This month, we’re focusing on improving your budgeting and money saving skills by working on alleviating society’s addictive consumerism in your life. So far this month, we’ve given you plenty of ways to move toward a “comfort zone” on the scale of reducing how much money you spend on “stuff” and improving your monthly balance column. This is very much in line with our stated mission of respecting everybody’s different definition of the satisfaction of enough. But there’s another avenue that needs to be explored. For some people, taking a hard line is truly going to be the most effective route to getting their budget where it needs to be and letting go of spending on more, more and more “stuff.” Think of it this way. For many people, quitting smoking or changing their diet is better done in small incremental steps rather than giant changes. But there are also people for whom the idea of going “cold turkey” is the most effective means of change. It’s possible that you may truly be one of the “cold turkey” types of people. If so, we’ve got some tips for how to draw hard lines about buying “stuff” and then sticking to them successfully.
What Would Make “Cold Turkey” Better For You?
Before you jump into the “cold turkey” technique, take a moment to decide if it’s really best for you. Many people think that they’ll do better with big, fast change, but there’s plenty of research to suggest that the opposite is true in many cases. So what would make cold turkey cut offs from addictive consumerism right for you? The most obvious answer is urgency. If your budget is in dire straits and you’re bleeding cash flow, then big changes are needed. The other scenario is that you have a proven track record of doing better with cold turkey style changes. In most cases, if one of these two criteria don’t apply to you you may want to start with smaller steps.
You’ll Still Need to Do the First Budgeting Step!
Regardless, the one element you will absolutely not be able to skip is the first budgeting step we described where you determine how much of your monthly spend is drained by unhealthy consumerism. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know the extent of the problem. If you haven’t done that exercise yet, please take the time to go back and accomplish it. We’ll still be here waiting for you when you’re done.
Now, You Have a Number. You Need to Meet It, and You Need to Just Say No.
So, now you’ve got your number. Maybe it’s fifty dollars, maybe it’s five hundred. But you want to knock that number down to zero immediately, because you’re a big change kind of person. That means you need to just say no to any kind of excess consumer “stuff” purchase. But how do you successfully do that when you’re in the heart of addictive consumerism nation? Here are our best tips.
Always Wait Twenty-Four Hours: One of the biggest drivers of enslaved consumerism is the impulse purchase. We’ve talked about it a great deal on the Postconsumers website. Many things can drive an impulse purchase – good marketing, good product placement, emotions (see below) and, most often, a sense of urgency brought on by a sale price or messaging about a limited quantity. Even the most diligent postconsumers can fall prey to the sudden purchase. The best way to avoid an impulse purchase is to always, always, no matter what, wait twenty-four hours between when you want to buy something and when you do. This is true for both online and offline purchases. It can be hard in the moment to walk away, but you’ll be surprised how often you’ve decided that you don’t want or need your “stuff” a day later!
Only Carry Cash: Watching actual cash leave your hands is much more tangible than using a credit or even debit card. Keep cash on you. Only spend with it. In fact, if you enter a store, leave your cards in the car so that you’ll have to take the long walk back before you use them to purchase anything. You will have a much easier time putting things back on the shelf if you have to actually count out dollars to buy those things.
Keep Yourself Out of Harm’s Way: But why do you need to be somewhere that you can purchase extra “stuff?” While obviously it’s sometimes unavoidable to stay away from every single store window, you can make wise choices about avoiding retail-rich areas and big box stores. Just stay out of them! Go to the library instead!
Don’t “Emotional Shop:” It’s easier said than done, certainly. One of the lures of addictive consumerism is that it makes people temporarily “feel better” when they are blue. We didn’t make that up – there are actual endorphins released. Would you shop for groceries or go to an all-you-can-eat buffet when you are hungry? Probably not if you were trying very hard to lose weight or get healthy. So why would you visit a retail-rich environment when you are feeling blue? Remember that shopping is like a high in the world of rampant consumerism.
Stay Off the Internet In General: We talk about media diets frequently at Postconsumers because they are, in the end, critical to good mental health. When it comes to going cold turkey on addictive consumerism, you have to stay off the internet as much as possible. One-click shopping is just the start of the many ways the internet will hinder you from just saying no to “stuff.”
Visualize Nancy Reagan: Just do it! Every time you go to buy “stuff,” simply remember Nancy telling you to just say no. It’s more effective than it seems!
We’d love it if you always had the willpower to just decide that you were going to stop buying unneeded “stuff” and then that was it. However, the reality is that it’s a harder task to do than to say. If you’re not going to break things into smaller, manageable steps then we hope that the tips we’ve given you here will help you succeed with your cold turkey technique!
Follow along with our January 2017 resolution of learning to control our budgets by spending less money on “stuff” and letting go of addictive consumerism on the social media channels below.
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Photo Credit: Martin Abegglen via Flickr