I’ve been making progress towards financial freedom since 2020, when I spent the year focusing on my personal finances and getting them into shape.
Since then, I’ve clarified my ‘why’ of wanting to get there (more time to do the things I really get joy out of), put $43k into investments, paid off my student loan and paid a fair chunk off my mortgage. Each year I plan my savings goals and set up a zero dollar budget for the whole year and track my expenditure.
In parallel, I’ve also been trying to declutter and minimize my belongings. These two values – financial freedom and a simplified life, should mean that I’m not buying new things. But despite reducing my consumerism heavily over the past few years, I’m still tempted EVERY time I go into a shop!
Resisting the shine of new products doesn’t just magically happen after a certain amount of time. It’s like a muscle that needs constant conditioning, and I need to set myself boundaries and give myself little ‘rules’ to avoid the pull.
The best policy is of course to avoid shopping as much as possible, but for the few trips that I do have to make, here are a few questions I use to reduce unnecessary purchases.
Where did the idea come from?
We all genuinely need new items from time to time. The trick is recognizing the different between an internal need, something that comes from an existing aspect of your life that you know would help you or add value, and an external need where a product is telling you that it would improve your life.
Chances are, if it only occurs to you that you need something when you are in the store, it is probably an external need.
Like when you go in to the camping store to buy a new hiking stove, and suddenly start looking at foldable plates and dishes. Wouldn’t they be a great addition to your kit, and save on your pack weight! But do you really need them, or did it just occur to you that needed them when you saw them on the shelf?
If it is something that you think of as you are going about your daily life, or planning an activity, it is more likely to be an internal need.
I have a rule that I put these kinds of things to buy on a list on my phone, and when I’m in the store I can only buy things on the list. This stops any impulse purchases and slows down my thinking about whether or not I can live without it.
If I see something that I think I would value, I check in with myself first to see where the thought came from – was it from me, or from the product?
Do I need it right now?
Even if I think something will bring value, I always check in to see if it’s something that needs to be purchased right away.
Snow gear on sale in mid-summer? Bulk savings on Christmas decor in February?
I try not to be tempted by off-season sales, remembering that if you don’t buy something you will save 100% of the purchase price!
I also try and make sure that I have the time and bandwidth to start using something straight away. For example, I don’t buy new books until I’ve finished my current one. I let purchases simmer until I’m ready to start that new project or hobby, or go on that trip, because in many cases it never eventuates or I loose interest in the idea.
I try to remember that I can always come back and make the purchase at a later date, and reduce the sense of urgency that sales and shops tend to instill.
Is there something else that will do the job?
Another reason for not buying things right away is that I can check my home to see if I’ve already got something similar, or that will do the job. If I don’t own anything, sometimes I ask my local Buy Nothing group.
A couple of weeks ago I nearly bought a long sleeved swimsuit/wetsuit thing I saw in the shop, thinking that it would be great for covering up in the intense Aussie sun. I’d completely forgotten about a rashie that I already had that was donated to me last year, and very nearly wasted over $100!
Even though the rashie + swimsuit combo is not as convenient as an all-in-one, it still does the job of covering my skin. A trap of minimalism is to go looking for that one ‘perfect’ product, and because part of the ethos is to own as few items as possible, I’m constantly tempted to upgrade those few things.
I always check, how much value will this actually add compared to what I already have, and is it worth it?
Do you have any mantras or rules that you use to reduce temptation whilst in stores? I’d love to hear them!