A few months ago, I wrote a short article about the material and mental unclutter I went through after returning from my travels.
It helped me a lot with building healthier shopping habits, pragmatic attitude towards ownership. Most of all, it helped me to get my life back on track.
Society Pressure vs. Your Will & Determination
I always thought that building a habit is the most challenging part of the whole process. As it turns out, it’s not. It’s barely the tip of the iceberg because keeping good habits is more complicated.
Think about it. The moment we step outside of our homes, it’s almost impossible to avoid being targeted by all kinds of promotional activities. Actually, I’m saying a stupid thing. You don’t need to step outside of your apartment at all.
On average, we spend six hours browsing the internet and approximately two hours of our lives browsing through social media. That’s quite some time we expose ourselves to influencers, pop-up ads, campaigns, etc.
And all of them will tell you the same. You should buy this ‘ABC product’ because:
- It’s just trendy to have it now or be the FIRST to have it;
- You probably won’t be able to live without it again;
- You can get it now at a reasonable price, and you’ll never have the same opportunity again or something along those lines;
- If anyone famous recommends it, it must be the right choice, no?
How many times do you ask yourself ‘Do I really need it?’ or do you just badly want it?
In our society, mostly driven by over-consumption, keeping your newly-built habits and not slipping back to your old ways can be quite challenging. And yes, one thing is your own will and determination to stick to your rules, the other is social pressure.
At the very beginning, I struggled a lot. But who wouldn’t when people ask you why you wore the same dress to work two days in a row? (Oh, no! How could I do such a thing?) Or where you are not considered cool because you don’t have the latest tech gadget, whether this is a phone, laptop, or whatever else. Who cares your current phone still works well? Or where you are not fashionable enough if you don’t have shoes matching every single T-shirt? Even if this means, it’s the same type of shoes just in different colours. Yep, I based the last one on the real-life experience.
If it wouldn’t be for the pressure, then it’s definitely about our will and occasionally greed.
Why do we spend more than we can afford?
Meaning, what is the possible rationale behind purchasing more when your bank account has already an outstanding debt? I know, it’s pretty easy to keep spending, using your credit card or cards, depends how many you own. Getting ourselves into debt is only one part of the problem. Many people will suffer from anxiety because they do not know how to survive until the end of the month. It doesn’t matter how much you earn. For many, the reality is still with zero or minus in their bank accounts.
It doesn’t help when your credit card bill comes in, deducting money from your newly accumulated salary. And again, you end up in the same roller coaster.
We often fear we don’t have enough. We are not enough in the eyes of others because we can’t stop comparing ourselves. We can’t let go.
We also buy stuff because we think it will compensate for whatever loss we suffered or happiness we want to re-create, no matter how temporary. We keep buying things because we forgot how to spend time in different ways. In my town, I see kids spending more time in shopping malls than outdoors.
Spending habits translated to numbers
Did you know that shopping malls have outnumbered high schools in some countries? So it also won’t surprise you that 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favourite pastime? In the UK, ten-year-old kids have on average toys worth of £7000 but play with toys worth only £330. According to Psychology Today magazine, Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches than on higher education. By spending more, they mean $100 billion. 52% of millennials carry over balances on their credit cards every month, and 48% report they are living from paycheck to paycheck.
Do you know what is even funnier? People keep buying and accumulating unnecessary things. Afterwards, they cry because it seems impossible to clean up the mess, piles and piles of items they have everywhere around their house. So Marie Kondo needs to step in and tell them how to tidy up and appreciate the things they have.
We don’t need to buy every single item we desire, even if we can. We can easily survive our day, our lives, out social and family time with less than we consume now. I wouldn’t be saying it unless I tried it myself first.
How small changes have led to a better life
- Instead of useless spending, I was able to increase my monthly savings by 25%.
- Over the past ten months, I never hit the zero bottom on my account before the end of the month. My credit card use is reduced almost to zero, unless completely necessary.
- Feeling zero anxiety of having a potential credit card bill arriving in a new month is gone!
- I get to use and wear every single item I buy. There is hardly anything in my storage that doesn’t fulfill its purpose of being used.
- Spending less money on meaningless shopping means more money available for essential investments towards future, education, experiences and travel to visit my family.
- Increased ability to invest in better — quality, long-lasting goods rather than short-term quality ones that need replacement every half a year.
- Fewer clothes meant less time wasted on selecting a perfect outfit. Dress the way it makes you feel comfortable. You don’t have to impress strangers.
- Reducing your consumption will eventually lead to lowering waste production on your part.
And while all the points above are important, the essential lesson was to learn how to appreciate things we own.
Learning to appreciate what we already have
When I was a kid, my parents couldn’t always afford to buy me the new extra shiny barbie other girls might have gotten. Nevertheless, they still found a way to compensate for it. My dad used to build new furniture for my dollhouse, or my mum made new clothes for my old dolls.
Years later, when I got older, and we could afford to buy more, my parents always kept their rationale approach towards my shopping request. They were good at distinguishing between what I wanted and what I needed. Now, years and years later, when I’m on my own, I’m thankful they did so. They taught me to value and appreciate things I have as well as to take care of them. I still have a big red fluffy bear in a perfect condition that is waiting for my kid to play if I decide to have one, one day.
So what do you think? Have we lost the ability to appreciate the good things we already have in our lives?
The point of the whole ‘living with less’ exercise isn’t and never has been to prevent you from shopping.
It’s more about taking a while to think of the consumption habits our society has built up. Do we necessarily have to own every single item we desire? Will it have the same value for us years from now? How could spending less on ‘stuff’ create more opportunities and money for spending more time with your family and friends? How could you start living a debt-free life?
How could letting go of stuff lead to a better and more balanced life?