We’re going to start off with a quick story we heard recently. A little boy travelled to Jamaica for the first time to meet his grandmother. Sat at the dinner table with his siblings and cousins, grandma served up a plate of delicious food… so tasty that the boy gobbled it down in record time, while the other kids at the table ate at a steadier pace. Grandma looked over and asked, ‘Do you need more?’. With huge integrity for a small child, the little boy, with his tummy full, replied ‘no’. He wanted more, but he didn’t ‘need’ more.
There is a huge lesson for us to learn here. Modern-day consumerism has accelerated at incredible speed in recent years. We can literally buy anything we want from the comfort of our own home in just a few clicks. Couple that with activity-based advertising – which puts all these ‘things’ you might want in front of your eyes each time you’re online – and buying ‘stuff’ can easily become a habit.
So, why do we feel this incessant desire to buy more? Let’s look at the reasons…
Why do we buy so much stuff?
People buy things for a variety of reasons and sometimes we genuinely need those purchases. If your fridge breaks, you definitely need to replace it. Some of us have passions that require certain purchases. Avid cyclists will need to update their bike and equipment from time to time. Artists will need to buy new materials to continue painting. And this is ok. The problem comes when you are buying so much stuff that it adversely affects your life – financially or otherwise. Maybe your home is becoming cluttered and that’s impinging on your wellbeing. Maybe it’s causing a strain in your relationship because spending levels are too high. Or maybe you want to be more ethical and environmentally friendly in the purchase choices you make.
Whatever it is, understanding why we buy things can help us address it. Do any of the points below resonate with you?
- Easing boredom – hello 2020! With the absence of options that 2020 (and the start of 2021!) brought, many of us found ourselves making more purchases than usual. An Amazon delivery was the height of excitement at points of lockdown! When we have nothing to do, online shopping not only provides the entertainment of looking for something, but it also provides the excitement of it arriving and you using it, wearing it, eating it… But it’s short-lived. Unless you find something else to fill your time, you’ll soon be bored again… and so the cycle repeats.
- Keeping up with the Joneses – when you see people around you buying a shiny new car, a trendy new sofa or the latest iPhone, it makes you want it too. Maybe you want to keep up, to not be seen as different or unable to buy what others can. Maybe you worry that people will think less of you. It can be a product of either direct or perceived peer pressure.
- Filling a void – this void can be created in various ways. It could be being unhappy in a job, experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, or suffering a bereavement. Sometimes, just having that moment’s pleasure of having something new eases the pain or sadness that the void creates. But, again, it’s a momentary fix, rather than a long-term one.
- Making ourselves happy – we’ve all indulged in a bit of retail therapy from time to time. There’s no harm in that. But if buying things is becoming the main way that you make yourself happy, it’s likely that there is some more underlying issue that needs attention.
- Caving to fads – the world goes through fads and trends… and consumerism takes us along on the journey. Fashion trends are one of the biggest drivers of consumerism, with trends changing multiple times a year, giving people the urge to update their wardrobe. Anyone own a spiraliser?! They were a fad a few years back. Loads of people bought one, spiralised every vegetable in sight for a couple of weeks, and then it has sat in a drawer ever since. Hobbies. They come in and out of fashion too. And there’s a risk of spending lots of money on equipment, only to find a few months down the line that it wasn’t for you. Is there a less expensive way you could try it out? Maybe borrowing or renting what you need?
How do I stop buying so much stuff?
If you’ve found yourself nodding along to any of the above, the chances are that cutting down on your purchases is on your mind. So how do you do this? Here are a few tips:
- ‘Do I need it, or do I want it?’ – every time you go to make a purchase, ask yourself this question. Of course, we all have those times when you just ‘want’ something. But limiting the number of times you allow a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’ will reduce the amount of stuff you buy.
- Save what you don’t spend – when you decide that you don’t ‘need’ something, put the money you would have spent in a pot. Decide on something you REALLY want, or indeed need, and then save for it. It’ll discourage you from spending willy-nilly, and will focus you on saving for something that you really feel the benefit of.
- Put the screen down – half the time, we’re not even on our screens to buy something, but we get lured in by well-time adverts. The less time we spend on screens, the less temptation we’ll be open to. Find out how to cut down your screen time by reading our blog: Digital Detox: Being Mindful About Your Screen Time.
- Recognise if you need help – shopping addiction is very real. While most of us are guilty of making unnecessary purchases from time to time, it can spiral out of control for others. This is when professional help is needed and there is absolutely no shame in asking for it.
We’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Do you find you have bought more unnecessary stuff over the past year during the pandemic? What’s something you’ve bought thinking it would change your life but have only used a few times? Let us know in the comments below!