Why do you buy?


Buying an item is more than just handing over your credit card, there are a whole host of reasons why we shop – so what’s yours?

In order to be an aspiring minimalist you have to get to a point where you are needlessly consuming, where you are handing over your hard-earned pounds purely as an exercise in accumulating, and finally realising that it’s a complete waste of time, money and effort.

I’ll assume we’ve all got to the final stage of rejecting consumerism and trying to make a conscious effort not to buy more stuff we don’t need. The question that I have been thinking about a lot however, is not how to get rid of more stuff but why we buy.

As many of you know, I’ve pledged not to buy anything for a year (you can read about it here on the Guardian) and it’s difficult. I hadn’t really appreciated how much ‘buying’ was a part of my life until I stopped doing it or how many emotions are attached to it.

Even as someone who is aspiring to minimalism and paring back belongings, I was still at the mercy of my emotions when it came to purchasing.

It’s not an exhaustive list, and feel free to add your own thoughts/experiences in the comments, but these are just some of the reasons why I have bought items in the past:

Boredom

You know how it goes; you’re at home with nothing better to do and rather than pick up that book or go to the gym, or do something productive, you end up scrolling clothing websites or homewares and all of a sudden you’ve bought three dresses that you’re never going to wear.

Reward

L’Oreal coined the phrase ‘because you’re worth it’, and I’ve run with that concept. If I’ve achieved something then I deserve a reward, which is fine as long as the ‘achievement’ isn’t ‘I went to work’.

Convenience

This is a classic: I can’t be bothered to spend 20 minutes putting together a lunch for work tomorrow that would probably cost me £1 so I’m going to spend £5 tomorrow buying it from Pret.

Kudos

Getting recognition for something you’ve bought can be a thrill. Someone may have noticed your new boots, or be impressed by your enormous record collection. The acknowledgment and respect we receive from owning certain items makes us feel valued.

Bargain-hunting

It doesn’t matter if I need it or not, look how cheap it is! Bargain-hunting has two flaws, firstly that you buy for the sake of buying something cheap, and secondly that because it’s cheap it usually breaks and you have to buy it again anyway.

Insecurity

This may seem like a strange one but I think this is definitely something that I can really identify with. I bought things to craft an image of myself that I wanted to project; someone who was cool, fun and interesting. It’s only as I’ve got older that I realise none of the items I bought made me any of those things.

More importantly I realised that the people who I wanted to impress with those items either didn’t care (because they’re your friends) or did care (and they’re the people you don’t want to be friends with anyway).

So, tell me, why do you buy?

M

20 thoughts on “Why do you buy?

  1. Hello,
    Very interesting post that made me think about my own “buying habits”. I have to admit that my husband and I buy to eat, to dress ourselves and to have a house (plus some frugal luxuries like dining out once in a while). We save about 30% of our income for the future and if we have excess money, it goes on the mortgage. We have no other debt.
    We don’t feel deprived, we travel, we drink wine, we eat very well. We just don’t believe in the “buying game”. Shopping is not our favourite hobby.
    People too often think that buying is an activity. Maybe that’s the root of the problem…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie, you sound like you have the right balance and haven’t bought in to the consumerist game. Totally agree that shopping has become a hobby. We do exactly the same as you, save and pay down the mortgage. Simple but effective financial plan. M

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  2. I think everyone can identify with the main points you brought up in some way, even non-aspiring-minimalists. Even as a guy, I share the similarity to buying for Kudos or because of Insecurity.
    I’ve always been interested in fashion for men, and “looking good”, which definitely causes a few impulse checkouts at Asos.com when payday comes around.

    But I send a lot of it back, or if I do keep the item I always end up having the same thought on it; “I thought this way going to… [make me better looking] [make me more popular] [make me happier] [etc] [etc]”, and in annoyance I will reject the item from my life by selling it at a loss or getting rid of it.

    Then you take a look at people who seem to have effortless style, and wonder how you might be able to duplicate that image. The truth of the matter is for those people it really is effortless, they don’t think so hard about it, they look after themselves, and curate selective wardrobes that aren’t based on fads or the trend. Effortless is about less effort. Minimalism is about less to provide more. I think there’s similarities we can identify in the comparison.

    Great post! Will be reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Insecurity, I grew up in a messy rather embarrassing home and I hated it. I cant seem to break the cycle now of having to have every lovely new throw or cushion or paint colour that comes out… I need to get a grip

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    1. I can relate to that Debdor! We didn’t have a very nice home growing up and I’ve made it a mission to have the nice home I always wanted. Exactly the same as you, I bought everything but realised it wasn’t the things that made the home lovely! It took a long time though!! M

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      1. Our childhoods have such huge impact on our beliefs for the rest of our lives; I too “want what I didn’t have” both for myself and my own children. But really what I had was a caring mother, and what she had was a boy who found immense creativity in taping boxes and plastic bottles together. Cost much? No. Bloody brilliant times were had? Ask my toilet roll starship destroyer and coca cola bottle battlecruiser.

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  4. It’s definitely about the convenience issue. There are times when the stress and daily grind really wears me down enough to start taking the easy road of takeout. There’s the nagging in the back of my mind of the right thing but hey, there’s always tomorrow right? It’s still a daily battle, but I’ve been trying to be better at it by making most of my decisions earlier in the day so everything when I come home is almost autopilot.

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  5. Mine, today, was convenience. I haven’t taken the time to do plant starts and so went to the garden center and bought lots of tomato, pepper, artichoke and herb plants. Now I’m kicking myself (again this year…annual ritual).

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  6. I think I bought – very little now – because I grew up just after the war with not much of anything at all. ‘Things’ in later life gave me a sense of security. Other than a mortgage, long paid off, we never had debts though; even with a low income.

    I think my worst spending came through the serious illness’s and disabilities of myself and our son – we ‘treated ourselves’ to too much of what we definitely didn’t need because in some small way it was a distraction. The internet compounded it; particularly as we got out less – the parcels through the post, even the smallest of things, was exciting and gave us something to look forward to.

    Definitely have spent too much over the years on things… Guilt…guilt! My husband has never, ever criticised – but thank goodness he has never had the same weakness!

    P.S. I wouldn’t pretend to be minimalist but we have been decluttering in a big way – and it’s very liberating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Andrina, thanks for commenting. You shouldn’t feel guilty about spending in the past – it sounds like you had a really hard time of it. I think we should all stop beating ourselves up over things we can’t change now but use the present to make a small change that helps us move forward and be happier. M

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  7. I think sometimes you need to have something ‘new’ or just different in your life, but what most people forget is that those things don’t need to cost money. I ‘shop’ in my own wardrobe, by combining clothes in different ways, accessorising or re-vamping what I’ve got (I think you’ve confessed to no sewing skills so the last one may not work for you).
    With regard to clothes/accessories you could swap or borrow with friends/family… same goes with other things, books, music, films, recipes… or even going to an evening class, workshop, public lecture or museum – something that you wouldn’t normally do. ‘Out on a school night’ type thing.
    Occasionally, hubbie and I will listen to music or read to each other whilst sitting on the sofa, instead of just switching the telly on.
    Really we just need to break the routine/monotony to alleviate boredom but these days shopping is the ‘go to’ activity. We’re all guilty but those of us attempting minimalism fight against it!

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    1. Agree with all this Naomi. I admit to being lazy, which is probably why I used to spend so much money down the pub! It was much easier to go there and sit down than actually organise an event or plan something. It’s a massive change in habit for me. M

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  8. Oh yes, the other thing that has helped me (with clothing especially) is after watching the True Cost (a documentary about the textiles industry and the environment) – as now I buy things from People Tree (a bit pricey but sustainable) – and I love that I now have three jumpers all knitted by hand in Nepal by women who were paid a decent wage and work in safe, healthy environment.
    You look after clothes better if you’ve made them yourself (I sew but can’t knit) or were handmade and good quality to begin with.
    Nearly three years since Rana Plaza collapse but fast fashion doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such an eye opening documentary. I agree that spending a bit more at the beginning means it last longer and has probably come from a more sustainable/ fairer source. Everyone should watch that film before buying cheap fashion. M

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  9. I don’t really know, and it’s something I’m still trying to figure out after all these years. There’s definitely a buzz associated with shopping, but apart from that, I still don’t really understand why I buy half the things I do . Certainly it’s not from need.

    A great post. Thanks for the introspection.

    Liked by 1 person

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