Shopping frenzies can be fun. Nobody is denying that. We’ve all gotten on a roll, and the cashier’s till just seems to be playing our tune. We get home, shopping bags bulging out like the cheeks of a chipmunk in early autumn. Then, we go through our booty, and lo and behold, we are left wondering as to what exactly we were thinking when we bought half of this stuff. We vow to take it all back, lose track of time, and finish with a pile of barely used, if we managed to use it, stuff. And, that ain’t cool.
Bottom line, buying new things should feel exciting but also purposeful. Most of us work very hard for our money, and when we spend it, we hope that hard work will have been worthwhile. The problem is that we are pulled in all directions, marketed to non-stop and become sidetracked by what’s available, maybe on sale, fifty-percent off, as opposed to things that might be of real value to us. We want our lives to be easier, better, more fulfilled, and come to find out, it’s not more things that provide that but rather the right things.
So, before dropping a wad of cash (or sliding some cold hard plastic), maybe there are a few questions we can ask ourselves to make sure that next purchase is one of quality and not yet another thing to toss on the pile of stuff we still need to deal with.
1. Why am getting this, and/or do I already have something that’ll do the same job?
The amount of specialty items we are convinced to buy to do the same job as something else we have, only slightly differently, is … well … it’s consumerism at its most devious and profiteering. Computing devices come to mind: a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, an iPod, an e-reader, a watch. How many ways do we need to get on to Facebook or scroll around top-flight sites? Most of us don’t need all of these or even three of these, but somehow we end up with a collection, half of which live on the coffee table gathering dust until it’s obsolete.
In other words, we buy at a rate much faster than we use. The new tablet now has Microsoft Word – but what about that laptop sitting around with the same program (rarely used) that’ll become an even bigger waste of space than it did when the now outdated tablet was purchased? In other words, buy the new tablet and there will be the old tablet and the old laptop cluttering up space, the thought of what to do with them lingering in the back of our minds. Maybe it’s a tidbit more convenient to have whatever program the new tablet offers, but it’s dumping a lot of money on something we don’t really need, something that will cause us to undue stress over what to do with what we have.
2. Will buying this require that I buy more stuff?
That said, acquiring multiple things to perform the same basic function is not the only way we are being suckered into more spending and, ultimately, more stress as a result of it. Another great modus operandi is the product that requires us to continually buy components and extras to go on it. To continue picking on electronics, because they’ve really go us with the “latest and greatest” thing, gaming devices are an absolute money suck, aren’t they? First, we spend a ridiculous amount on this year’s model, with better graphics or some such. Then, it’s all about the freaking games…and controllers and … Seriously?
We buy things that just seem to make us buy more things until whatever deal we thought we are getting is an absolute joke. How much is each new game for that console? We can hardly buy an iPhone without either paying three times as much or signing a contract to use such-and-such service for the next two years. Cars need gasoline, oil changes, tune-ups, insurance, parking spots, washes and it keeps on going. If having something requires us to continually put more money into it, then that something ought to really be performing a service we want and need and aren’t getting.
3. What happens after I buy this, and why is that an improvement?
Another great ploy that has been thrown our way since most of us can remember is that old check-out line bait and sell. Moms know it very well, the luring rack of candy calling out to children right when moms are at their mothering weakest: Almost out of here, ready to pay, and in no position — with all those folks waiting at the end of the line — to withstand a tantrum over a candy bar. Then, we carry that bad habit over with us into adulthood. But, we know buying that junk doesn’t do us any good whatsoever. Not for hunger. Not for our health. Not for our bank account.
Presumably, we buy new (or used) things because they’ll create a positive in our lives. We buy food for the nourishment, and yes, something that tastes good is relevant as well. We buy a house for the shelter and comfort and so that we aren’t spending our money on rent that will ultimately offer no financial return. We buy new shoes because our old shoes have holes in the soles, no longer keep our feet warm, and the replacements will make this coming winter much more tolerable. If we buy for no reason or simply out of impulse, we accumulate too much and lack appreciation for what we have, such that our possessions, or imaginary lack thereof, stress us out.
In some ways, it seems a lot to go through just to buy this week’s groceries, but that’s only because many of us have become so accustomed to buying injudiciously, a habit that quietly creates monetary problems, storage/clutter problems, and even relationship problems. In the long run, it is worth it to stop and ask ourselves what exactly we are doing.