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.
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?