How To Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need

Americans are the worst consumers on the planet. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the garbage cans and recycling bins lined up outside homes in your neighborhood next time garbage day rolls around. I imagine many are overflowing with trash, and that’s a single household, in a single week. Now multiply that by hundreds of millions, and you can get a rough estimate of what just residential America throws out on a weekly basis. So, let’s say you are like me. You want to buy and toss out less, but you aren’t quite ready to go full-blown minimalist (Sorry I still like my waffle iron). What are some ways that you can change your consumer behavior to simply buy less?

Stop “Shopping”

No, I do not mean start growing all your own food and wearing loincloths that you made from the sheep you just sheared. I mean, stop browsing when you shop. Take a few minutes and make a list before you go shopping. In case you didn’t know, most retail chains, looking at you Walmart, spend millions of dollars yearly studying how to let’s call it…persuade consumers into buying more. Have you ever wondering why the items you need are ALWAYS located in the back of the store. Milk, Eggs, Electronics, Toys, are always in the back of the store. This is because they know that if you walk all the way through the store, passing every endcap as you go, you will likely walk out with something else. The same goes for those racks full of small trinkets and candy bars in the checkout area. It’s easy to toss a candy bar that costs $1.00 or a useless pair of headphones that costs $2.00 into an order you know is already well over $100. How do they know that? Well, they have studied consumer behavior for decades, and the data told them it was true. So, when you go shopping, just get the items on your list and get out asap. The less time you spend browsing, the less useless trinkets you will accumulate. Another great option is to do an online pickup. This way you can be more cognizant of your buying choices in real-time.

Take The Mom Test

At the store and thinking of tossing something in your cart? Ok, take a few seconds and ask yourself; “If I was a kid shopping with my mom, would they have let me buy this?”. This works especially well if your parents were from one of the generations that didn’t have a booming economy and a huge influx in cheap goods to contend with. If the answer is no, at least take a few extra seconds to consider why. Is it that you don’t really need it, or they knew it would get used once and tossed in a corner? If so, put it back and move on. The mom test is a simple metric for measuring the value of an item before purchasing it, fail the mom test, you stay on the shelf.

Give Yourself A Big Kid Allowance

Now, this one has worked wonders for me. As I got older, and slowly improved my employment prospects my income rose. Well, that meant I now had more disposable income, and disposable income is the yin to consumerisms yang. As people get more disposable income, they inevitably spend much of it on things that truly they might not need. Now, don’t quit your favorite hobbies or become a penny-pinching Scrooge. Instead, give yourself a weekly allowance that you are able to use for discretionary spending. Once you do that, tack on the two above recommendations and you will find yourself buying much less overall, while still buying the things that are important to you.

In the end, it’s entirely up to you if curbing your personal consumer spending is important or not. But, if you are like me, and at some point decide that you just want to be throwing away a little less “stuff”, these guidelines can help you get there.

Aspiring fiction writer, developer, lifelong student, seeker of meaning.

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