9 Tips to Shop With Intention and Ditch The Guilt

stool magazines intentional spending

“Minimalist + shopping? Intentional spending? Come on Michelle! Who are you kidding? You expect me to buy and wear only one dress for life? Or own one pair of boring ballet flats? Forever? Or never indulge in retail therapy? You’re just too funny.”

Did you just roll your eyes? Come on, I can feel you doing it. And you know what? You can laugh all you want and be as doubtful as you like, but it is possible to be an intentional shopper and not die owning only one pair of boring shoes or lose your mind in the process.

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you can’t shop. What it does mean is shopping with intention (a plan) and not letting your emotions (or marketing speak) take over your shopping habits. It’s not allowing others (or your emotions) to rule every purchase you make. And it doesn’t mean putting your brain on overload researching and thinking about every purchase you want to make for hours on end. 

By all means, put some thought into your purchases, that’s intention. But don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking about a purchase night and day until you eventually drive yourself nuts. Think about it, then come back to it in 24 hours. Then decide – does this item fit into my life or not? 

Think of intentional spending as curating the Pinterest board of your life. That sounds fun, right? Just like you’d sit down and create a Pinterest board for your bedroom makeover complete with a colour palette, furniture choices, and all the pretty bed linens, do the same for all the spending in your life. 

For years, I was a shopaholic. I shopped for almost everything without intention. I was an emotional spender. I shopped without a plan. So, of course, I ended up with a very fractured closet and a mess of trinkets and bobbles. 

Do you want to know the number one positive thing that has happened since adopting a mindset of intentional spending?


Yep, my mind has relaxed and I’m happier. 


Because I buy less. Because I know I’m buying items I need. Or, in the off chance I buy an item on my “I want” list, it’s without all the guilt. Because I’ve been eyeing it for a while and/or know I will absolutely love it and need it. And I’ve saved for it. And it meets my list of core values.

There’s something to be said about saving for something instead of mindlessly swiping. 

You appreciate that item SO MUCH MORE.

stool magazines intentional spending

Intentional Spending: 9 Tips to Shop With Intention and Ditch The Guilt

First, what is intentional spending?

Let’s define intentional spending as an action that moves you one step closer to the life you dream of. Spending your money only on things you truly love leaves you feeling fulfilled in life. And cutting back on things you don’t need or love so you can fund getting to your dream life that much faster (debt freedom maybe? travelling the world?).

1. Become a mindful spender, not an emotional one.

I spent years wondering why I had such a struggle with money. Then one day, I came to the realization that I was spending based on my moods. If I’d been too hard on myself and felt inadequate, I’d spend. If my inner critic kicked up a storm, I’d spend.

When you’re driven by your emotions, you’re likely to buy on a whim and end up with something you don’t love. I did this. For the longest time. It’s what happens when you live and breathe a 9-5 you loathe each day. (Wait…it was more like 7-10).

2. Live YOUR life, not everyone else’s.

Why do we let others run our lives? I’m asking this flippantly because I’ve been there. A girl falls in love with a guy, adores everything he does, worships the ground he walks on, then one fine day, BANG! You wake up wondering who YOU are. Can I plead young and foolish here? 😉

Letting yourself disappear by throwing yourself into other people’s lives is destructive. Whether it’s your husband, your partner, your children, your friends, or your family, don’t let YOU disappear for them. 

Remember to always keep a piece of yourself alive. Love the things you want to love, do the things you want to do, and buy items you love. In other words, don’t say you love minimalism for a guy, or for family….and vice versa, don’t say you hate minimalism to avoid offending someone when secretly you are a diehard minimalist. It’ll come back to haunt you.

By living YOUR life, you’ll spend on what YOU want. Not what others want you to spend money on.

3. What’s your intentional spending list?

What are the handful of things or experiences that truly make you happy? What are the things that would leave you feeling fulfilled?

Me, I have a few things that bring me a lot of joy: travel, good food, quality clothing, snapping photos, and cycling.

Creating an intentional spending list of “life loves” based on your values and beliefs is a great starting point to becoming an intentional spender. A quick tip: While we’d all love all the things, remember you can’t spend your money on everything. Try thinking of three things that would make you happiest in life and what would you be willing to sacrifice to have them.

4. No more FOMO. Or, do you really need that?

Need I say more? Being intentional with your shopping habits means ditching the worry that you’ll miss the perfect dress, shoes, or luxe sateen bedding. Instead, read #6 and realize that there is more to life than the next best dress or shoes. 

When you’re facing down FOMO, ask yourself: are you spending on something just because a celebrity has it, or it’s the next “cult” beauty product, or everyone on Instagram is talking about it? If the answer is yes, ask yourself if you already own it or some version of it. If you do, you don’t need the next best thing right now. If you’re still feeling a pull towards it, put it on a list of “must-try” items for later.

5. Remember responsibility always catches up to you.

I know. I just used the word responsibility. Ack! As much as I still feel like 27 at 42 years of age, I can’t escape responsibility. None of us can. There are bills to pay, doctors to visit on occasion, and yes, I enjoy eating wholesome healthy foods. 

Intentional spending focuses you on taking care of your responsibilities (rent/mortgage/debt/saving) knowing that every bit of money you put towards those responsibilities gets you that much closer to a more fulfilling life. One without the shackles of credit card debt or a hefty mortgage.

Dream a little – what do you dream of doing or achieving when you’re free from debt or big responsibilities like a mortgage? Knowing this will drive you to pay them off to create the life you dream of.

6. Ditch the guilt, remember your why, and choose happiness.

Remembering why you chose to live your life a certain way, whether that be slow and simple, filled with luxury, or beyond the status quo, your why will keep you on the path to happiness. Guilt will melt away when you stay true to your why.

7. Tapping, zapping, fingerprinting, and e-transferring is not the way to go.

Here’s where I get all money on you. If you want to be intentional with your money and what you purchase, I highly recommend having a system that works for you, preferably a cash system, (jars or envelopes) to any electronic means of payment. Pay with CASH. 

Do you know that feeling you get when you look at your bank balance and go WTF !!*&&** Where’d it all go?

Then you go through the list of transactions and you’re like, crap, I did that. All of that. What now?

When you use cash, you see your hard-earned money leaving your hands, and you’ll feel it. You’ll always be aware of what you hand money over for. 

When you tap a card or use your fingerprint to pay it’s like a slot machine in Vegas. You’ll keep parting with your money and wonder why you can’t save any. Trust me, I’ve done the legwork and research for you. I have the debt to show for it. Oh, and I’ve racked up the $90 Starbucks bill in one month to prove it too. 

Ditch the auto-reload, tap on bank cards, and fingerprint auth for apps on your phone. No more one-touch simple shopping. It’s not simple. Like a slot machine steals your money with little reward, these new technologies will do the same. 

8. It’s okay to return something.

Why are we all so afraid to return stuff? (There I go being all flippant again.) If you buy something and it’s not right for your space, your body, your closet, whatever, get rid of it! Return it. Otherwise, it’ll sit around cluttering your space. And every time you look at it, you’ll feel guilty. 

All those clothes in the back of your closet with tags still on? That’s a guilt trip you can avoid.

So let go of your fear that you’ll never find the right item and return it already. Be patient grasshopper. You’ll find that exact item you need and love. If you need to hear it again, see number 4 above – NO MORE FOMO!

When in doubt about a purchase, always ask what the return policy is! An ugly return policy usually stops me in my tracks before purchasing something I’m unsure about.

9. Patience is a virtue.

Remember how your parents always waggled a finger at you while snapping, “Patience is a virtue”  when you were a kid? You desperately wanted the latest pair of Nikes, but no, instead, you had “patience is a virtue” thrown at you. 

Well, if you’re me, you may have finally figured out in your mid-30s that this is one statement with loads of truth built in.

There will always be another pair of shoes, another dress, another book to read, and another scented candle, but there will never be another you with your life. Remove struggle from life and be happier by spending intentionally.

We all get one life. One chance to discover our full potential and what we can achieve in life. Why spend all your time mindlessly shopping for something you’ll throw away or donate three minutes later? Make a choice to be happy with what you have now. You don’t need anything external to be happy. All the things won’t bring happiness.

Is intentional spending a part of life for you? 

Comments +

  1. Sandra Lewis says:

    One great dress that can be worn in at least twenty different ways is not a bad thing at all. I was never so excited to find “the dress” that fit all my criteria for only $3 at a local thrift store. It had never been worn and still had the tags. Somebody had spent $99 on a dress they never wore! But this dress generated plenty of thrift store retail therapy for me as I *intentionally* went on the hunt for a few more bargains to extend my find. It’s a long tank dress in an elegant black fabric that can be worn with a sleeved blouse under it or over it, or plain with interesting jewelry. I have worn it with various jackets, sweaters, and sari-style scarves. I’ve dressed it down and dressit up. That dress was transformed into two nights of formal wear on an Alaska cruise. Best of all, it fit my “one carry-on” bag rule for adventuring. The minimalist wardrobe is never truly minimal in style if you pick items and accessories that go with everything in your wardrobe.

    • Michelle says:

      A huge high five for thrift store finds! I’m so happy when others find items at consignment shops and thrift stores. Sadly, I’ve never had much luck myself. I found one pair of ankle boots that I’ve had for three years now that I adore.

      Aren’t those types of dresses the best? I love it when you can pair almost anything with one piece of clothing.

      Thanks for sharing Sandra! 🙂

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