A Return To Competitive Shopping

someecards.com - You outbid me on eBay. I'm going to track you down.

Summer 2004:

I am not going to the Olympics.

I am devastated.

I am also living in dorms with my friends and teammates that are going to the Olympics.

And training at the same lake with them.

And eating at the same breakfast table.

I cannot escape my failure.

I can, however, try and buy my way out of the deep disappointment.

How? With eBay. My sister introduces me to eBay when she sells her old rowing clothing on it to drum up a bit of cash. She helps me do the same.

The thrill and excitement of selling things in the online marketplace is soon replaced with the thrill and excitement of buying things.

Coach sandals, bikinis, shoes and shoes and more shoes arrive for me daily.

None of it takes away the pain of my narrow miss at going to the Olympics. I know this and yet, I keep buying.

Twelve years later I think I am immune to shopping for sport. I’m wrong.

A few weekends ago I looked through our stash of baby clothing. We had just a half dozen pieces in the newborn and 0-3 month size. Most of what we used with Henry in the beginning were hand-me-downs from my brother and sister-in-law. They were fantastic but didn’t have a lot of life left in them after we used them.

Though I was hopeful we would have a second child, I donated and sold a lot of our baby clothing instead of storing it. I realized as we pared down in the fall of 2010 that I couldn’t plan for every eventuality in life and that included having a second baby that was the same gender, birth month and had the same growth pattern as our first.

We needed six to eight sleepers or gowns in newborn and 0-3 month size along with a few hats. A quick look in the charity shops here left me empty handed so I turned to my old friend eBay.

Oh, eBay. You sure are fun. I was quickly in the swing of things creating watch lists and finding auctions that ended in the early evening so I would be at the computer ready to outbid someone with 10 seconds left in the listing.

If you’ve ever had a shopping romance with eBay you understand how exciting it can be to pip another bidder at the very last second. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It can also be addictive.

I quickly found myself feeling competitive about buying things.

It is so easy to fall back into old patterns. While I shop a lot less now this little brush with competitive shopping showed me I’m not cured of it. It showed me that my habits, not going into stores to browse and keeping lists of things we want to buy, really do help.

When the dust settled I had a half dozen pieces that will be great for our new baby and that I got at a fraction of what they would cost new.

Yes, it was fun to shop. I not only had a little thrill with the eBay bidding process and the hunting down of auctions that fit what I was looking for, I enjoyed getting these things for our new baby. I enjoyed thinking about a folded up little newborn wearing the soft little gown or staying warm with the sweet little hat.

The difference between now and a few years ago is that a few years ago I would have kept buying. We would have had enough sleepers and onesies for triplets. A lot of them would be things I bought because they were a fantastic deal – not because I really liked them.

This time it was different.

Once the last packaged arrived in the mail I emptied out my watch list, left feedback for the sellers and checked ‘buy baby clothes’ off our list.

Any other reformed impulse shoppers still dabble in eBay, big sales or those daily deal emails? Have you found it easier to just buy what you actually need instead of whatever the deal is?

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  • It’s been a while since I felt the ebay rush. It can be addictive. I found myself buying Rock’n’Roll memoribilia and other things I’d have never dreamed of purchasing. I do still occasionally search ebay, but only for items than I truly need. I’ve actually used it to sell more than I’ve bought in the last few years.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

    • Me too on the sell more than I have bought in the last few years. I sold my Olympic torch and a lot of Olympic memorabilia on it in 2009/2010 that helped pay off debt.
      This little dalliance with the buying was a reminder of why eBay has been so successful: interactive shopping! Auction style buying really can be fun.

  • I kind of envy you that buying joy. I really hate the stress of bidding against somebody else in the last seconds (not on e-bay, but similar, local service). REALLY HATE. It makes me nauseous. My belly aches for the rest of the day.
    I still have a daily listing of new offers in puzzles. Every now and then I find one very cheap and very beautiful. My stash has about 15 sets right now, and every once in a while I sell 2 or 3 of them back (of course, I first solve them – sometimes we’re so busy with the children, one 1000-piece takes us a month).
    I know that I could live just as well without those puzzles, and it took me some time to learn to just shrug if a pretty one passed my price, but I like the way it is now.

    R’s firsth birthday is on Sunday. I have so much trouble listing anything my family could give her. Partly because right now her favourite toy is a rattle, that J made in kindergarten using a plastic bottle, rice and some tape.

    • I am SOOOO with you when it comes to HATING the bidding process. At this point I won’t even look at an item unless it has a Buy It Now price so I can just buy it and be done with the whole hideous process!

    • With you on this one. I also hate the bidding process and find it too stressful. I still do it grudgingly because it is such a great place to find children shoes in excellent quality for a fraction of the price… can’t bring myself to pay 40-50€ for toddler shoes when I know they will only be used for a few months (sometimes weeks)

  • I do craigslist sometimes. It’s not as tempting as ebay for me, maybe because it’s harder to just browse, and you have to visit each entry to see a picture. I also hate the bidding and paying shipping!
    We’re expecting in the spring, so I have a specific list of items and occasionally check craigslist to see if any are avaiable at the right price. If I happen across something I just WANT to buy for my boys, I make myself sell something on craigslist first- so by keeping my craigslist buying and selling cash-only, it stays in check. I do the same at the local children’s consignment shop- only let myself buy something when I have credit on my account there from selling.

  • Oh man, I really get you on this one. I used to have a really bad Ebay addiction. I had packages coming all the time. Things I didn’t need, but “won” or got for a “great price.” It lasted for a good couple of years…until my debt got to be too much. I decided I had to sabotage myself on Ebay. I bid on things I knew I wouldn’t pay for to get a negative rating, so I could not bid anymore. Pretty cruddy, I know, but it worked…and got me off Ebay for good :)

    Now when I want to shop I hit up thrift stores or the sale racks at an extra 40% off with a specific LIST of things I need. I also limit my time in the mall and leave when time is up!

  • Before moving here, we lived in a great neighborhood full of moms who were always passing along hand-me-downs. The email list serve they used was incredibly active–50-100 emails a day!–and a lot of them were free giveaways of baby gear or barely used, name brand clothing for a fraction of the cost. It was an amazing gift during the time when we had little money and NO baby supplies. However, I’m grateful we’ve left it behind and moved on to a new life, even though there are less resources. Greed and acquiring became such a part of my daily routine once I let myself fall into that email group and start responding!

  • How do you stop now, what is different that does not keep you coming back for more? I have to learn this power.

    • We have enough and I can see that buying more stuff, even the thrill of outbidding someone at the last second, won’t feel good long term.
      I know how hard it is. I’ve been there many times before when shopping. Bought things for the wrong reason and then felt bad afterwards. I try to think about those bad feelings if I ever get into the ‘shop to feel better’ mindset.

  • Oh, how easy it is to get into that again! There are some awesome kids’ consignment shops around here, and I try to stay out of them as much as possible…because there is always something adorable to buy for Rachel to wear!

    I also unsubscribed from the Gymboree email list. That has helped a lot! And I limit her clothing to about 2 linear feet of hanging space in my closet, and one drawer for her (not counting socks and pajamas). Not much space, so not much clothes!

  • I’ve never had problems with online shopping but working near a major downtown mall? Whoa.

    I’m working in shopping less, mostly succeeding. One trick I use when the urge to accumulate strikes is to hit the library. I can bring home a stack of booksnforntwelve bucks a year…as long as I remember to take them back. Books are not clutter. Especially not books that are not staying.

  • I too have fallen victim to the eBay bidding buzz addiction.

    I had to go cold turkey for a long term before I could return.

    I returned on the selling side, selling hundreds of items, many of which I bought on eBay.

    I must say the buzz of watching items increase in price, watching people snipe one another at the last moment, was just as exciting as the seller.

    And the bonus: I was making money rather than spending it.

    Whilst I did not make back the money I spent, that was not important. The money I had spent was a sunk cost, so any money I made was a bonus.

    Thanks for the article. I definitely know what you’re feeling

  • I know that bidding win excitement you’re talking about! I’m so glad I’m not doing that anymore. It’s definitely less stressful for me to buy what I need vs. the deals I see on a watch list. But before I was able to stop that, I had to figure out what made me go into those buying sprees. That wasn’t easy – lots of soul searching happened – but my life is much simpler now for it :)

  • I can very much relate to this. I have always been big on decluttering and living with less but a few years ago when my husband and I were faced with a the grief of learning we would never have biological children, without even really realizing it, I began to try to dull my pain by ordering boxes and boxes of books off amazon and going shopping almost every day before work…I don’t think I really recognized what I was doing, I just felt slightly better very briefly with each purchase. We adopted and after I felt secure again, it was like my eyes were open anew at all I had acquired and I was almost revolted by it. I remember counting my sweaters and reaching a number that i am too embarrassed to type here. Looking at my bookshelves and slowly ridding myself of so many. I was saddened by the fact that while I had been shopping like a madwoman there were people I could have helped with that money instead. I felt terribly selfish but also glad to have my eyes open again.

  • I use goofbay to snipe things on ebay. You put in the item code and your maximum bid. It will then bid on your behalf a couple of seconds before the auction ends. That way you decide in advance what you are willing to pay and don’t get sucked into the bidding. You also don’t have to be around when the bid is ending.

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