7.02.2012

Why Do We Enable People to Spend Money While Shopping?

I got a text from my mom a few weeks ago, right before she came to visit for my brother's volleyball tournament in Anaheim. She told me that she was reading my blog, and she was wondering if she was a shopaholic. Ha! 

She was saying that she needed to stop buying unnecessary things and start thinking through purchases before buying them. She loves to shop for clothes and is constantly looking for great deals (hmmm, I wonder how I became a shopaholic?), and she said that she wanted to go on a six-month no spend challenge.

As a PF blogger and recovering shopaholic (and also an awesome daughter), you'd think that I'd be super supportive of her decision right? Perhaps I'd be her financial coach if she had the urge to buy something and I'd tell her to put that item back because she has committed to a no-spend challenge. That's what I was thinking too, but that idea didn't go as planned.

The day that she and my brother flew in to San Diego, we ended up having dinner at CPK at the mall and we ended up browsing around. She bought some stuff at Victoria Secret because she claimed she needed those things. Who was I to tell her that she didn't need them? She loves what she purchased, and they came out with new colors. Totally needed them.

After my brother's tournament that weekend, we went to South Coast Plaza (a really nice and upscale mall in SoCal) just to kill time because we had about five hours before their flight was scheduled to leave. We went into a ton of different stores and we ended up in Zara. 

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This was her first time in the store and I knew she was looking forward to going here for awhile now. She ended up finding a beautiful crochet sleeveless top for $40. Quite the steal for such a dainty yet intricate item. She sighed and put it back on the rack and we dutifully walked out empty-handed. 

As we window shopped through a couple of other stores, she couldn't get her mind off of that crochet top. To add fuel to the fire, I kept on raving about how much I loved the top and I even mentioned how versatile it was by offering suggestions of different outfits she could make with it. In addition, I told her that I could borrow it so it was actually only $20 since we'd both get to wear it ($40 divided by 2....get it? Yeah, awesome). Also, maybe my sister might want to wear it. It was perfect for summer and cheaper than the other similar tops we saw at Zara. Makes total sense right?? So persuasive.

So what did she end up doing after all of my enabling? She promptly turned around and marched into Zara to grab the second to last crochet top in the store since she couldn't take it anymore. She had to have it, and she didn't hesitate to pay for it at the register. She was happy. I was happy too. I now get to borrow this super cute top!

Yet, I knew she was supposed to be on a no-spend challenge. 

Why was I so quick to enable her?

The thing is...this type of behavior happens a lot. If I'm not the person enabling someone to buy something, one of my friends that I am shopping with is enabling me to buy something. We end up justifying purchases together and we rationalize cost per wear as well as versatility. I know a lot of us on twitter enable each other to buy items as well, even though we are PF bloggers (apparently we are human too, I guess).

I'm guilty of being an enabler. I am not really sure why I do it.
  • Is it because I just like shopping in general and I feel like I am shopping myself and living vicariously through that person? 
  • Is it because I genuinely realize that my mom or friend would be a million times happier if this particular item was purchased?
  • Is it because I get caught up in the moment of that "shopping high" and I can't back down?
  • Am I indirectly trying to sabotage them because I want them to just spend money because I can't?
Well actually, that last option sounds kind of mean, but I don't doubt that it happens sometimes, unknowingly. If everyone was more open with their finances, I think it would be easier to stop enabling friends and family to spend, spend, spend. Since I know that my mom could afford that top and I knew it wouldn't burn a hole in her wallet, I pushed for it. I think it was because I really wanted it too. I knew that I could borrow it from her (since I'm moving back to the bay area) and I loved that idea.

However, I am not sure why I enable my friends so much. I do voice my opinions when I absolutely hate something, but for the most part, I'll offer an alternative item if I don't like the one they are considering or end up really liking the item they are considering and the enabling begins. I admit, I'll usually be more of an enabler if we are shopping together in person, usually at the mall. If we are online or they are sending me text messages, I find that I'm not as quick to enable. I'll usually question them and ask them if they really need it or what do they need it for. The mall must be a magical place (kidding...sorta).

If I knew my mom couldn't afford that top, maybe I wouldn't have been such a huge enabler. Part of me feels guilty that I made her fail at her no-spend challenge. She could always try again right? As for my friends, I should probably ask them more questions and help them think through the purchase rationally (without justifying the purchase). It would be nice to get a more realistic explanation of why they are buying something and if there is a specific purpose before enabling them.

I need to start thinking before I start enabling. I know I hate it when I'm shopping with friends and I get coerced into thinking something is just "sooo cute" and that it would be unbearable to live without it. This is why I enjoy shopping with my boyfriend (who is totally NOT an enabler) or just going by myself. I end up rationalizing that I do not want to spend money and I will almost always put something back after thinking about a potential purchase.

Do you enable people to spend money? Why do you think we enable?

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