Thoughts on Shopping

Apples in an orchard on a tree.

Fall in New England is a precious time. The leaves turn brilliant colors, the air crisps up, and the apples ripen. Apple picking is a common outing for those of us who live up here. This year, as I went apple picking, I realized that picking apples is basically a shopping excursion. I pay money and select items for purchase. As I picked my way along this year, I got to thinking more and more about shopping. With the holiday season around the corner, I thought I would share a few tips now that you can keep in mind when you are shopping.

Be Intentional

There is a difference between shopping and buying. Shopping is when we look around – either physically or virtually – at items available for sale. I could walk all day in the apple orchard and never pick one apple. Buying, however, is when I decide to pluck apples off the trees and take them home. This is when I start focusing on which apples look ripe, are free of blemishes, and are the variety that I like to eat.

This year, as you select holiday gifts, bear in mind that while shopping can fun and mindless, buying should be a process we undertake with mindful intention. We don’t want to recklessly acquire items for ourselves or others. The old adage, “Always shop with a list” is good advice. Before buying, ask yourself:

  • Will this object be used and/or enjoyed?
  • Can the item be returned, and if so, how hard will that be?
  • Is the item within my budget?

Beware of Size and Quantity

Have you ever picked apples out in an orchard? The experience is sort of like shopping in a warehouse. The scale of the scene is large, and the apples look tiny. However, when you get home with three bushels of apples, you might suddenly feel like apples are taking over your kitchen. You find yourself stashing them in bowls, baskets, and drawers in the refrigerator, and looking online to figure out how to use up all these apples.

When you shop for gifts this year, be aware of the setting into which your presents will be going. Do your recipients have space to store these gifts? Could they end up being a burden in any way? Will they require ongoing care or maintenance, and, if so, could that be a problem? If the answer to these questions is “I’m not sure,” see if you can find out. Just because it would fit in our home doesn’t mean it will fit in someone else’s.

Allot Sufficient Time

One of the best parts of apple picking is the slow stroll through the trees. I set aside plenty of time to do nothing other than be choosey about which apples I want. This is very different than the batch of apples I buy when I’m pressed for time in the grocery store, when I typically grab a bag or throw some apples into my cart. When shopping in this manner, I often get home to realize I’ve ended up with a few apples that are less than ideal.

I realize there is a romantic notion of dashing out at the last minute to do holiday shopping, but this truly is not the best approach. Especially this year, with the pandemic-related shipping delays, “down to the wire” shopping will not be ideal. Shopping shouldn’t be a rushed attempt to buy a bunch of stuff, check people off of a list, and pay a lot of money for shipping. Rather, buying for others is a chance to think about and select presents for people that we hope will make them feel known and loved. Furthermore, when we have allotted sufficient time, backorders and shipping delays will be less stressful as we will have time to pivot, regroup, and be patient for the items we truly want to buy.

Buy What You Like

This might sound obvious, but often we succumb to peer pressure when shopping. Out in the apple orchard, there are different types of apples. I happen to prefer apples that are a bit on the tart side and hold up well when baking. Other people prefer apples that are sweeter and/or are perfect for snacking. It may sound silly, but imagine if I went apple picking, and picked apples I didn’t like simply because they were “featured” or the “must have apple of the season.”

As you shop for yourself and others, try to tune out what others are saying is the “right” thing and focus on acquiring what you truly want. If you love the latest trend, by all means select pieces that follow suit. However, feel free to disregard whatever the media is featuring as this season’s “must have.” Remember that marketers (and the media through which they operate) are experts who have been paid to put out messages that stimulate sales.

Avoid Impulse Buys

At many orchards, when you go to weigh your buckets and pay for your apples, you have to walk through or near the farm store. Inside the store are a variety of other items you can buy, such as pies, jams, fritters, donuts, cider, aprons, knick-knacks, and more. Everything is attractively merchandised, and I often end up picking up more than I intended. After all, few scents are as appealing as apples and cinnamon!

There is nothing wrong with buying add-ons, but it is smart to be wary of goods that suddenly appear when we are getting ready to pay. Whether it is candy in the check-out aisle or items “you may also like” online, these offers are crafted to make us buy quickly and without too much thought. They are typically priced at high margins and appeal to our senses. When we come across that pop up at the point of purchase, we are wise to step back and give ourselves time to thoughtfully consider whether or not we want the item(s) displayed.

Keep Shopping in Perspective

Buying apples, while the primary purpose of apple picking, is actually only one aspect of our standard outing to the orchard. When we go apple picking, we also stop by the nearby petting zoo and feed the goats, take some photos against the beautiful backdrop, go for a hayride, and maybe go out for lunch. Picking and buying apples is fun, but what makes it special is that it is part of a broader life experience.

Likewise, shopping should always be an activity that is in balance with the other aspects of life. When we buy more than we can afford, use, or maintain, or when we buy to fit in, feel worthwhile, be liked, or alleviate anxiety, shopping can become a problem. Admittedly, we all need food, clothing, shelter, art, entertainment, transportation, vacations, and many other things. At the same time, we need to be honest with ourselves if we sense that our shopping might be out of control. If you are worried about how much time, energy, and/or money you are investing in shopping, reach out to get help. Find someone you trust to discuss your concern and get an objective opinion, and know that there are professionals available who can help. Commit to getting support if you decide you need to change your behavior.

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Have you ever been apple picking? Do you have tips for shopping wisely?

26 thoughts on “Thoughts on Shopping”

  1. I love this blog about shopping mindfully. I love to find the perfect gift that matches a friend or family member’s interests. I also appreciate friends that ask before buying. Just the other day a close friend told me that this year instead of buying a gift for me and my husband, she’d rather buy us an experience – going to Agatha’s playhouse dinner. A few years ago I would have loved this but now I was able to say to her before she purchased that with my husband’s current medical condition this would not work for us. I love her for thinking of us and for asking.

    1. I also love people who ask in advance, and now is the perfect time to start asking! Give potential recipients a chance to indicate whether a gift will be appreciated or might be a problem. I just watched a TV show where one person bought tickets and booked a vacation for himself and his girlfriend without asking. She wasn’t able to go. My reaction was, “Why would he book such a significant gift without checking first?” Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our idea that we forget to really investigate whether or not it would be appreciated. Great comment, and sending wishes for hugs and healing to your husband!

  2. It might be because I love to “research,” but I have a dollar amount that warrants extra time and research to buy. So if something is over $40, let’s say, I try not to impulse. I go back home, do a little research on the item and how I could get the best quality for money. I don’t purchase nearly as much as I would have if I just bought it on impulse.

    1. I love this idea of having a boundary around impulse buying. Having a hard and fast rule reduces equivocating, right? It a purchase surpasses the cutoff, its an automatic “no” until some time has passed. Brilliant!

  3. Beautifully said, Seana, and I love the apple analogy. The pressure to buy ramps up at this time of the year and it’s helpful to remember your suggestion to think about the difference between buying and shopping. My biggest tip for shopping wisely is that oldie but a goodie – shop with a list. If you know you’re intending to buy apples, all the other add-ons lose a little of their allure because they’re not on the list.
    :ucy Kelly recently posted…I’m calling about my momMy Profile

    1. More and more I’m either shopping with a list, or setting a financial limit to what I will spend for something not on my list. Being mindful about acquiring – whether for ourselves or others – is powerful.

  4. This past weekend, I started my Christmas shopping. There was an intention for every purchase. As a PO, I don’t want to add clutter to anyone’s home.

    Keep in mind that prices are up, so spending the money over several months is less stressful and won’t hit the bank too hard. Pic

    We are planning on doing our farm visit in a few weeks. It has been a family tradition since my husband and I got married in the 90s. Each year, different people come with us, and we do apple picking, hayrides, corn maze, apple blasters, shopping for our pumpkin, checking out the animals, and having lunch. It’s always an enjoyable time. Hopefully, the weather will be great. We do have to buy tickets online before going though.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Make a Winterize Your Home ChecklistMy Profile

    1. Fingers crossed on the weather for your fun farm weekend, Sabrina. That sounds like such a super tradition! We were shocked this year to see the size of the crowd. Fortunately, it was all outside, but the venue has certainly grown during popularity during COVID. Buying online is probably the way to go, and gives the venue a chance to control the size of the crowd.

  5. This is a great analogy, and the timing is perfect. I always have big plans to do my shopping early and take my time, but life often gets in my way, and I often end up putting it off longer than I would like. With so many disruptions in the supply chain this year, that’s a sure fire equation for stressful shopping and settling for things I don’t really want. I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of thinking through the recipient’s needs and circumstances before making a purchase. Great advice!

    1. Not only am I going to start early this year, but I hope to actually buy less. Most of the people in my life need very little at the moment, so I’m going to focus on presence vs. presents.

  6. What a wonderful metaphor. 30+ years ago, I used to delight in buying gifts for friends, and later, for their tiny humans, but we’ve all fallen out of that habit in my group. Plus, my family is small, and we don’t care much for tangible items (vs. experiences) unless there’s a very specific thing we need or, more rarely, want. I don’t think I’ve ever been aware of what the must-have gift of any season has been, and I know I never gave or received it. (Not celebrating Christmas really pares down all the excess in this regard.) But I do believe that gift giving should focus on the recipient’s needs and what would delight them. (And heaven save me from one more person giving me a candle or empty picture frame!)
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Cross-Training for Families: Organize for All EventualitiesMy Profile

    1. I think we give gifts for so many reasons, but the best is to show love. A great gift is one that shows we have really been thinking about the person, and in many cases, this means not crowding up their space with a bunch of stuff! I burn candles, so I love them. Picture frames, don’t need anymore!

  7. I went apple picking one years ago and it was great fun. Your suggestions for wise shopping are very astute and good advice. Thoughtful shopping at Christmas is often very difficult to do. An early start especially this year is important. Shipping delays of products as well as mailing gifts is going to be very slow.

    1. I was thinking that the shipping delays might drive shoppers more into local stores so they can walk out the door with their purchase. What a crazy ride these past few years have been!

  8. I really like all your points, but shopping intentionally is the best. People use shopping as entertainment or when they are bored or not happy with something. The questions you ask are good. Don’t buy anything that you don’t have a use for or know where it’s going to live.
    Janet Schiesl recently posted…10 Reasons to Love to OrganizeMy Profile

    1. I find myself asking where it will live more and more now, even with small things. I think being in this profession has changed the way I shop more than I thought it would.

  9. I don’t apple pick much (except in November when my favorite variety – Goldrush comes out) but I do buy apples at our local orchard. I’ve been wondering if I’m overspending, versus the ones at the store, but I don’t think so. They’re local and DELICIOUS and I feel intentional going there! And I don’t get too many so as to overwhelm. I just fill a mix and match sack with them, and then they’re weighed.
    Anyway shopping is interesting lately because we have to start our holiday shopping sort of now(ish) because of the supply chain shortages. So I am thinking more than ever about intentional shopping.
    Tamara recently posted…Apple Cider in an Apple CupMy Profile

    1. I’ve got holiday shopping on my mind as well since I just don’t know what I’ll be able to get come December. Feels a little odd since it is 70+ degrees today, but I’m not complaining. Goldrush apples, huh? Not sure I have ever had them, but I will look for them!

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