Why We Still Go Shopping

While we try to live a simple life with less, both belongings and in our daily life, we still go shopping when we need something; in other words, we have not instituted a shopping ban. A couple of times a week you will find us in the store, sometimes twice on a weekend, or maybe one weeknight and once on the weekend. So how does this fit into a simple life? The best I can sum it up as is that we shop with a purpose.

When my husband and I started dating, trips to the mall were a frequent activity that we liked to do together. Often we had no purpose in mind other than to spend some time together. As the years progressed, shopping as an activity continued sometimes with a purpose and sometimes without. Too often the trip with a purpose had us coming home with a lot of impulse items. All of this contributed to our home having too much stuff. It also turned into a pastime we handed down to our children. Need something to do? Let’s go shopping. Have two dollars from doing a job around the house or birthday money? Let’s go shopping.

We really didn’t think too much about this habit. We certainly were not alone as evidenced by all the people in the stores with us. The turning point came last February when we started getting rid of things and realized we needed to stop bringing things into the house as well. Since then, while we still shop, we have been better at shopping with a purpose.

This weekend is the opening for gun deer hunting, which also means it's Deer Hunting Widows weekend; traditionally a weekend for girls to get together and eat, drink, shop etc while their significant other sits in a deer stand hoping to bring home the trophy buck.

For the first time in four years, our daughter and I were home alone at this time and decided to make some girl’s weekend plans. On Friday night we ate dinner with another mother/daughter whose husband/father were also deer hunting. This was a simple get together at a local Mexican restaurant; no frills, just a good time getting together.

On Saturday, the two of us planned to go shopping to some new high-end stores that opened up near us. There was a definite purpose to this trip; we both wanted a couple of higher quality items that we were willing to spend money on.

While reading about minimalism and living a simple life, one piece of advice that often comes up is to buy less, but buy higher quality. It was time to give this a try. Too many years have gone by where I just buy and end up with a lot of OK things, but not necessarily things I love. My closet, though not down to 33 items, is definitely more streamlined, and I now know what I like for style and what I need. Our daughter feels the same. Therefore, neither one of us were looking for just any old item that fit those names; we both had very specific requirements about what we were willing to spend our money on.

My collection of four pair of jeans includes two pair that are only so-so; however, until I find better, they are what I have. Today I specifically targeted all the high-end jeans lines to find a new pair. Six hours later, I had not found any jeans that were any better than what I had, or what I could buy at our local Kohl’s department store for a fraction of the price. The same story repeated itself for the leather shoes and purse I looked for.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I am actually kind of disillusioned as well. I was really looking forward to buying some good quality items, but either they don’t exist, cost isn't a reflection of quality, or I’m looking in the wrong places. Anyway, I came home with nothing. Our daughter fared one item better, coming home with a coat, though even that was a struggle to find.

After arriving home, her statement that consumerism gives her a headache, is a pretty accurate description of our shopping day. The day underscored our decision to keep trying to live a simple life which includes less shopping. We value our hard-earned money too much to just spend it away on anything.

As we used to do, there are many people that still view shopping as an activity, a hobby, or therapy as the retailer’s sign proclaims. While wandering around the stores at the malls, I did a fair amount of people watching and was amazed at the long lines of people at store registers, the overflowing carts/bags, and the family that included two younger girls sitting on the floor amidst six Build a Bear boxes. Even though we aren’t perfect, I’m glad we are learning to move away from this train of thought.

Despite my disbelief at the amount of things people were buying, obviously, we were among them and we still go shopping; however, it is with a purpose. Here is how shopping fits into trying to live a simple life.


Probably 95% of our shopping is for consumables including food, Kleenex, toilet paper, health and beauty products etc. Also included are oil for the cars, salt for the water softener, spa chemicals and other products needed to keep a house running. I’ll even include the wax scents I put in my candle warmers. This is the category that bothers me the most as I feel we consume too much. It’s a weekly struggle to reduce this category, but with 4 adults living in one house, it has been very hard to do so. October was a good month for some reason, but November is already over budget, mainly due to stocking up for deer hunting.

Tools and Repairs

My husband fixes everything he can around the house to save on repair bills. Appliances, cars, leaky faucets etc all get his attention before just calling in a repairman. Sometimes, tools are needed to get the job done. Our son’s hobby car has been a good example of something that in order to fix, specialized tools are purchased. Both of them start the job by using the tools we have, but if they just won’t work, new tools are purchased. We have often discussed how the right tools make the job go much faster, but we are conscious of the money cost as well. Along with the tools comes the new parts needed to make the repair. Despite the need to go shopping for tools, we are way ahead of the game by doing the repairs ourselves when we can. This category ebbs and flows depending on the year and the project.

Planned Purchases

The remaining purchases we make are durable goods that we have planned on making. This used to be a larger category and included more impulse items. Often we would see something in the Sunday paper advertisements and decide to buy it that week. To me that is an impulse item. Instead, we now are better at evaluating what we need, what we can do without and ultimately, what we will purchase. We have tried to be intentional about what clothing we purchase, and we have not added any furniture or home decor to our house since February’s declutter/re-purpose/streamlining event. This category is now a pretty small percent of what we buy, but it does exist. Currently, we are still looking for a good price on kayaks (I have seen them advertised on Black Friday) and a vacuum cleaner because ours literally blew up last week.

As I mentioned, we are not on a shopping ban; but we are trying to be more conscientious about what we purchase. We have a long way to go in reducing our consumables, but have made strides in other areas. We’ll keep trying and hopefully spend less time shopping as a result.

What does your shopping look like?


  1. I have the same issue with jeans! My cheapo Old Navy jeans just ripped in the knee. I asked the frugal fashionista over at Freedom from Money and she recommended American Eagle or Express Jeans in January, so I'm hoping to score some quality jeans there come January. We certainly still buy stuff. But yes, consumerism gives me a headache too (props to raising an amazing daughter that would say that! I hope my kids will be the same way!). Our spending is very similar: food, consumables, tools, and the occasional fill-in items we need (ie: jeans).

    1. Jeans are so hard for me to begin with since I have long legs, I should try her recommendations. I hope your search goes better than mine did!


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