But even if you’re a guru at applying everything in moderation, when you’e constantly seeing and discovering new things on the road, sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the impulse shopping fray.
I’ve struggled with this especially when visiting a city after a long stint of rural life (of which I’ve had many). My “city fixes” have often involved a lot of shopping – some of which has been necessary, but a lot of which hasn’t been.
What do you do when you just need to buy something?
Define Your Souvenirs
I love to have something to remember a destination or experience by. But most traditional souvenirs are useless to me – fridge magnets are hardly practical for full-time travelers.
So instead, I tend to choose an item that (for me) both defines an experience or place, and is a practical complement to my one-bag traveling entourage. Ideally, my new item replaces something else that has worn out, so the new purchase isn’t an extra weight/bulk.
Many of these souvenirs might not be obviously from that country, but every time I put it on or use it, I’ll know where I got it. Items like clothing, jewelry, scarves, and little things like replacement travel journals make great souvenirs. I even got a teeny coffee maker from Vietnam, which is my one real luxury item that helps me recreate (or at least recall) some of the best coffee I ever drank.
With a bag full of “souvenirs” from around the world – many of which are simply replacements of practical worn out items), most days I leave the house carrying or wearing things from about half a dozen countries.
Questions to Ask Before You Buy
If you’re feeling the urge for a city-fix/spending spree, here are a few questions you can ask to keep your impulse spending in check:
Will it fit into my bag?
Better yet, what am I willing to replace to own this item? (This is a great question for long-term/full-time travelers, and really helps you define what you need on the road).
Is it in the travel budget?
Better yet, can it help me save money? (The SteriPen worked a charm for me on this front).
Can I use it in other countries?
If not, can I reasonably wear it out or sell it before I leave?
If I regret this purchase tomorrow, can I return it?
When buying souvenirs in the traditional sense (such as in local markets), your chances of being able to return them are slim. So if I have the slightest doubt about any purchase, I wait one day to buy it. If I wake up the next morning thinking about that item, then I know it’s worth buying. And if it’s gone….well, then, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Here’s a little more food for thought on impulse shopping in general:
And a reminder that how we choose to spend our money is more a matter of personal choice than we may think: