For years I was the “endcap” queen of America. An endcap, for those of you who don’t know, is the shelf space at the end of each aisle in almost every store in our nation. It’s the “this is an unbelievable deal” vortex that sucks busy women in when they are shopping in a hurry. It’s the place where retailers place the coolest stuff at the best prices. Really, can these buys be resisted?
Not by me, at least for a time in my life. I mean, can we live without a portable chopper that works off batteries, cutting everything instantly into the appropriate-sized pieces? Only to get it home and find out what a nightmare it is to clean after shredding all of your food instead of that promised “clean chop.”
Or the cute, little top that was only $6.99…and still lies in the bottom of your drawer (it doesn’t match a thing you own).
Seeking one lost shoe on the floor of my daughter’s closet would require weeding through the pile of must-have toys or undone projects purchased on a whim. It was probably purchased because my daughter was whining for something she wanted and I was too tired to fight.
In hindsight, I wonder how much money I’ve spent on “stuff.” I don’t think I really want to know; it would probably make me ill. Back then I was vulnerable, in a hurry, drawn into the eddy of great deals. The companies we were building and bands I was managing kept me running. At the same time I was committed to take care of my family, our home, and even the dog. My only goal was to stay afloat, just keep from sinking. I was the perfect mark for advertisers.
I don’t say this to excuse my bad habits; what I did wasn’t brilliant financial planning. But I fell, almost non-thinking, into easy spending…until it occurred to me that retailers were winning the game. Yet, even more important than retailers beating me, was that my actions acted as my daughter’s spending instruction and money was flying out of my hands to things that really didn’t matter.
It is easy to believe that a quick, mindless purchase is okay, and occasionally it is. But if you want to teach your children good spending habits, and also have enough money for that great family scheme you know will be more meaningful long-term than the trinket on the endcap, then do this:
1. Decide. Determine, while nowhere near any retail establishment, that this cycle will be broken.
2. Make a list. Review it with your kids before heading out the door.
3. Stick to the list! You can have the kids check it with you to make sure that you do.
4. Take note. Keep a mental journal of every endcap you walk by without adding something to your cart; you will feel inspired.
5. Set aside “fun” days. Occasionally announce to the little minions that today will be “fun money day” giving them a dollar amount and letting them choose what to buy.
This is not only liberating but it’s going to save a boatload of money. You will have slayed the retail-marketing giant. You will be teaching your family really good lessons. And as for those closets? Well, you will be able to find what you’re looking for because the only things in them will be the items you need.
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