Sales and coupons are ruining my life (how to stop shopping irresponsibly)

When I graduated college, I started work right away. I landed a job where I was lucky to make more than most recent grads with English majors make, so supporting me and my then-boyfriend was really easy. We had no car payments, a $700 apartment and ramen-tacular eating habits. A few years later he worked too, so it wasn’t until we had kids and a house we couldn’t afford that I really started to understand that budgeting was a thing that needed to happen.

(Do I ever wish I’d saved money in my early 20’s instead of spending my spare cash on anime paraphernalia and costuming materials. And tequila.)

no_shoppingStill, we always had two incomes, even if mine was part-ish time. Things have been tight, especially when my ex was out of work for almost the entirety of 2012. But they were manageable. Now that I’m the head of my little household, I’m understanding how privileged my life has been. I’m not struggling. We’re getting by.  But it’s a lot different doing this alone and knowing that I straight up have to get X amount of work done a month just to get the bills paid. Am I saving money? No. Am I contributing to college funds or retirement funds? Ha, hell no.

Do I want to? Yes, of course.

So I’m learning little by little to think more about my spending habits. I’ll be honest, it gives me a stomachache. I’ve always been responsible with money but I’ve never managed it super closely. I hate math and I hate money. Fortunately I’ve been the bill payer and organizer and general responsible party in my household even before doing it alone, so I’m not totally floundering cluelessly. Yay?

Which brings me to the point here: Sales and coupons are ruining my life.

I mean, maybe not completely but close-effing-enough. The Children’s Place has everything on a billion percent off with free shipping every nine and a half hours. tries to convince me that I need lawn maintenance tools since they’re 80% off.’s Red Card gives me free shipping and 5% off all the time. Amazon Prime is an impulse buyer’s worst nightmare. You get my drift. Yeah, I save money on the shit I buy, but I buy shit I don’t need all the time because it seems like a good idea at the time. Sales! Free shipping! Bangin’ coupons!

It has to stop. I’m living paycheck to paycheck and the money that goes toward unnecessary purchases can be put in savings, even if it’s just $50 a month. In case you’re wondering how I’m achieving this (poorly, so far!) I’ve decided to hold myself somewhat accountable. Internet accountable. With the steps I’ve been taking so far:

How to save money by telling sales and coupons to shove it and stuff

Unsubscribe to every single retail email you get. This means no more group buying sites. Tell Groupon and Deal Chicken and the rest of those hussies to stay out of your inbox. No more Target emails (they’re creepy anyway). No more secret sales sites. None of them. BE GONE.

Stop idly browsing your favorite retail websites. For me, this means no more time-wasting over at Etsy when I need to unwind. I rarely shop there but it’s good to avoid the temptation either way.

Credit cards are not monopoly money. I’m lucky here in that I don’t have a credit card. Okay, I do, but it has a $200 limit and I use it to pay my phone bill and then pay it back so that some day, I can be a big girl with an actual credit score again. But seriously, the temptation to use store accounts and such are large for everyone I know. Just don’t. It’s a slippery slope of shit.

Sell things instead of buying things. Craving a transaction? Craigslist some shit in your house. Seriously, try it. It’s pretty cool to be on the receiving end of that cash. Better yet, take up a craft that you can sell. (Okay, this one is a little beyond my scarf-knitting skills set, but still. I know some of you make cool things.) (I guess I could sell photography? Meh.) (Or ever finish my damn manuscript. Wait, we’re entering a sneaky angst spiral! Abort, abort!)

Do not go to Ever. Just don’t go. Stop going. I’m not even hotlinking that. Don’t do it.

Make things for your friends and family. Gifts from the heart really do count. I don’t care if all you can make is a handwritten note. Try it. It feels as good as shipping someone a candle. I’m not saying never spend money or buy gifts, but try supplementing them with baked goods and notes and handcrafted doodads. You can even take time to go through your kids’ clothes and toys and give away the nicer things they’ve grown out of.

Sit on purchases. Think you really need that new ______? Wait a day or so. Wait one more day. See how you feel after that.

Don’t buy things online when you don’t need to. Dude, just drive to the store of your choice. Unless you’re saving a true assload of money, why buy it online? For me this is a huge change I need to make. I love getting packages and I’m working online all day so it’s so simple to just have things shipped. But the amount of resources clearly being wasted is enormous. Ugh.

Pretend to shop and then put the money in savings. This is my favorite new coping mechanism when it comes to curbing my retail therapy habits. If I truly must screw around shopping online, I make it all the way to the shopping cart. Then I stop, because my purse is on the other side of the house, and I take a deep breath, and I go to my bank’s website and I transfer the amount in the checkout basket from checking to to savings. And I close the browser. Bam.

Write it down. Don’t think you spend much? Add up your purchases over the next few weeks, or go back and tally what you spent over the past month. I’m not talking about food and bills and necessities. I’m talking about cute tops that were on sale and shoes and books and whatever. Stuff. Yikes, right?

Shop in your home. Clean like you’re shopping. Go through your closets and your garage and your drawers and your junk. You have stuff you don’t even remember buying. Can you wear it again? Can you remake it? Can you sell it? Can you organize it and therefore feel like you bought something? Can you rearrange your furniture or move your wall art? Once you get in the habit, this stuff feels as much fun as shopping does.

Do free stuff. It’s out there. Or, if you’re like me, use the crap out of the theme park passes you already bought while trying really hard to not spend too much money on food while you’re there.

Hold yourself accountable. Preferably by telling the entire Internet you want to stop shopping like a loon. Get friends to join you maybe. Talk about shopping and advertising and spending and remain conscious of your spending habits. (Blog about it!)



  1. I’ve been doing the “pretend to shop then put it in savings” this year too. We’re trying to get out of debt and maybe buy a house (big maybe) so I’m in skrimp-and-save mode too.

    Are you using yet? Because you should. It’d incredible. Use it for a month, then set up budgets. Seeing that you’ve already spent, oh, $400 this month at Target is a pretty strong incentive to NOT SPEND ANY MORE AT TARGET. :)

  2. sickerthnothers says:

    This is great. I’m having the same problems. I’m about to go filter my inbox by “unsubscribe” right now, because I have a serious groupon problem.

  3. Lesley @Avalea says:

    I do that as well. Shop myself silly and throw in my lil virtual cart, then remove it and close my browser. I am too chicken to sell on Craigslist in my current situation. But! I do consign and take things to stores that buy our clothes for cash (if they’re interested).

  4. I’m a big fan of loading up my virtual shopping cart and then just closing the window. I don’t know how or why, but that seems to satisfy the “itch”. (For the most part…. hey, I’m not *perfect*!)

  5. lablover22 says:

    Man this post is timely! Hubs and I recently had a conversation- I’ll spare you the details. But after handing him our checkbook with a bow upon his law school graduation, I decided I was done with the finances. Long story short- big mistake. I’m a project manager by nature- deatails are my thing. They are not his. At all. By a long shot. Or a short shot. But now that Mama’s in charge again things are a’changin! And i am sooo with you on your great ideas. I am using them with him. i”m not much of a shopper but he sure is;) Love the guy but good grief!! I am going to use all your tools to save him (and us) from himself;)

  6. Awesome post! We started a budget this year and I read Dave Ramsey. We are tracking every penny and it makes it where I don’t want to spend. Good luck! Sounds like a good plan to me.

  7. Eeee. I’ve had feelings like this. Bought too many “deals”. Trying to buy less, and earn more.

  8. twomakesfour says:

    This is a MAJOR problem for me. I was actually inspired by a resolution I’m pretty sure YOU made a few years back to unsubscribe to all retail emails. I did it last New Years and again this New Year (clearly, the resolution didn’t stick). But you are SO right with those stupid coupon emails. Total waste. I’m resolved once more to unsubscribe again tomorrow morning to whatever junk makes its way to my inbox. And honestly, you could add “Unlike all retail Facebook pages” to this too, because my feed is a major source of retail spam.

    Anyhow, great post. I struggle with impulse shopping a lot.

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