Buying too much can be a real issue, especially over the festive season. You might see something on sale and think “I’ll use this next year” or “this would be great for a gift!” and before you know it, your cart is overflowing. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday shopping spirit and go overboard. Now that it’s a New Year and most likely you put a dent in your savings account, and are feeling like you need to get a grip. Yes! It’s important to keep your spending in check. Understanding why we are buying so much stuff, will help you manage your needs better.
Buying brings feelings of security
It might well sound a bit strange but human logic does work like this. We tend to feel that owning material possessions brings with it security. Think about the basics of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs like shelter and clothing. Of course, to some extent, this is true but only really the case when it comes to the basics. Unfortunately, we tend to have the rather obscure impression that owning more will bring with it more security. This is quite obviously not the case but it does seem to be linked with why we overbuy. Once basic needs are met, there is almost no benefit in terms of security from collecting more physical possessions nonetheless, we continue to accumulate more in an effort to increase our feelings of security.
Most of us would deny gaining happiness from material possessions like cars, clothes, bigger houses and new technology. The reality is that most of us tend to search for happiness in material items that serve to fill a void rather than actually boosting happiness. We reach higher and higher, often above our means, in hopes of obtaining happiness.
Advertising drives this compulsive buying behavior
The average person is bombarded by about 5000 advertisements per day. All of the marketing messaging reinforces the narrative that ‘having this or buying this will make you happier’. Advertising drives the idea that your life will inevitably be better once you have the item in question. Whilst you might well be thinking that you are unaffected by this advertising, it’s more than likely that you aren’t immune.
This consistent and subtle messaging starts to change how we think and subconsciously, this messaging gets through and we start to believe that having something new or better might truly have an impact on how happy and successful we are.
Jealousy and selfishness play a large part
Within our society, comparison is rampant, and what as well as how much we own allows us to place ourselves. It’s natural to notice what other people are doing, how they are living, and what they have. Up to a point, this is fairly healthy as it allows us to gain perspective and, potentially, improve ourselves. Unfortunately, we most commonly tend to compare material possessions rather than morals, ways of working, and values.
We have a skewed vision of success due to this culture that focuses on excess. As humans, we’re also hardwired to be selfish and greedy. Historically, this was of benefit as for example, keeping food for yourself rather than giving it away was the difference between surviving or starving to death. Nowadays though, we collect and keep unnecessary items for ourselves just so that we can possess them and gain a higher position within society because of the things we have.
Overbuying might also be down to your mental health
There is a known link between mental health and how we spend money and buy things. According to Mind, spending money or buying something might give you a temporary high and relief from depression. If you suffer from mental illnesses like Bipolar where there are phases of mania, this may play a part. During manic episodes, people often tend to make bad decisions. This can include making bad financial decisions due to impulsiveness. After all, money can be quite an emotional trigger for many of us. Though you might be aware of how tight money is, you may well still feel unable to stop spending as it temporarily makes you feel better.
Keeping a diary of how and when you spend as well as how you feel when you do it can be a helpful tool in understanding the link between your mental health and money. Try to analyze your feelings around money; do you feel better when you spend? Is it the spending or is it the item you buy that increases your feelings of happiness? Once you have a better idea of what is making you feel better or worse about money and spending, you can begin to address it. Talking to a therapist if possible is a great way for you to assist in resolving and managing these feelings.
Here are a few tips to help you to avoid overbuying
Make a list of what you do need.
Before you even set foot in a store, take a moment to think about what you actually need. If you’re buying for yourself, make a list of the things you’ve been wanting or needing.
If you’re buying for others, consider what they would like or need. This will help you stay focused while you’re shopping and avoid picking up things on a whim.
Set a budget.
Once you have your list, it’s time to set a budget. Decide how much you’re willing to spend on each person or each item on your list. This will help you stick to your spending limit and prevent you from going overboard.
Don’t just buy the first thing you see. Take some time to shop around and compare prices. This is especially important if you’re buying big-ticket items. You might find a better deal elsewhere, so it’s always worth shopping around before committing.