Why Do We Buy Things We Do not Really Need?

We’ve all been there. At some point, all of us bought at least one thing that, well, we didn’t really need. So, if it is not planned for in your personal budget, then it’s probably just an impulse purchase, meaning, we need to think about how to reduce consumption.

Frequent online shopping or weekly trips to the mall have, unfortunately, become a habit for many. Why is it that we constantly want more stuff? Why is it so hard to just – reduce consumption? Psychological science provides some possible answers. Firstly, as consumers, we tend to believe that material things will make our lives better. Although we’re all aware that that’s not the case, it still doesn’t stop us from buying impulsively nor it encourages us to reduce consumption. To help reduce consumption and not buy things that we do not need, here are a few tips that can help:

Keyboard with credit card and mouse

Choose a Financial Goal for Motivation

When you have a financial goal, you are going to have better control of your finances and automatically reduce consumption. For example, think about planned expenses such as saving up for a vacation, remodeling a part of your home, or saving up for a big purchase like a new car. When you know that you are saving up for something specific, you can shoo away this buying temptation we all get occasionally and teach yourself how to say NO easily.


Make an Inventory of What You Have

You would be surprised at how many shoes, t-shirts, bags, etc. you own and completely forgot about. By making an inventory of what you have around the house, you will know exactly what you own and do not need to buy more of. Keeping track of what you own will help you understand what you have and maybe, even rediscover old favorites!


Declutter from What You Do Not Need

After taking an inventory of items in your home, start with getting rid of all the things that no longer serve you. This includes excess items of clothing, accessories, kitchen supplies, kids’ toys, and so on. This will automatically make your home more sustainable.


Reduce Your Exposure 

Aimless wandering leads to aimless spending.  If you know that you tend to spend money on non-essentials, do not tempt yourself with window shopping or trips to the mall for leisure. These habits are often initiated by a trigger or cue. One of the quickest ways to reduce this temptation is to avoid the habit triggers that cause it in the first place. For example, you can easily substitute a trip to the mall with a walk in the park, a visit to the library, or a meeting with friends. Or another way of reducing your exposure from consuming more is to unsubscribe from commercial emails and/or opt out of catalogs. Doing so will reduce your craving to buy more!


Buy One, Give One 

Each time you buy something new, give something away. For example, got a new TV? Give your old one away rather than moving it to another room. The idea is to prevent the number of items you have from increasing. Aim to curate your life by including things that bring you joy and happiness.

Calendar planner with coffee mug

Visualize Your Goals

When you focus on your main goals and make financial decisions in your day-to-day life, you will be better aligned with the lifestyle you want to live. The problem is that it is easy to lose touch with the big picture when it exists only in your imagination. To help overcome this, try to keep visual reminders for yourself. For example, having an image of your dream home as your laptop background can serve as an inspiration and remind you how well you are working to save for a down payment. So whatever resonates with you and motivates you to save, make it visual and place it where you can check in with it regularly. This is especially important in moments of temptation.


Find Ways to Fulfill Yourself Outside of Shopping

Shopping, and even browsing online shops, take up a lot of time. You will notice how much time scrolling through online stores or shopping takes. Replace this time instead with a new activity and hope boredom does not lead you back into the stores.


Finally, how can we fight the desire to buy things we do not need?

Well, it is not so much fighting the desire. It is more about not giving in to those feelings. If you find yourself in a mall or shopping center, without a planned purchase in mind, take a pause. It is much easier to control your impulses if you pay attention to your feelings, rather than ignoring them and continuing to shop. A simple pause is powerful enough to make you stop and think. Then, ask yourself some easy questions:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Why am I here?
  • Do I need this?
  • Where will I put it?
  • Will I regret this decision later?
  • Can I use the money for something else?

Keeping and considering these strategies in mind is the first step towards a better way of gaining control of your finances, reducing consumption, and contributing to a cleaner planet. We recognize that the occasional splurge is OK as we believe that over time, you will gain a better sense of control towards intentional purchases. And when you do decide that you want to treat yourself with something new, try buying second-hand whenever possible. You can enjoy your day-to-day lifestyle and make purchasing decisions that serve your main goals and priorities.

These strategies were designed to help you make spending choices more mindfully and we hope that they will help you take the next, big step!

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