We are taught from a very young age that buying and owning things makes us happy. Just because it is ‘normal’ doesn’t make it right. From the 5,000 advertising messages per day to the adoration of celebrities with their glamorous lifestyles, we are programmed with the belief that more is better. Shopping is even considered a pastime, a way to distract ourselves, something that is okay to do if we are bored.
The madness has got to stop. Right here. Right now.
You are in control of your beliefs and you can change them. You can decide that ‘more’ just complicates things and ‘less’ is what makes you happy. You can decide to put attention on things like creativity, quality time with your family and rest over being a cog-in-the-wheel consumer. You can decide to value saving money over that next impulse purchase.
Here are three daring ways to buy less and live more…
1) Don’t Buy
Here is the simplest suggestion – don’t buy anything. Don’t purchase at the store. Don’t add to cart online. Of course, on a day-to-day basis, you can still shop for fresh food items, buy household necessities you have completely run out of or pick up urgent needs like medicines.
Many families attempt this as a kind of a fun experiment for a period of time. They challenge themselves to not buy anything for a week / one month / a whole year. They find themselves getting resourceful and using something else in its place, making do without or asking others if they need. This may mean a ban on buying all non-essential household items or a prohibition on purchasing one category of things, for example, clothes.
Another idea is stop buying items you habitually consume and see if you really want or use them. Could you go without cable? Does everyone in the household need a different type of conditioner? Would anyone mind if you didn’t decorate your house up to the hilt for Halloween or Christmas? Do you really need to replace that broken food processor? Just because you have always done it like that or had one of those doesn’t mean you have to continue in the same way.
Others have policies in place to stop relentless consumption. I now very rarely buy greeting cards and instead ask the kids to make them. On vacation, we try not to buy souvenirs, reminding the kids that photos and memories of our fun adventures together are enough. You can grow, produce or make your own to reduce the need for buying. We enjoy picking from our summer vegetable garden and others we know make their own bread or soaps or keep chickens for eggs.
2) Buy Consciously
Human nature dictates that you will always covet pretty things. However, purchasing in a more conscious manner means you won’t buy as much. Before you buy something, give yourself time for an honest consideration of whether you truly need to own it.
One way to do this is to pause. Give yourself some breathing room between the wanting and the buying of something. Delayed gratification can be a good thing. For large appliances or expensive items like cars, waiting 30 days before purchasing is a good rule of thumb. Technology like computers and TVs usually have an even better product on offer 30 days from now. Give yourself 24 hours between ‘add to cart’ and purchase. That cute top, latest gadget or joke gift item that you clicked on in the wee hours may not seem so appealing in the light of day.
You can ask questions before you buy. Grill yourself like you are in court and you need to defend your buying decision. Do I need it at all? Do I need it now? Do I need to buy it brand new? How much will I really use it? Will this thing last a long time? Is it easy to take care of? Does this have a place in my home? Can it really make my life easier or does it just add complication? Would I prefer to spend money on something else that I would enjoy more?
Buy less and live more by purchasing things that reflect the real you. You can have your own style and not buy the latest fashion. Stop worrying about what others think – you don’t need to buy to keep up with the imaginary Joneses. And you don’t have to live a fantasy life that includes purchasing things for hobbies you are never going to pursue.
3) Rent, Hire, Borrow
One of the first questions to ask yourself whenever you want to buy something is, do I really need to OWN this? Would it suit my needs better to hire or borrow it?
Depending on who you talk to, ‘rent’ and ‘hire’ can have slightly different meanings, but here they both mean paying money for the use of something for a limited period. Borrowing implies that you get the use of the thing for free.
Renting and borrowing products and services is now extremely popular. Younger generations, especially, don’t want to own things, they just want access to them. Many people now choose to rent an Airbnb, get a rideshare like Uber or use a subscription model for their entertainment needs—think Spotify for music and Netflix for TV. This sharing economy is not only environmentally and economically sustainable, it is trendy too!
What sort of things are good contenders to be hired or borrowed?
- Equipment or items for one-off events, e.g.: extra chairs or glasses for a party or a dress to wear to a wedding
- Expensive items you are not sure you want to buy e.g.: kids’ sports equipment, music instruments or a workshop tool
- Things your children will grow out of quickly e.g.: baby gear or toys
Think of the benefits: you save money, it is a better use of resources and you don’t have it filling up your space indefinitely. Plus, if you do decide to purchase it, you get to try before you buy, so you know it works for you. In addition, it encourages more social interaction and sharing within your community.
Buy Less, Live More
Why not decide to try at least one of these three daring ways to buy less and live more? You can rent, hire or borrow what you need, buy consciously or simply not add to cart at all. Let me know how you get on.
Remember that you can still buy things! The economy is not going to take a dive because you alter your consumer behavior to now only accept quality goods you love and cherish. Civilization is not going to tank if your seven-year-old doesn’t receive his weight in plastic toys. In fact, paying for quality goods or renting or hiring can help many businesses thrive.
But before you press the ‘Buy Now’ button, always remember this: you truly have everything you need right now to live a beautiful, amazing life.
This blog post is extracted from my best-selling book, Clutter-Free Forever. It is MUCH more than just another book about decluttering!
If you loved this blog post you may also want to read my trilogy of decluttering blog posts plus the most recent post on decluttering: 3 Quick Decluttering Victories in Lockdown (or any time)