Even if we don’t think a lot about extraction of the resources needed to produce new things, and destruction of our planet in the process, from time to time, I am certain most of us catch ourselves with the same thought: “What will we do, when we ruin our planet?” Although it may be only for a brief moment, even the biggest spenders have this thought.
If we want to contribute as little as possible and sometimes skip the purchase of some new knick-knack that we know deep inside we don’t need, everything counts. We vote with our money. I am asking you to vote for the important stuff.
Overspending, impulse buying, and the general overconsumption of unnecessary things is by far the most common problem among today’s generations. Statistics show that the average American household contains more than 300,000 possessions. Let’s try together not to be included in that number.
You may ask yourself: “But what can I do? I am powerless.” But no, you’re not. You’re the only person responsible for your decisions. No one else. You vote with your money and think with your head. No amount of advertising can influence you if you decide you won’t be affected. I know, I know. Easier said than done.
If you live an average, cozy life, you probably have more stuff than you need. Even people living in small apartments can squeeze a lot of things into them. But if you already have so many things, do you really need something new? Is it a real need or just a desire? When we have too much, it’s hard to tell what we already have. So, we need to take an inventory.
Take a weekend off and go through some of your stuff. You can even invite a friend or family member to help you, it will be faster and funnier. And you can revisit some memories attached to the things you have together. When you know what you already have, and see a ton of stuff at once (not tucked in the boxes, closets, or bathroom cabinets), your mind will realize that you are actually wealthy, and you don’t need that new sweater you saw on your coworker last week or that cute mug you saw yesterday at the department store.
Reconsider your needs. Ask yourself if that new sweater you desperately want is just a desire or a real need. Most of the time something we think is a need is just a desire camouflaged in a need. That’s where the wish list comes to the rescue. Put everything that is not food or hygiene on a 30-day wish list*. If you really need the item after 30 days, then you can buy it. I use all the tips in this post, but this one is actually my favorite because it gives me enough time and space to reconsider whether a thing I want to buy is truly a need or just an unnecessary want. 9 out of 10 times is just a want disguised as a need.
*I use 30 days, but you can choose a number that works best for you.
One of the most helpful things for me when it comes to spending is setting a goal and sticking to it as much as possible. What is the one thing you want more than everything else? Is it once in a lifetime trip, or to get out of debt, or to buy a new house? Whenever you have an impulse to buy something, remember the big picture and stay true to your goal. It will be worth once you accomplish it. And all those little purchases that stood in front of your big goal, won’t even occur to you. In fact, I can bet, you won’t even remember them.
Most of us have heard at least once what the Pareto principle is or in other words the 80/20 rule. For people that didn’t, the Pareto principle states that for many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. I will use an example on clothing. 80% of the time we wear only 20% of the clothes we own. And there is a chance that 20% of the clothes we own, cost 80% of the total budget intended for the clothes. Imagine, 80% of your clothes just take up valuable space in your closet. 80/20 rule applies to all spheres of our lives. Next time you want something new, remember the rule and skip the thing.
Borrow. You might need it only temporarily. Borrow a tool for a short-term project from a neighbor. Or a dress for a special occasion from your friend. Borrow books from family members or the library. There are a million ways to get the thing you want for free. P.S.: be sure to return the thing after you no longer need it, and lend something in return when someone else needs it.
If you know yourself, and know you have tendency to splurge on non-essentials, don’t tempt yourself going to the mall or searching Amazon, or your favorite-brand website. The easiest way to stop buying crap you don’t need is to avoid temptation altogether. If you really need to buy something, make a list and stay laser-focused on it.
If your need passes all the tests (wish list strategy, 80/20 rule, you can’t borrow it, and the thing is absolutely essential – remember we don’t want to deprive ourselves), then try to find what you need used. Try thrift shops, eBay, Craigslist, yard or garage sales, etc. This way we won’t contribute to the extraction of resources and the destruction of our planet, but rather we will extend the life of the used product.
I am well aware this won’t work most of the time, but sometimes it really can. Maybe you need a bookshelf because you have too many books, or you need a simple desk. You can certainly make your own with inexpensive materials or materials you already have at home. You will get 2 benefits out of this experience: first, you’ll appreciate more the thing you build with your own hands, and second, you may get rid of some things in the process, and make your living space more spacious. (imagine a garage full of wood you have now cleaned + you have a beautiful hand-crafted bookshelf)
There are times we would need to buy a new thing, even after exhausting all the options above. But, many times, this list can filter many purchases and save you a lot of money in the process.
Keep in mind that if you decide to indulge sometimes, and you buy something you later realize you didn’t need, don’t feel bad. We’re all humans, and we all make mistakes. Often, the same old mistakes. I do the same. Just make sure you buy consciously and in a way you won’t regret it when you check the account balance at the end of the month.
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