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We all like to buy things sometimes. I mean what’s the point of making money if you aren’t going to spend it, right? And the marketers make buying everything sound so amazing! Buy this and your life will be perfect! It’s too easy to get caught up with consumerism. It’s everywhere.
Getting Caught up with Consumerism
I’ve been caught up with consumerism. Haven’t we all felt the need to buy all the things at some point? Or thought that spending your money on stuff would be the key to happiness? I was that person once (and let’s be honest- Drunk Melanie still is!).
At one point, I bought a two-hundred-dollar juicer. Why? I had never juiced before in my life! Yes, I was curious and thought it would be cool, but did I really need this top of the line brand new machine? Probably not. I also learned that juicing is messy and quite wasteful, and I would have been better served by buying a decent blender (which I didn’t do, do you think maybe I’ve learned my lesson?).
Buying all the things!
It’s not just fancy kitchen gadgets that catch my attention. I’d also stock up on ten books that I might never read whenever I went to the bookstore. When I left California, I had to downsize my collection, but honestly, I don’t miss them. I learned that I don’t need to own a ton of books to be happy.
To be fair, I still own a ton of books. Almost two book cases full. But I’ve stopped buying books that I know I won’t read, and am trying really hard to read the books that I do have!
New shoes and accessories also caused problems for me. I was never really into name-brands (thank god!), but I would go to places like Payless and outlet malls to stock up. It wouldn’t be unheard of for me to come home with five new pairs of shoes from my latest trip to Payless! That’s absurd!
I also have a serious scarf problem. I probably have at least fifty of the things, and I only ever wear about ten of them. Drunk Melanie thought it would be a good idea to buy five scarves during her trip to Peru. Why do I need five Peruvian scarves? Drunk Melanie is no longer in charge of shopping (usually).
My sister would always scoff at my cheap accessories’ addiction, especially when she was in her super bougie “only Christian Dior will do” phase. But I can get so many pairs of shoes at payless for the price of just one item at her fancy name brand stores! I was being frugal!
In reality, buying cheap crap you don’t need is just as silly as buying expensive crap you don’t need. It’s all needless consumerism.
Happiness Doesn’t Come from Things
As I got older, I realized that happiness doesn’t come from the things that you buy. I still have tons of scarves and books, but I’ve made a huge effort to not buy any more, and I’m no less happy than when I was buying all the things all the time. I still buy things for the house, but I focus only on what I need. That fancy juicer didn’t increase my happiness in any meaningful way, so why buy something else that would have the same impact?
What does impact my life in a meaningful way is having experiences. And I admit that I still get caught up in consumerism when it comes to those. I’ll drop everything and book a last-minute trip somewhere, or spend fifty bucks to go to renaissance faire. For me, experiences are where its at. But is that any less consumeristic?
Getting Caught up with Consuming Experiences
I still get caught up with consumerism – it’s just the things that I’m consuming that are changing. You think airlines, hotels, theme parks, and all those companies that sell adventures aren’t just vying to take your hard-earned money? They are selling you just as much as the people hawking stuff are. Buy these plane tickets to this exotic location and your life will be great! Visit Disney Land for the time of your life! We buy into this crap too. Experiences are the new things.
Is it Bad to get Caught up in Consumerism?
I’m a finance blogger, so you’re probably assuming that I think consumerism is wrong. Save all your money! You don’t need any things or experiences!
But that’s not the case, and it wouldn’t really fit in with the spirit of financial independence. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy level of consumerism. It drives the economy. And as much as everyone likes to pretend like it doesn’t, a little but of consuming does make people happy.
Going on trips makes me happy. The same goes for attending fairs, festivals, and theme parks. And I’m sure that having tons of shoes, scarves, books, movies, games, toys or whatever else makes a lot of people happy. Who am I to judge what makes you happy?
When Consumerism Goes Bad
It’s not consumerism that is bad, but getting caught up in it can be. If you’re spending so much money on stuff that you can’t pay your bills and don’t save anything, it’s absolutely a bad thing bad. You should be paying yourself first and setting money aside in your budget for the random things you want to buy.
Even if you have a healthy savings rate and can pay all your bills, I’d argue that if the things you are consuming don’t actually make you happy or improve your life in some way, it’s also bad. If you’re buying stuff just because you’ve fallen for the insidious marketing ploy that is the American Dream, then it’s probably bad. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can identify the things that don’t actually make you happy, and start working to build your dream life instead!
A Healthy Level of Consumerism
Having a healthy level of consumerism is a great thing. The economy depends on most people consuming things, and small things can actually make people happy. The trick is to not get caught up in it. What do you think?
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.