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The Joy of Financial Foreplay

financial foreplay

Simply put, I like to look. I once stalked designer wallets for a month before I bid on one on eBay (and got it!). I started looking at furniture for my New York City apartment weeks before I’d moved there or even met a realtor. I’m currently in the market for a file cabinet and have a few good contenders, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. And like 40 percent of Americans, I’ve done my share of “showrooming.” (When you go to see an item in a retail store, but then buy it online. It’s a thing.) Plus the reverse, online-dating style: I peruse my options online before going to see an item in person.

The Internet made round-the-clock shopping quick, easy and convenient. But rather than shorten my spending cycle, I’ve found it has deliciously extended it — and with it, the sense of fulfillment I feel. You might call it delayed gratification. I call it financial foreplay. And the payoff is worth it.

Real Shopping Is More Than Just a Transaction
That’s because shopping isn’t just about the act of buying, any more than intimacy is just about sex. The whole dance matters: The discovery of what attracts and appeals, the process of becoming familiar, of choosing. It’s no wonder I’ve felt more than once that I’ve been seduced by a purchase. I’m not sure if I court it, or, thanks to eerie Google and Facebook ads, it stalks me.

Bear with this metaphor a moment more: While you can technically “have” sex whenever you want it (if you’re willing to go with whatever options are available), you can also buy anything, right now. Neither offers much in the way of fulfillment. More or faster purchases do not equal more happiness, especially when made transactionally, impulsively and in quick succession. To enjoy what you get, you have to know what you want.

You Were Born to Shop
I work hard for the money I earn, and so how I spend it matters. When I set my sights on something (headphones, Argan oil products, productivity apps) I’ll do my homework — happily so. I’ll sort and browse, wander and consider. It’s part of my nature, as it is yours.

That’s because we’re wired to hunt and gather. Retailers didn’t invent this urge; they simply capitalize on it. We’re the offspring of people who were driven (by hunger, shelter, a desire for a warm fur pelt) to find what they needed, and they were obviously good at it because, well, here we are. And if you lived then, you knew there were some things you could count on and some you couldn’t. You might be out to snag a small woodland animal for the fam, but on a good day you might come across a buffalo. Score.

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