Today is the final article in our series on twenty ways to take back power from the consumer machine. In our first three articles, we focused on hands-on, emotionally intimate and very active solutions. Today, we’re talking more specifically about purchasing and purchasing habits. While the influence of the consumer machine impacts your purchasing habits, the control is always in your hands to change those habits. We know that changing habits, especially those enabled by something as pervasive as the western prevalence of addictive consumerism, can be difficult. However, focusing on the parts of your life that you can control will be the most effective way to take back your power. Did you miss the first segments in our series on reclaiming power from the consumer machine? You can find them here, here and here.
16. Set Limits and Budgets.
To be clear, limits and budgets are not necessarily the same thing. A budget is a set amount of money that you can spend. It may feel like a limit, but if it does then that’s because you’ve been spending too much money to begin with! A limit is what you do inside of that budget. While the budget shouldn’t (and generally doesn’t) have a lot of flexibility, your limits can. What you have to spend each month is quite simply that – what you have to spend each month. Where the limits within that budget come have more to do with your personal goals and where your comfort zone is in the consumer spectrum. For example, you could get aggressive and say that, within your budget, you only want to spend ten percent on “stuff.” Or, you could allocate twenty percent. Whatever your limit is though, it should be less than what you currently spend. If you’re aware that you’re owned by the consumer machine, then simply setting rules about how many times you can give into that can create progress in separating from it. The consumer engine is set up to teach you that you need to buy more and more and more. If you’re having a hard time saying no to that, then budgets and limits that clearly define a precise amount that you can buy each month can be an effective tool or solution for you.
17. Learn the Difference Between Need and Want.
We’d be surprised if you haven’t at least heard if not significantly thought about this piece of advice before. The consumer machine is set up to make you think that you need items because they define who you are or your place in society. But the reality is that for most of those items you simply want them rather than truly need them. It’s important to learn the distinction between things that you need and things that you want. Things that you need always have to be purchased. After all, they truly play a critical role in your life. These are things like tires for your car, batteries for your phone and food. Things that you want are truly, truly discretionary. These also make up the majority of your purchases (more than likely). It needs to become easy for you to identify need versus want and to set limits on buying things that you want. We have plenty of tips on how to buy less stuff, and we think that’s a great place to start. Understanding this distinction won’t make it instantly easier to say no to things you want, but over time the understanding of your buying habits and consumerism will help to slow the pace of your purchases.
18. Don’t Buy Everything You Want.
This one may seem like it’s the same advice as tip number seventeen, but the reality is that understanding that you don’t need everything that you want and taking the hard right turn to deciding that you’re not going to buy everything that you want are two different things. The more important step is reaching the understanding of want versus need, but the more difficult step is simply saying no to things that you want. We think a good idea is to go through an exercise of asking yourself why you want something. Is it because it is, in some way, actually going to improve your quality of life? Some purchases really will do that. Or is it because you’re buying it to fill an emotional hole or feel better about yourself or just because a commercial is telling you to? If deciding why you want something isn’t for a healthy reason (and we think are you smart enough to determine what’s a healthy reason and what’s not), then it can quickly become easier to just say no to it.
19. Embrace Quality Instead of Quantity.
The purpose of the consumer machine is to keep you purchasing. But trust us when we say that it’s better to save up for one quality purchase that will last you for years than to head into a big box store for cheap clothing and home accessories each week. Aside from the social and environmental implications of buying inferior goods, you’ll also end up spending more over time. When you need to replace a shirt every three months instead of every three years, the dollars and cents add up. Instead of purchasing what you want in small quantities, save up for what you need. And what you need are purchasing solutions that are crafted for quality instead of quantity. They may cost more, but you’ll be breaking an important consumer machine habit of repeat low-quality purchases.
20. Refuse to Give Up.
This is probably the most important piece of advice that we can give you! Never give up! Breaking away from the influence of the consumer machine can be challenging. After all, media and societal messages about consumerism and the importance of “stuff” are ubiquitous in western culture. Much like trying to break any habit, you’re going to backslide and have moments of weakness. You’re also going to feel deprived of things that you want at points. It’s a learning curve to finding the satisfaction of not relying on “stuff” for happiness. Don’t give up, be strong. Changing anything about yourself is hard, but in this case there’s almost no way to easily separate yourself out from your enabler because your enabler is almost all of society! Persevere – believe us when we say it’s worth it. There’s fulfillment to be found out there in life once you realize it’s not contained in a packaged box in a store.
Did you miss our previous tips on taking back power from the consumer machine? Start your journey here and work your way through.
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