We are consumed with and by STUFF. Most of the stuff we have, we don’t need. But advertisers tell us we do, and we buy into their ads and gimmicks. All too quickly we are spending money, often money we don’t REALLY have, on the latest and greatest of whatever new item they are selling. They are smart; we are fools! The advertisers are doing EXACTLY what they are supposed to do which is to get us to believe that we really do need another _______________. You can fill in the blank with the plethora of things that we buy and then, too quickly, grow out of or grow tired of or replace with the next latest and greatest item.
By definition, according to Oxford Dictionary, “consumerism is the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.” And a preoccupation it definitely is.
So why and how are we so easily enticed to buy things that we don’t really need or have to have, or better yet, that we, in essence, already have? For example, how many pairs of shoes or jeans does one person really need? And actually, is that new “whatever” going to make us happier? Oh, it will for a brief time. We know that psychologically, we release endorphins and dopamine when we buy something. This is much the same experience we get when we exercise, for example. The sad reality is that this is only temporary. Then all we have is another thing that we probably really do not HAVE to have plus the debt from the purchase.
So what do we do about this and how can we stand strong against the very beguiling advertisement companies that trick us into believing that the latest and greatest item will make us younger, stronger, thinner, sexier, or better on whatever level they are peddling?
Personally I find my life to be a little easier to manage with less things and stuff. I have purged a lot of items, owning more of just the basics. When I was doing this, I took as much as I could to consignment shops. I used any money I got from the sale of these items to throw onto our debt. It was cathartic. Streamlining things helps me better manage my money, my time, and my space. My life is not filled with unnecessary clutter. So, first, and probably the hardest tip is resist the ads. For me this is pretty easy because I love because I know I don’t want more stuff around to complicate and clutter things. Any time my wife or I make a purchase we are careful to be sure it is on our own accord not because we see a commercial or ad that tells us we NEED something
Secondly, we are very deliberate with our purchases by planning them out in our monthly budget. This makes our shopping deliberate and not a spur of the moment irrational decision. In this vein, we then are able to research the best price, budget for the item, and purchase it without going into debt.
Another tool to use when making a purchase is the twenty-four hour rule. This prevents spur of the moment, compulsive spending/buying decisions that many all too often make. The idea is that when you see something that you THINK you want to buy, you wait a day before making the purchase. This gives you time to reflect on whether you really, really want the item or not. Often it is not all that appealing after waiting.
Another tool to use and one that my wife’s parents used with her is the time calculator. For this, you need to calculate the amount of time spent working that it will take to pay for the item. Is that item really worth four, six, or a whole day’s amount of work? If it is, then fine. But after thinking about the amount of time it will take working to pay for the item, if it is worth it or you really need it, then at least you have made a rational decision.
The bottomline is that the advertisers are doing what they are supposed to do, and they are good at it. Look around. See all of the THINGS that you have bought that were great for a little bit of time but now are hanging in the closet or are shoved on a shelf just collecting dust. Did those things make you younger, stronger, thinner, sexier, or better? My advice is to be deliberate in your spending. Take the time to plan and budget and don’t fall prey to the marketing ploys – again. In the long run, I think you will find that more money, financial freedom and security, and less things will actually make you more satisfied. I know it has for me.
As always, if you need help budgeting, reach out to me. I am here to help you on your financial journey.