Stop spending your money at Costco!

Stop spending your money at Costco!

Maybe I’m the only one, but have you ever got to the checkout at Costco, heard the cashier tell you how much your bill is, and (almost audibly) said, “That’s gonna cost how much? All I came in to buy was a few groceries!”

It’s called Costco Treasure Hunting according to their website, and it helps keep people coming back frequently to the store, just to see what deals they can strike.

I started to notice last year that every time I would go to Costco, I would buy one or two things I didn’t need, and a few more things that I didn’t come in looking for. And as I started to notice this, I began to ask myself the question: why? Why do I keep buying all this stuff?

It’s a dangerous question to ask in a culture that is built on consumerism. I once joked with a friend who was considering an investment that the only thing that would make it a bad investment would be if US consumerism tanked. And he responded, “And that’s never going to happen!”

But the truth is that more stuff doesn’t make us happier, or more joyful, or less anxious. Often it has the opposite effect. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow in our next message in the Subversive Leadership series.

But how can we combat this desire within us to accumulate more stuff? Well, I’ve developed a few strategies you could implement the next time you head to Costco (or any other big box store) to help you battle against our internal belief that stuff makes us happy.

1.  Make a list

It sounds obvious, but as soon as I started making a list before I went into Costco, I saw my weekly Costco bill drop. Lists cause you to think more carefully about what it is you actually need, rather than what you might want in the moment because it will be gone by the next time you come in!

2. Plot your own route

There’s a reason you have to walk past all the electronics, clothing and home goods just to get to the groceries. There’s a reason why certain things are put on the end of the aisles. So, don’t walk the way they want you to walk through the store. Identify those areas where you don’t need to buy anything and walk right past.

3. Eat before you shop

There was a time when you could eat while you shopped in Costco. Not anymore. But I know from personal experience that any time I shop when I’m hungry I buy more food, and the wrong sort of food. My cravings get the better of me and I give in. So, eat before you shop; even if it’s just a small snack!

4. Take a child

I love taking my daughter shopping with me, because she holds me accountable. I give her the list and tell her we aren’t going to buy anything else. Yes, I sometimes have the converse issue that she sees something she wants and I have to manage that, but that’s much rarer in Costco, especially if you follow strategy #2.

5. Gamify the experience

I love to win. So, I set myself little games, like can I spend under a certain dollar amount? Or can I make it round the store in a certain number of minutes? Things like this give me a little burst of endorphins that counteract the endorphins I know I will get from purchasing that new set of power tools I don’t need.

6. It’s okay to leave empty-handed

This one doesn’t always apply if you’re shopping for groceries, but if you came in looking for something specific and they don’t have it, it’s okay to leave without buying anything. Yes, it feels like doing the walk of shame going through the exit without any stuff, because you’re convinced security is going to strip search you, but you’ll be much better off without that unnecessary item you were considering  three minutes earlier.

Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with believing that stuff will make me happy. But I think it is rooted in struggles we all face as a culture.

This weekend in our worship services and on Chapel Hill Online, we’re going to hear about three young men who faced serious cultural pressures to do something they knew wasn’t good. I’d love to see you join us tomorrow, and hear how they resolved it, either in person or online.

Pastor Ellis