Why we buy stuff and how to do it less

Finance Tips

Most people own a bunch of stuff they don’t use and yet, many of us still go into debt to buy more. So much so that a service called the “Airbnb for clutter” is gaining more popularity in Europe. People renting out space in other houses to put their items. Yep.

There are some other stats that are incredible to see: the personal storage industry already generates more than 40 billion dollars a year in the United States. The average woman in the US owns more than 100 items of clothing in their closets. Wherever we look, numbers are staggering. But why do we buy so much stuff we don’t actually need?

Buying, storing, and repeating again.
Buying, storing, and repeating again.

Why do we buy so many items?

Understanding why we buy stuff is key to controlling the habits and buying less; and buying less frees time and avoids unnecessary spending.

The thing is that even if we don’t need more stuff, we feel like purchasing something will make us happy or give us a sense of security. A study published in Psychological Science showed that people were happier if they spent on things that matched their personality. We also buy to impress others and to feel happy—the concept of “retail therapy” that has been studied and proved to be true.

And the world that we live in doesn’t really help either. In this hyper ad-exposure reality, the average person is estimated to see between 6,000 and 10,000 ads a day. Besides that, in 2020 online marketing is much more targeted and platforms have developed many elaborate ways to allow advertisers to get under your skin as they know what you want.

Ads, ads, and more ads.
Ads, ads, and more ads.

To stop buying more, reflect on the above, and understand why you are buying more than you need. Is it to feel better, to impress other people, or just out of bad habits?

Where’s the money going?

It’s also worth understanding where your unnecessary spending is exactly. In this blog we often mention the importance of tracking down monthly expenses, at least for a period of time, so you have a better grasp of your cash flow. Doing that is a way to see clearly which categories are making money fly out of your pockets:

  • Are you more look oriented, buying tons of clothes every month? Is your closet full of things you haven’t touched for a year? First, consider donating some of these unused items to those in need. Second, research about the enormous impact of the textile industry on the environment. Third, get the habit of buying new pieces when you actually need them.
  • Are you packing on food? Good ideas include shopping online and not in-store, as it’s easier to control what you are buying; if in-store then go for a basket instead of a trolley as it fits fewer things; and don’t go buying when you are hungry as your brain tends to make not-so-smart decisions.
  • Are you buying out of boredom? Do you enjoy sitting and browsing through online stores like crazy until you find something new and shiny? Get the habit of only browsing shops when you actually need something, not to discover something new. Another idea is putting the item in your shop cart, setting an alarm on your phone for 30 days, and then see. If a month later you still want/need that item, go ahead and buy it. But chances are you will even forget about the purchase.

Simply buying and owning less stuff already brings you a lot of benefits. There’s a whole trend right now called minimalism that advocates for this type of consumer behavior.

Minimalism is gaining popularity now.
Minimalism is gaining popularity now.

The benefits of buying less

Besides saving money and time, buying and owning less stuff brings you peace of mind. Think that all possessions need to be taken care of, stored, cleaned, and transported somewhere when you move out. You certainly don’t want to use Airbnb to store your stuff, do you?

Some specialists point out that there are enormous psychological benefits to decluttering, as you cleanse your mind, reducing stress and anxiety. You will likely have a more organized place to live, worry about fewer things, reduce your impact on the environment, and save some money on top of all that. Sounds like a great bargain, doesn’t it? Well… let’s avoid words like bargain, at least in this article 😅

The bottom line is love the stuff that you own, appreciate it, and take care of it. Buy less stuff and when you need to buy, not when your inner urge tells you to do so. This way you will feel less impelled to buy more and more, and things will last longer.