In a world of disposable clothes and upgradeable smartphones, buying more seems to be a more colorful way to live. Yet, studies show that buying more stuff actually makes us more miserable. It takes you away from what matters to you. This article will give you the 5 best tips on how to buy less but better quality items (and not get addicted to them).
The philosophy of “buy less, buy better” is not unheard of, yet it’s not a popular practice. In a society where we see thousands of marketing messages every day, the normal behavior is to buy.
In fact, researches show that retail therapy is a common coping mechanism for people. Especially when they experience negative emotions. It gives instant gratification… an instant shot at happiness.
To them, shopping gives a sense of control – a sense of freedom and autonomy. But what was once therapy became an addiction.
It is in this condition that retail therapy becomes the villain. People treat it as a band-aid solution that covers the wound. It distracts them from confronting negative emotions and situations head-on. In reality, they miss out on learning great lessons in life.
The answer doesn’t lie on more stuff. As a species, we tried that and it doesn’t work. At least not in the long run. Instead of spending on things, you’ll get more benefits by investing in growth. That could mean experiences, travel, learning materials, and so forth. The only caveat is that it has to be deliberate.
Reasons To Buy Less
Aside from enjoying a more fulfilling life, there are more practical reasons to buy less stuff. Let’s dive in!
It Prevents You From Getting Deeper Into Debt
To some people, the compulsive urge to buy more is becoming a problem. For one, it plunges them deeper into debt. Here are some statistics on how much debt people have on average:
- Americans have an average of $90,460 in personal debt
- Average personal debt in the UK is on a record high of £15,400 ($19,017)
- Filipinos have somewhere between P143,958 ($2,853) to P291,582 ($5,780)
- Canadians have an average debt of $72,950
Think about your own. How much credit card debt, student loan debt, mortgage loan, car loan, or other debt do you have?
One of the most practical reasons to buy less is to pay off your debts; so you can live a debt-free life.
Most people sink their teeth deeper into debt by buying things they think will increase their social value, but don’t need. Because of that, they grow more anxious by the day. When bills come, they worry about where they’re going to get the money to pay for them.
Debt creates prison walls in your mind, especially if you don’t know how to control it. It limits your experience of true joy in life. But starting today, you can have control over it. All you have to do is to decide to buy less stuff.
Another practical reason to stop buying more is clutter. Have you ever experienced going into your room thinking, “I should clean my room?” But in the end, you never get to it? There’s so much stuff piled up that you don’t even know where to start.
I get it. I’m a messy person myself. And no matter how much I organize my stuff, my room goes back to being messy. The only way to solve it was to remove all the clutter and focus on the few things that add value to me.
Not everything I own brings me happiness. In fact, because I have to regularly clean my room, it takes my focus away from things I love doing. Like reading a book, thinking of solutions to my client’s problems, writing, and so on.
Dave Bruno, creator of The 100 Thing Challenge said this:
“Stuff is not passive. Stuff wants your time, attention, allegiance. But you know as well as I do, life is more important than the things we accumulate.”
And it’s true. Your stuff requires your attention. You may not be conscious of it, but you’re most likely wasting your time organizing your room. Decluttering is better. But what’s better than that is not having clutter in the first place.
When you buy fewer but better items, it solves that problem.
Enjoy More Savings
Since you’re buying lesser items, you’re saving more money. The truth is, you’re saving 100% of the money you don’t spend. Or at least, you can put that money into something that will spark joy in your life – not just for immediate gratification.
When you have money stashed in your bank accounts and some other investments, you’ll live a secured life. No matter what other “holier than thou” experts say, money has value. It’s not the only thing that’s important, but having enough is critical.
It’s critical not only for your physical health but for your mental and emotional health as well. When you’re in constant worry about not having it, you’re missing out on a lot. After all, you can’t feel worried and be joyful at the same time.
Buy less and save that cash. Allocate it for something better or invest it in your growth. Nothing beats an investment that you’ll appreciate for the rest of your life.
These are just 3 reasons why buying less is a more practical and fulfilling option. I’m sure you can think of more based on your experience. Now, I’ll share with you 5 tips on how to buy less and choose well.
5 Best Tips To Buy Less
First, to be clear, I am not against spending money. That’s not the issue here. The issue is impulsive spending that turns into buyer’s remorse. You know, the kind of spending that gets you deeper into debt and makes you worried about the future.
Second, the tips you’re about to learn are applicable to clothes, books, food, tech, and others. These are tips I’ve found effective in my life. It either helped me delay a purchase (to save up for it), or prevent the purchase once and for all.
Tip #1: Understand Your Reason For Buying
There are plenty of reasons why you want to buy something. But it’s important that you nail down the exact reason why you want to purchase something before getting it. Why? Because it helps you evaluate if you’re doing something for immediate, band-aid pleasure, or for long-term value.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to buy this? What will this thing give me?” Then evaluate your answer. Are you just bored with your old stuff? Do you think it will make you look cool? If so, based on your experience, how long does that feeling last?
Another great benefit that you’ll get from this exercise is expanding your self-awareness. You’ll discover more about yourself by asking this than any other personality test you take. Taking a long, hard look at your buying motivation can shed more light on who you are and why you do what you do.
Personally, I do this whenever I evaluate any kind of purchase. Asking myself why I want this opens up a new level of personal knowledge, at least for me. The answer would usually go back to an emotion I want to feel. Respect, appreciation, being cool, looking good, etc.
Knowing those things are valuable for me because now, I don’t look at things as it is. I look at them based on what value it brings to me.
Tip #2: Ask These Questions
When I think about buying something, I ask myself a couple of questions:
- Why do I want it? I’ve explained this earlier. So for the sake of time, let’s skip this one.
- Do I already have something similar? Sometimes, we buy things we already have. You know, buying a cloth with basically the same design and fabric as you already have. But you forgot since you have too much stuff. When you ask this question and realize that you already have something similar, it helps you reevaluate if you need to purchase it right ahead.
- Can I borrow from a friend? When you have friends, you can ask them if they can lend you what you want to purchase. It might be a phone, a laptop, a new pair of jeans, whatever. Test the waters and see if it adds value to you.
- Do I need it now? This question speaks of urgency. Do you need it now? If not, how long can you delay the purchase? If you do need it, have you tried asking your friends?
I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars these questions have saved me. It might do just the same for you.
Tip #3: Tune Out On Non-Essential Advertisements
You are bombarded by thousands of advertisements and marketing messages every day. These companies are battling each other to get a piece of your attention (and your wallet). They’re spending billions and billions of dollars just to reach you and market to you. No wonder spending money is our default mode.
You see, the media is shaping how we think. From when you were a child, you’ve been exposed to marketing messages on TV, radio, and now, Social Media. And since advertising is becoming more and more sophisticated and targeted, it’s no wonder why you’re spending more.
If you want to start buying less stuff, tune out on unessential advertisements. If you’re using Google Chrome, you can download adblockers to reduce the number of ads you see. Clean up your email and unsubscribe from all the email senders who don’t bring value to your inbox.
As much as I love marketing (that’s what I do for a living), I admit that most marketing today is self-serving. They don’t bring value. In fact, they badger people to buy again and again. Average marketing for average stuff sent to the mass. In fact, companies even invent holidays just so they could send pseudo-price drops on their products.
The Truth About Black Friday
Here’s a video explaining the truth about Black Fridays and how it affects us as people. Note: just because you don’t live in the US, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable to you. We all see a “Sale” everywhere. And at its essence, that’s what this video is really about.
Matt D’Avella video on Black Friday: https://youtu.be/_GvvJ5qmumI
Just like what Matt said. Companies are more concerned about their bottom line, not yours. So it’s up to you and me to take responsibility for taking control back into our own hands. The control for choosing to live with contentment in the essentials, rather than the pursuit of more.
That’s why I was amazed at what Everlane is doing every Black Friday. Everlane is a clothing store, which would benefit a lot from a Black Friday sale. Yet, instead of focusing on selling you more, they focus on nurturing their employees.
I respect companies who make that kind of choice.
Tip #4: Invest In Quality, Not Quantity
Focus on buying quality items. It may be more expensive in the short term, but it’s going to be worth the price. This applies to clothing, shoes, accessories, tech and other gadgets, and so forth. A lot of companies are making inexpensive, disposable products that you can buy for cheap. But it doesn’t really last.
I used to think this way before. There’s a famous thrift store near my hometown where you can buy “Class A” shoes for just $10. They pattern their shoes from the designs of expensive brands and sell them dirt cheap.
I used to buy lots of shoes from them. But I didn’t really enjoy them since, after just a few wear, the colors either wear off or the paint chips off. I thought quantity was more important than quality. Because of that, my wardrobe suffered. In the end, I needed to rebuild my wardrobe – from clothes, shoes, and all the way to underwear – with quality clothing.
It’s better if you’d start investing in quality over quantity. Buy less but better things and you’ll enjoy things you own more.
Tip #5: Make Your Items Last
When you decide to invest in quality, it lasts not only for months but years. Of course, you need to take care of the things you have. But making them last longer becomes easier. You’ll have better-looking clothes, longer-lasting tech, and more money in the bank.
In the parable of the talent (as told in the Bible), there was a verse that speaks about this. When the servant who was given five talents came back with five more, his master was delighted.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliverest unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Matthew 25: 20-21
When we become faithful to a few things (i.e. take care of what we own), God is going to entrust us with more blessings.
After reading this, you might still be on the fence to buy less but better things. That’s okay. In fact, the only way you’ll really know if something works is for you to try it. So I invite you to try these ideas on your own.
Start investing in quality things, instead of quantity. Check the reasons why you’re thinking of buying something and discover what value it brings to you. Start tuning out on non-essential ads that don’t bring any value. Or ads from companies you don’t trust.
You might just realize that you’re not really missing out on a lot by buying more.
To a life of essence,