The Unhealthy Consumer: When is it Enough?

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD


“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” ~Will Rogers

Wherever we look, we are constantly being fed the idea that we need more “stuff.” We have 24-hour television channels devoted entirely to entice us to buy more and more items we don’t really need. Every commercial break is an opportunity to sell to a captive audience. For those who do not watch television; the internet is always open, perpetually stocked with anything a person can imagine. Magazines flaunt the latest gadgets, cars, clothes, makeup, and anything else they are paid to advertise. Within social media, so-called influencers aim to sway the way we live. We are constantly encouraged to be Olympic level consumers. The average American household has $5,700 in credit card debt. If we exclude those who pay their credit card off in full every month, the average debt is $16,048. Our closets and homes overflow with items that perhaps we purchased to make ourselves feel more connected to the world that is portrayed in magazines and on television. I realize some purchases are necessary and it is nice to treat ourselves once in a while. But, we must realize that material possessions are not the path to happiness. They may serve as a distraction to avoid truly connecting with people in our lives.

Here are 5 things to ask yourself before you make your next purchase.

1. Do I truly need this item or do I just want it?
It is important to distinguish between items that are considered life essentials vs. luxury items. Life essentials are clothing, food, rent, or any item deemed essential for living. A luxury item is something we purchase to satisfy a desire. For example, if it is another pair of shoes, ask yourself, “Do I really need an additional pair of shoes or am I buying them to satisfy an impulse?”  I am amused and shocked when I hear of certain celebrities proudly stating that they have hundreds of pairs of shoes. This is a luxury most of us cannot afford and it is a behavior we must not try to imitate.

2. Why am I buying the item?
What is the motivation behind the purchase? Are you making the purchase to please someone in your life or to gain someone’s love and approval? It is important that you are not making the purchase to gain validation from a peer group or person.

3. What am I feeling?
Are you buying this item to distract yourself from a negative feeling? Some of us shop to feel better after a difficult day. Others shop to gain a sense of self-worth. In either case, you are utilizing shopping as a distraction to avoid sitting with the uncomfortable feeling. There is a saying that one should not go grocery shopping when hungry or without a list. My suggestion is to avoid shopping online or in a store when you are feeling any negative emotion. If you are feeling depressed, angry, or any other negative emotion, it is best to wait before making a purchase. It is important not to make a purchase just to pacify a negative emotion you may be having.

4. Is this your decision?
A known tactic in selling is the creation of scarcity. The seller will suggest or come out and tell you that this is an item that is almost sold out. They will create a sense of urgency in order to make you feel you have to buy the item now. I suggest you walk away. Do not allow yourself to be rushed and manipulated into buying something you do not need. If you truly want and need the item you can return another day.

5. Can I afford it?
Perhaps this is the easiest question to ask and the most difficult one to answer.  Can you afford the purchase? If the answer is no, do not buy it. Is this item really worth you getting into debt? If you feel shame at not being able to buy the item, ask yourself from where are you getting this feeling? We live in a world of excess where many of us watch celebrities on television or social media flaunting their wealth as if having 100 pairs of shoes or a 100 thousand dollar car is the norm. We soon begin to believe that this is the life we should be living. Do not allow your self-worth to be shaped by the false world you see on social media.

Please note, I am unable to answer your mental health questions as I am unaware of the specific details regarding your concerns. If you would like to schedule a free 20-minute consultation with me to see if we would be a good fit to work together please click here to email my assistant, Isabel.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
“I specialize in a solution-focused approach to treating depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and narcissistic abuse.”
www.MakeItUltraPsychology.com
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76 responses to The Unhealthy Consumer: When is it Enough?

  1. kethuprofumo says:

    Dear Eric, this is the greatest post ever! So much to the point, in time in our consumption reality! Well-done! The dinosaur is perfect. What is his name, by the way? Buyingsaur?
    Best wishes,
    Maria 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Maria ✨✨ I am glad you found it meaningful to you. & Ha ha! Buyingsaur! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • kethuprofumo says:

        🙂 Your post attracted me as once I posted on the same topic: soulless mass market I called it. You have a huge audience. It’s very important to use the power of the proper word to make people think. Thank you again. Ah! Buyingsaur’s wife is name Spendysaura. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric, you must be an old soul. I spent my thirties and forties buying too much clothing, decorations, food, you name it. I always had the money, as I worked. I also shopped at the Goodwill and local thrift stores. The end result? Closets full of clothing I don’t like, or that don’t fit me any longer. Pantry is overstocked with bent and dent delicacies. When was the last time you used Star Anise in a recipe? I have a ton of it. And bags of household wares I don’t have the energy to deal with, but have had for over ten years. Your point is so well made. Word to the youngins? Remember, you are going to spend the first half of your life buying stuff you will spend the second half of your life trying to get rid of. Blessings.

    Liked by 9 people

  3. jfrels says:

    A.) I don’t use a credit card. That will solve a lot of this. If I can’t pay for it, I can’t afford it. I don’t want a shiny new thing AND debt, just a shiny new thing.

    B.) What do I have that I am going to get rid of when I buy this thing? This works well for me.

    C.) For a big purchase, like a camera lens or computer, I sit on it for months mulling it over. I think a lot about how I will use it, what value it will bring me, what else I can do with the money. By the time I buy it, I have already emotionally let go of the money and come to terms with buying it. No buyer’s remorse.

    D.) The day after you spend the last of your savings on some cool thing you have been wanting, your water heater or refrigerator or HVAC or car will break down and you will be in a bind.

    Liked by 8 people

  4. Love Alchemy says:

    We get older and realize materially, we need so very little and want even less… Great post.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Nicolle says:

    Great post! I’m the type who takes 3 million years before deciding to buy anything, especially big purchases like laptops, because the “Do I need it?” vs “I want it!” debate takes a while to resolve. 😆

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Olivier says:

    I like the idea about: “They may serve as a distraction to avoid truly connecting with people in our lives.” I use to focus more on the social media that disconnect people from people. But it’s true that shopping and the image people want to give of them selve with shopping and what they buy and the way they expose themselves play a big role in the people disconnection

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Scott says:

    Me and my wife differ at times on what to buy but we both ‘spend’ more than we should. There is a lot of advertising and enticements out there.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. gaillovesgod says:

    I find sometimes when I am upset that I shop trivially till I am depleted of funds and energy. Though I can sense it getting out of hand, I feel the need to have no money or resources, to remove the possibility of making any decisions. The more reckless I see I’m being the more determined I am to not care… kinda like I need to validate my recklessness. Crazy huh? This is where your post took my thoughts… lol. Good post.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. ChristianPathShare says:

    I recently began a minimalistic lifestyle and I’m pleasantly surprised that so many are so positive to rethink their purchases. My hope is that everyone you have reached is putting it into practice.

    In three years I have proudly sized down from a 6BR, 3200 sq ft home filled with “stuff” to the necessities equaling less than 800 sq ft with room to spare. I would love your list to include the following questions:

    1.) What is the useful life of the purchase?

    2.) Are there multiple uses for this purchase?

    3.) Do I already own something that can be multi-purposed or recycled to fill the need of the purchase?

    4.) How is it packaged? How will the packaging be disposed of? Can it be repurposed?

    Just a few ideas to expand on your insightful approach to the shopping craze. Be well always.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. We moved recently and I was working on destashing my craft room all of yesterday. It’s amazing how much stuff I had in there that I didn’t need, or that I had bought thinking I’d use it and then never got around to it. Consumerism is almost like a disease here in the U.S.!

    Liked by 5 people

  11. simpyunleashed says:

    Great post, I’m going to use this as a tool moving forward. Very thought provoking. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I enjoyed this article. I wonder if I might have it a little better with the excessive ads out here in the country than someone in the city? It is definitely possible to swamp yourself with ads from internet, tv, etc. no matter where you live, unless it is in New guinea or something, but at least out here you are looking at thousands of trees rather than hundreds of billboards and storefronts.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I wrote an article about this for the church I worked for. I focused on the fact that we have to to rent storage space to store the excess. I was born in 1940 and remember a time when we didn’t have so many things…. and things were not so important. Television and other media have now influenced our thinking, I am appreciating the new ideas of the current young adults and applaud the downsizing and concentration on living. Suzanne

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Ashish Bhatt says:

    Appropriately said, “we must realize that material possessions are not the path to happiness”.

    Moreover it reminds me of something similar from “Fight Club”:
    “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis.”

    My take on it: People always identify themselves with something, knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe because this has become the trend and they feel left alone if they don’t do it. In my opinion, the root cause is when we identify ourselves with something(say a nice condo or maybe new Audi R8).

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Great info! Is this your decision? Sometimes this is the hardest one for me. I honestly feel bad for sales people sometimes because I am that client that will ponder, think and ask too many questions and then I have to gracefully figure out how to get out of the situation before I say okay. Example, big ticket items that you have to research first, great now I feel like I wasted the salesperson time if I don’t buy and then I actually feel guilty. It is horrible but I am glad this made the list which tells me I am not alone!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. This post definitely speaks to my state of mind lately. I feel like I’m drowning beneath the unnecessary clutter of excess “stuff” that I or a family member bought because of an acquisitive urge.

    It’s not enough to purge your home of extraneous items you no longer need or want. You have to change your whole mindset about acquiring them in the first place. Excellent advice. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Love this post! The unhealthy (unconscious) consumer is perhaps driven by their ferocious need to fill the gaping hole in their soul … in their heart. ❤️ Alas, buying things is a temporary fix.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. juliehcares says:

    I totally agree with this! Consumerism is so bad these days. My Mom has this problem as I’m finding out by cleaning her house. I’ve tried telling her all of this but she doesn’t listen.
    Now she’s talking about taking a $4000 trip overseas with a group and she’s worried about money. I “suggested” that she not make any new purchases to make sure she has the money. I seriously doubt that will work though. She’ll decide she needs new clothes for the trip and other stuff. I am also having her sell a lot of things she doesn’t use. Maybe this will help a little!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. rkjoshi1984 says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for posting these valuable tips. I really liked it and this is not only in America, but across the globe.

    As always, your posts are Ultra.

    Thanks,
    RK Joshi

    Liked by 2 people

  20. MakeItUltra™ says:

    My opinion is that there are many forms of therapy that are more effective than retail therapy ✨

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Liv Miles says:

    Insightful post! It reminds me of a George Carlin quote: “People spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need.” Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. jlwilson80 says:

    HA! It’s funny that I should choose this as my first read in your blog. You see, a few weeks ago, I came across Darth Vader’s Force FX lightsaber while grocery shopping at Target (my daughter wanted to look at toys). Without going into detail – I’ve been pinching pennies for about 5 years now – I’d get pretty medieval – no Silk soy milk, it’s .80 cents more! Still other areas I’d find ways to justify a purchase. More RAM for the comp? Ok, I work from home, so it’ll make me more efficient and it’s a tax deduction. But new work clothes? The holes in my khakis aren’t THAT big. Now that things are looking up (I write that reluctantly, I’m always ready for the rug to get pulled out from under me – post about that – the irrational fear that the world is going to explode, especially if it’s happened to you before).
    I digress.
    Anyway, I saw that shiny, sexy red lightsaber there and thought “THAT is a frivolous purchase. There are plenty of things I want, but don’t need. Most of those will serve some purpose. But a frickin lightsaber? Such a purchase is an affront to my fiercely practical proclivities.” So I told the voice, “you’re right…” as I carried it to the register and purchased it. During that time I think I went through every item on your list, each time saying “you’re absolutely right.” Oh it was a beautiful thing.
    “Olympic level consumers” – love it, I’m stealing that one

    Liked by 2 people

  23. rezinate says:

    “More” is a cultivated addiction from the cradle to the grave – it’s become more
    about what a person has or doesn’t have than character.
    One of the greatest scams ever perpetrated in my opinion is the marketing of
    company logos on articles of attire – in paying to advertise for a company, which is
    in effect what it amounts to, consumers have been duped into believing it is some
    sort of personal statement.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. It’s a very sad state of affairs that adults – as much as kids – need to learn the distinction between “need” and “want”.

    Your opening word is misspelled, Eric, in case you’d like to correct it. Feel free to delete this part of comment.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Phyllis Rogers says:

    I was raised by a mother who lived during the Great Depression. So I tend to be very frugal. My husband, on the other hand, was raised by a mother and stepfather with great resources and lived in luxury in many different places all over the globe. He and his sister would ring a bell for house servants to bring them whatever they wanted. Before he sustained his TBI 6 1/2 years ago, he worked for Halliburton and our income was above average and I worked as a nurse as well, but he was not good at saving then. To this day he still shows resistance when I remind him we can’t buy everything he sees on TV or in the stores. I fix things. He disposes of things. The only thing that saves us is I’m the only one who can handle the finances now and I think he is beginning to understand. Still every month he list 5 or 10 things he wants from our fixed income and we have the same discussion of prioritization every month. It is so routine, I no longer get frustrated. Yet sometimes I feel I may be a little too controlling.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. True to the core post!!☺️ I feel everybody should try to inculcate a thoughtful buying attitude in them. I myself configure the need,purpose and brainstorm would ‘it’ really compliment my confidence, health, space etc before buying things, most of the time!😬.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Your bowling in my alley! We all have to learn new habits and change…I still enjoy buying stuff, I just don’t like being strapped down and had to face my flaws with consumerism.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Well put! I’ve found it especially hard since I’ve signed up for Amazon Prime (we don’t have the most shopping options in Hawaii. So, it’s great for us islanders). However, it’s temptign to fill that shopping cart up! I’ve started putting stuff in the “cart” and waiting a few days before I click “check out.” Oftentimes, I put a few things back!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Great article, Dr. Perry.
    We cut up ALL our credit cards and now function with just debit cards and cash. At first, it was horrible not to be able to buy something I “needed”. Now that we are coming up on a year of living on cash alone, it’s getting better. But I still wish I had a credit card for those enticing online webinars that end with an opportunity to take a course.
    It’s a good thing I can’t put $$$ on credit any longer. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  30. This was really interesting to read. In my recently ended relationship there was a real emphasis on lifestyle and materialism on my partners side. I look back and see that he had me engaging in it also. There was a ‘onto the next thing’, ‘never enough’ ethos and it created a lot of pressure in our relationship, trying to fill this bottomless hole can be exhausting. Now the relationship has ended I do feel this sense of relief in terms of not feeling this pressure to compete, to upgrade. Enough can be enough. Thank you for this, great post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  31. “Olympic consumers” lol. For large purchases, I force myself to wait a week, sometimes two. It will be there tomorrow. And that “cool down” period often helps me sort through whether that item is an absolute necessity. I also have lists of things that I really want/need and wait for them to go on sale. With the outdoors as my hobby, I might not need a $125 pair of trail shoes, but if I can snag them for 25, 30, or 40% off, I will, and when it comes to the engineering behind outdoor tech, more money really does equal a more durable, longer lasting product. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents… Another great post Dr Perry.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Love this! Thankfully I don’t have this problem, but I did love the question, “what am I feeling” since like many situations, people use “things” to fill a void. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Excellent wisdom. We often buy for reasons other than need. And then we wind up with closets full of things and we don’t even remember what we have. The more we live only with the essentials, and things we really love and value, the happier we are, I think. Thanks for shining a light on this subject.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. I’ve been so broke since the divorce, I can’t afford to spend beyond my means as it is. I have one pair of shoes and that’s it. Can you believe it? A female with only one pair of shoes!! I personally do not understand the desire for 100s of pairs of shoes. What’s the point? This is a great post and those are great questions to ask oneself before spending money that one may not have.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. A few months ago we bought a new vehicle, the first brand new car we’d purchased in almost 2 decades. The salesman asserted we’d be back in 2 years to trade it in on a new model, despite being told that’s not how we live. We usually buy second-hand when it comes to cars, so no, we will not be trading it in despite the fact that “everybody” does it. The pressure to keep up appearances or to prove we are “somebodies” is a pressure technique that is so common in marketing. Sadly consumerism is at the bottom of many of our troubles in the so-called developed world. This is a timely and well-written post. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  36. queentracey1 says:

    Along with our history of abuse my boys and I had to start over many times, we had a house fire that took everything, when I divorced my abuser he took everything, etc, etc, The hoarder pull becomes a strong force inside that is hard to fight, and wasn’t till many years of therapy was I able to fight back. I wasn’t to the point you see on tv but being a crafter and upcycler I already save things some think are junk. I had started to sort through things and got rid of 8 garbage bags of clothes and items to less fortunate but still had so much to go when my husband bought our house. I had lived in that place for 9 years, my basement was full and I had a small area upstairs filled with a bunch of totes to get rid of. I try really hard now to stop and think before I buy anything but my husband is horrible and buys anything I show interest in. I am working on him! It is still very hard with crafting supplies and I love to change looks in the house but I still feel lots better about controlling my need for “things”. Even with the feeling of having it controlled, I still enjoy reading on it. In case you haven’t noticed I repost almost everything you post! I also have a love of psychology along with my creative side and find everything you post interesting. I enjoy reading it all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for sharing your insight and your positive feedback. Have a great day Tracey✨

      Liked by 2 people

  37. Thank you. I personally never buy what I don’t really need. My kids usually tell me I need to treat myself (and on the rare occasion I do) it admittedly feels good. Glad you wrote this though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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