On the road: eliminating temptation

Although being on the road holds its share of challenges for buying nothing new, it has several upsides as well.  First of all, I’m not tempted to buy all sorts of useless souvenirs that create great waves of buyers remorse every time I look at them back home.  It would be nice to have something for friends, but I may tweak this month’s rules to include postcards as a compromise option.  Most of my friends are far more excited at the prospect of a handwritten postcard or letter in the mail than by a t-shirt that reads, “My friend went to [insert tourist trap] and all they got me was this stupid shirt.”  They’d rather read about the tourist trap than advertise it on their clothing, and I don’t blame them.  Then again we trade letters on a semi-regular basis, so it may just be that birds of a feather flock together.

For these two weeks, at least, I’m participating in an intensive class that lasts 9-5 each day.  Our hotel is situated in a remote area; other than the conference center, the closest restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores are a mile away.  Suddenly placed in a vacuum of stores and the temptation to purchase goods, I don’t experience many urges to consume.

I’ve felt this contrast strongly when having dinner the past two nights.  The first night a group of us walked about a mile to the nearest cluster of restaurants.  On the way back we stopped into CVS, a national drugstore chain.  Faced with row after row of sale candy, snack-sized packaged foods, weekly specials and other non-essentials packaged as essentials, my fingers started wandering.  Dark chocolate-covered cashews are a healthy snack, right?  Oh look, but there’s the fig newtons.  And food isn’t part of my challenge, so picking up a couple preventative snacks is totally within the rules.  I mean, I’m really saving myself money aren’t I?  And look, everyone else is getting something, I can’t egg them on and then turn around and buy nothing.  It wouldn’t be right!

Like I said, rationalizing is a slippery slope.  (I did wind up with the fig newtons; paired with the bananas I brought from home, they make a decent stopgap breakfast option)  Last night, though, a group of us took a cab to a restaurant surrounded by shops that had already closed for the night.  When we emerged there was no temptation to buy anything because there simply were no options available to us.  It’s hard to spend money if there’s nobody around willing to take it.

Likewise, if you’re trying to steer your mind away from hyperconsumerism, the safest thing to do is to stay out of stores, stay out of the malls.  Stay away from any place you love to stop, even if there are sales going, even just to check if they still have the pants in your size.  Just like that mental laundry list of sweaters I’m planning to knit one day, if you wait long enough some items may just disappear off the list on their own accord.


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2 Responses to “On the road: eliminating temptation”

  1. Very Evolved Says:

    It’s no accident you bought those items. Odds are the shelf placement of the newtons was very carefully considered for maximum “oh I’ll just get it this once” shopping. Large chains especially have their whole store planned out and issue exact directives to all the chains detailing every item and shelf.

    I can’t find the comprehensive review I read on this, but this link describes it a little:


    Your last bit of advice is the best – avoid going to the store unless you are prepared to buy.


  2. ayearofgames Says:

    Gah! To have fallen prey to the consumer psychology of the drug store! It certainly worked on my friends and me, we were that classic “one time buy” consumer. It did occur to me while I was there that it was no accident the “Sale! $1/box!!!” signs were right at eye level, but obviously I need to take that one step further and actually start my shopping at the top and bottom of the shelves whenever I’m in the store. Hm, I believe you wrote a post on that topic? :-).

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