I have learned that it is better to cut my losses and let the items go than to leave them sitting around the house mocking me.  


In the book, "Not Buying it! My Year Without Shopping,” author Judith Levine decides to only buy the bare necessities and food for a year and shares her struggles and thoughts about her experience. I don't think we all need to go to that extreme but I do think we need to truly analyze our "needs" versus our "wants."  


How do we break this cycle you ask?  It starts in our choice of shopping to live instead of living to shop.

  • Buy and keep items that can function for multiple needs.  I see this play out in many of the kitchens I help de-clutter and organize.  I see kitchens full of very specialized tools and cooking appliances that are cluttering up drawers and countertops.  Often these specific tools are duplicating the functions of ordinary tools.  The irony is that most of my clients use the muti-functional tool instead of the specialized gadget anyway.

  • Take inventory of what you have at home.  You don't know what you need until you know what you have!  Instead of walking around the stores to see what new gadgets or clothing items look interesting, take inventory of what you have at home and what you feel like you need.  When my kids were little, we would pull out the upcoming season’s clothes and assess what they had and what items they needed before we went shopping.  If they already had enough pants but were lacking in tops, we knew what to shop for and it saved me time, money, and arguing at the store!  

  • ALWAYS shop at home before going to the store. Grouping like items together and getting organized is the best way to be able to shop at home.  Disorganization breeds overshopping because you can't find what you have. Turn your home into the organized store and you will save time and money!

  • Don't get suckered in by the deal!  If you follow the life cycle of a "good deal" you quickly realize that it is often not the "deal" you thought it was. Unless you are committed to the time consuming, part time job of extreme couponing, then your deals will most likely turn into items that you eventually donate or throw out because you didn't use them.  Only buy something if you know without a shadow of a doubt you are going to use it in the NEAR future.


Shopping is a reality for us but we can keep it from burdening our budget or our lives. Are you willing to take the challenge for a month?

Shop to live

Shop smart

Shop at home first

Shop from a list of need versus want


Let me know if you are taking the challenge and how it is effecting your life.  Share your experience with our readers on Facebook or email me at