Written by Dr. Eric 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.
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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