Why We Buy Things We Don't Need

March 27, 2018

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Well it took almost 3 months but I have what I consider my first real shopping ban violation.  For any newcomers, 2018 is the year of no shopping for me.  I set very specific rules in place and although I've been spending money on some things like food and bills, the rules definitely state that there's to be no spending on 'stuff.'  Which is exactly what I did, $29 worth of 'stuff.'


Why?  Well that's an interesting question, isn't it.  It wasn't something I needed, particularly not in that exact moment (I could I have waited.)  Not really all that important, but I bought it anyway and even went out to the store with the intention of getting it.  Which is very unlike me indeed.  So I started wondering why we do this so often, why we buy things we don't need.  Because we're all guilty of it.  And I think it comes down to a few mental traps that get us wiping the wallet out:

Trap: It's a good deal.  You think you're saving money but you're not, because before you saw the sale you didn't intend to buy that item at all.  So no matter how great a deal it is, you still spent money you didn't intend to and bought something you didn't need.

Trap: It'll make me more secure.  More stuff doesn't equal more security (unless that stuff is a home alarm system.)  But people absolutely think it does.  Being surrounded by things doesn't make you any more secure than your neighbor, financially or otherwise.

Trap: I need it eventually.  Remember the photo I posted yesterday of John going a little Amazon crazy?  That's the 'need it eventually' trap.  To be fair, he will use all of those things.  How long it'll take, who knows, but it should be before the end of the year.  But some things you just keep on stockpiling and suddenly you have more floss and cotton swabs than you could reasonably get through before you die.

Trap: I don't own anything like it.  Well, maybe there's a reason for that.  I don't own anything like, say, shorts, and I'm not going to because I hate shorts.  If you don't own anything like it because it's not your style or color, don't even look at it.  And if it's something you do own, like lipstick, just in a different color you don't have, chances are, you have plenty at home.

Trap: I can return it.  Why are you even buying it with the thought of returning it then?  And you know you won't.  You'll forget and never get around to it.

Trap: Jones has it, so I need it/ Jones will like me more if I have it.  Pfff.  No.  Just don't.  (a) The stuff you own has nothing to do with anyone else, so just because someone else has a Porsche doesn't mean you need one, particularly if you can't afford it.  (b) People don't notice or care as much as you think they do.  And if you're trying to get on the good side of someone who is only going to like you based on what you own, you need to sort out your priorities.

Trap: It'll make me happy/I deserve it.  I don't believe that money can't buy happiness.  I know I should, but I don't.  I think money can increase happiness in a small amount.  But I don't think that mindlessly shopping for stuff will bring happiness.  It can in the moment, but long term, it's not a solution.  So shopping while you're having a bad day is just a terrible idea.  That feeling of 'deserve it' comes into play then too, like you worked really hard or handled a really terrible client, you deserve whatever treat you're about to buy yourself.  And maybe you did earn it, but is it really something you'll want or need tomorrow or next month?  Probably not.

So which trap was my shopping ban violation?  A combination of 'it's a good deal' and 'I need it eventually.'  You'll see on Monday's March update post exactly what that was.  Which of these traps gets you most often?



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