Why Do We Buy Things We Do not Really Need?

Posted by Razi

It has probably happened to you to buy things you do not need. Or you purchase something you were not planning to. If it is not planned for in your budget, consider it an impulse buy. This is one of the biggest money challenges we face: paying off debts and saving more money.

Shopping frequently online or on weekly trips to the mall has become a habit for many. Why is it that we want more stuff? Psychological science provides some possible answers. First, as consumers, we tend to believe that it will make our lives better. Although this idea is not new to us and we are all aware of it, this does not stop us from buying impulsively or fighting the desire to buy new things. To help reduce our consumption and not buy things that we do not need, here are a few tips:

Budgeting: Laptop Excel Sheet
Image by Sincerely Media

Choose a Financial Goal for Motivation

When you have a financial goal, you are going to have better control of your finances and avoid buying more unnecessarily. For example, think about more intentional expenses such as planning a trip, remodeling a part of your home, or saving up for a big purchase like a new car. When you know that you are saving towards something specific, you can tell your buying temptation and impulse “NO” more easily.


Make an Inventory of What You Have

You would be surprised at how many shoes, t-shirts, bags, etc. you own and completely forget 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 it. 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 getting rid of the things that no longer serve you. This includes excess items of clothing, accessories, kitchen supplies, kids’ toys, and so on. Marie Kondo your life, is liberating!


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.

white ceramic mug with coffee on top of a planner
Image by Estée Janssens

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 yourself 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 your 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. 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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