hg: How to Buy Less

Buying less stuff makes life simpler. Here are some tips to kick-start that process.

Be honest. Before buying something, ask yourself if you truly need it and if it will make you happy in the long run. William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This is a good rule of thumb. The trick is to be honest when applying it.

Take your time. If you want something, try leaving the purchase for two weeks. The initial impulse should fade, showing that, more often than not, you can cope without the new thing.

Ignore the rat-race. Desires often stem from what other people have. We worry about not appearing happy or successful without competing with them. Learn to ignore these cues to consume. What the people around you own has no bearing on your worth.

Reduce advertising exposure. Get an ad blocker for your internet browser, mute your TV or radio during advert breaks, unsubscribe from marketing emails. Advertising isn’t evil, we’re just exposed to a lot of it on a daily basis. Reducing its airtime will lead to fewer unwise purchases.

Beware of new enterprises. Hobbies can come with a long list of ‘required’ equipment. Approach with caution. If your interest in a new hobby actually stems from the potential shopping spree, maybe it’s not worth pursuing. Consider renting or borrowing gear to try it out before taking the plunge.

Borrow. Favour services like libraries so you can use something and return it. Lend and borrow with your friends and community. For example, tool sharing is a popular way of borrowing equipment for specific jobs.

Forget the money. Thoreau said, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” Stuff doesn’t just cost money. When weighing up a new purchase, factor in the time and energy spent earning that money, looking after the possession, and eventually disposing of it. This all adds up.

Admire from afar. You don’t have to own something to appreciate it. Try treating shops like art galleries. Admire something for its beauty or utility, but resist the urge to buy it just for the sake of owning it.

Learn to love less. Even if it’s tricky at first, you get used to buying and owning less stuff. It becomes normal. And then you begin to love it. Clutter and shopping sprees become alien concepts and soon you’ll be basking in empty space and healthy finances. Go forth and enjoy simple pleasures in good company.

We’ll never get rid of the urge to buy things. We shouldn’t want to. Instead of suppressing this instinct, we should try to regulate it and be more mindful of purchases. We can then cultivate a deeper appreciation for what we already own.