Americans love their stuff.
Let’s face it, most of us buy and buy. You continue to just make purchases without thinking much about the financial impact you are making. Honestly, you often buy things you don’t need. That is what I did and why I ended up declaring personal bankruptcy in 2003.
I was a spender. In my 20s, I started getting credit card offers sent my way and used them as an excuse to buy, buy, buy. That got me into trouble. Deep financial trouble.
Not only had I accumulated thousands of dollars of debt, I had all of this stuff. The stuff did not make me happy. It had the opposite affect. It depressed me.
For me, I had to make a change. The first was for me to take ownership of my own situation. This was no one else’s fault but my own. Nt only did I have to reduce my spending (of course), but I had to first get to the root of the problem. I had to figure out why I was buying things I did not really need.
This is a common issue for many people. You may be one of them.
Before you can make a change, you have to understand why you do. Recognizing your own issues is the first step before you can make any changes. Own it – and then do what you can to make a change.
In thinking back about my own reasons for spending, I learned a lot about myself. These are the honest reasons why you buy things you don’t need.
1. You believe it will bring you security.
If you think that owning any of your possessions, such as your clothes or home) make you secure, then owning more will make you more secure. Right?
The security we actually get from owning possessions is actually less than we believe. Everything you own can be lost in an instant.
How to stop: Give this some more thought. What item do you own that truly gives you more security? Chances are that you can’t come up with one.
2. You want to impress people.
When you see the person with the brand new BMW and Apple watch, you might be impressed. You think that they have a lot of money. You tell yourself that you want to impress people in that same way. But, what does it matter what someone thinks about you? Will that truly make your life better?
The thing is, that person with the new car and Apple watch may have hundreds of thousands of debt. They could be miserable and unhappy and use things to fill a void (see #6 below).
How to stop: Your need to impress others is internal. Only you can figure out why you feel that you have to impress others by flaunting things. Once you realize that it doesn’t matter what others think of you (especially strangers you will never see again), then you can stop the spending and quit
3. You are jealous of others who have more than you.
This one is a piggyback off of #2 above. It is a natural thing to compare yourself to others and want what they have. When your neighbor has the brand new car, you want one too.
The sad truth is that our society encourages comparing yourself to others. This results in you buying things you don’t need, which in turn results in overspending and buying those things you don’t need.
There are four needs we all must meet:
That is all we need to survive. The rest is just “stuff.”
How to stop: Make sure you have a good budget in place to ensure you needs are met. Any additional money can be used to buy the other things you want.
4. You are selfish (a tough one to admit).
As humans, we are wired to be selfish and greedy. However, that doesn’t give us permission to use this an excuse to buy things. He who dies with most toys doesn’t win, he just proves he was more selfish and greedy than the rest.
How to stop: This is one you have to figure out on your own, my friend.
5. You are swayed by advertising.
Think about the last commercial you saw that sticks out in your mind. Was the message about why this product will make your life better?
Now, think of the last 5 commercials you saw before that one, or even the one that is on the television right now? What is the message they are trying to send? Is it not also about why you need to buy their product?
How to stop: You have to stop allowing the advertisers to tell you what you need in order to be happy and live a better life. If you are easily swayed, then find a way to reduce what you see. This may mean never watching live tv and forwarding through commercials or using streaming services instead of cable, so you can avoid them completely.
6. You shop to fill a void in your life.
When life is not going well or we experience depression, it is only natural to try to do what we can to make ourselves feel better.
If you shop when you are hungry, you will buy more food than you need (and usually, not the healthy options). When you get home, you will still be hungry. Then, if you eat all of the stuff you bought, you will feel miserable. In the end, it did not fix the problem.
If you are missing happiness or something else in your life, things will not make it better. Sure, you may feel happiness for a moment or two, but it will not last. You will still find that you are still unhappy. But now, you are unhappy with things you don’t need and more debt than you want.
How to stop: Figure out why you are unhappy and strive to make changes in that area of your life – not replace it with things.
7. You shop on a whim.
Before you make any purchase, you need to think about what you already have at home. For instance, if you already have 10 pair of jeans in your closet, do you really need one more?
How to stop: When it comes to buying things you may not need, force yourself to follow the 30 day rule. Make a list of the items you think you want to buy. If, at the end of 30 days, you still feel a need for them (and can pay for them without racking up debt), then you can make your purchase.
You may find that at the end of that month, you really don’t want nor even need that item any more.
8. It’s a habit.
This is a pretty common reason as to why you buy things you don’t need. You’ve been doing it for so long that it is just what you do.
How to stop: I know that this is a difficult one to overcome, but it is possible. You may need to try to change your routine by allowing less time at the store each week. It may mean that you can only buy items you add to a shopping list.
9. You think new is always better.
We live in a throw away society. Rather than fix what we have, it is acceptable to just replace it with something new. Even manufacturer’s know this. They often make items to have a short lifespan as they know you will toss it aside and buy their new one in just a few years.
Instead of buying new, why not try to repair what you have? Instead of a new car, spend a little and get yours detailed so it looks newer. Don’t run out to dinner if there are leftovers in the refrigerator or a meal in your freezer.
10. You buy because it is on sale and/or you have a coupon.
A sale or a coupon are not a free pass to shop. Not even close. When you buy things you did not really need simply because it was on sale and/or you had a coupon, then you are buying things you may not need.
That’s not to say it is not wise to stock up on something that is on sale which you may need later (i.e. toilet paper). That just makes sense. However, if you see that handbag you want is now 50% off, that is not a reason to buy it.
How to stop: Remember, a sale is never a good excuse to buy things you really don’t need.
What other reasons do you find you spend money when you don’t need to?