Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shopping: Get Thee Behind Me, Catalogs!

Associated Press photograph

If you don't need groceries, you don't go to the grocery store to browse.

And if you're not in the market for a new dishwasher, you don't go to the appliance store and check out all of the available models.

But every day, millions of people who do not need a stitch of new clothing browse through mail-order catalogs (or look at emails from on-line retailers, or devour magazines that are full of advertising, and editorial content that is thinly-veiled advertising).

This, of course, wastes time (you could be in the gym...), kills lots of trees, and worst of all throws all sorts of temptation in your path.

Five minutes ago, you never even KNEW that those lime green leggings existed.  Now, in your mind, you're figuring out what you might be able to wear with them, how you might be able to justify the purchase, how you can add one more unnecessary item to your already overstuffed closet.

If you had never seen them, you would never miss them.

The solution(s):

  1. Catalogchoice.org is a wonderful website which will help get you off of all sorts of mailing lists.  Less to tempt you, and less to recycle.
  2. Every time your order something online, you probably wind up on that company's email list.  But the bottom of each email you receive must, by law, include a link through which you can unsubscribe  to their (sometimes daily) mailings.  
  3. Carefully consider the magazines you read.  If they're more about what to buy than about intelligent editorial content, perhaps they don't bring the value to your life that they should.
When you're ready to make purchases, there is a wealth of information available to you.  When you're NOT making purchases, why be inundated with advertising that just wants to lure you away from your well-conceived personal style and personal finance goals?


  1. I LOVE the lines about not browsing at the grocery store and for appliances! So true and a very good reminder for me. I don't get many catalogs anymore but I have removed myself from email lists a few times. It is so tempting to receive the 25% off emails and just "take a peek" at what's on the website. I almost always find something to buy and I don't really think about how 25% off really isn't a bargain when you add everything up (and nothing is a bargain if you don't really need anything to begin with!).

    I also find it's helpful not to visit blogs by women who buy a lot of things and show them off so well. I buy far too many impulse items because they look good on someone else. I buy more because of blogs than magazines.

    Thanks again for an excellent post!

  2. Oh so true! My Mom gets a lot of catalogs and it makes her want things. Catalog Choice worked to get rid of most of ours and now if one shows up I just call the 800# and get removed from the list. Of course with the internet it is way too easy to browse anyway.

  3. It sounds so logical when you put it that way!

    A year or so ago, I became so fed up with the influx of catalogue garbage that I received, I spent an afternoon online getting my name off many lists. I am so very glad that I did. Now, I rarely get a catalogue I don't want.

    Thank your for getting the information out about how to do away with catalogues and other advertisements we are continuously bombarded with.

  4. I like daydreaming though catalogs--sometimes it is a substitute for purchasing something. Still--way too much time.

    And I like broswing in groceries--esp when on vacation. Am I the only one?

  5. No, Frugalscholar, I also like to browse and daydream through catalogs. (Maybe it's an academic thing?) The last time I bought anything for myself from a catalog was over a year ago. I do most of my gift-buying through catalogs or Internet because it's easier to have items shipped back to the Midwest that way. I looked at sheets in the LE catalog for three years until ours finally gave out and then I bought. I'm in much more danger when I"m in an actual store.

  6. Frugal - I love browsing in grocery stores too, when I'm on vacation. You can learn more about how people live in 30 minutes in a grocery store than you will in a week in a museum! The things that we miss most from living in Europe often are grocery items...

  7. I have 'unsubcribed' from a few blogs and websites in order to avoid temptation, I need to save more and shop less

  8. This is a great reminder. I am guilty of browsing clothes too often during my lunch when I am bored. I work too close to the malls. I have spend a considerable amount of time getting off of mailing lists. Catalogs, and other junk mail. dmachoice.org was helpful for me. I also called each and every catalog. And now I rarely order online. Your name gets passed around like crazy! It is quite frustrating.

  9. Once I got clear on my motivation for looking (in shops, catalogs) I was better able to select what merits my time. Looking meets my need for beauty and builds my eye. if the visual does not do that, I have much better use of my time.

    Great post, thank you!

  10. You preach that truth, Sister Vivienne! Read a book instead.

  11. No truer words have ever been spoken. It's like, Hello, WAKE UP!! Honestly. Reading this simple statement makes me realize how easily I am and have been suckered and sucked in on a routine basis. Advertisers know exactly what they are doing and I am turning over my power to them every time I go through with yet another unplanned purchase based off of an, AMAZING SALE! email.

    Not any more. I am wiser and worthy of better. Thank you for sharing what should have been so obvious.

  12. Like Frugal Scholar and Librarian, I truly enjoy the day-dreaming of glancing through PAPER catalogs, and being in Canada, I don't get that many. The ones I do get, I enjoy, yet they do not really make me want to purchase, purchase, purchase. Very rarely do I purchase but those are often my best planned purchases, actually. Going to stores is so much more tempting and overwhelming. Even if I check-mark a bunch of items, I don't end up getting them. Anyways, I generally get your point and have unsubscribed from almost all the email lists. I use Outlook and it has a setting that keeps only THE MOST recent email, all others are automatically deleted. This way, I do have the 30% discount offer IF I need it. I rarely go to the site. I rarely even properly open the emails. It works for me.