Author Topic: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?  (Read 14705 times)

CNM

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I've been taking a hard look at my finances and financial choices.  I really, really want to retire as soon as possible so I can enjoy my son's childhood.  While I have the big stuff down (zero car expenses, affordable home, no cell phone, etc.), I routinely punch myself in the face when I look over my monthly expenditures.  The culprit is me buying stuff.

Maybe it's some new clothes, or something for the house, a book that someone recommended to me, a fancy new cheese at the grocery store, or some fun looking toy for my kid.  It's always something and it always adds up to around $250 per month.  I always like what I buy but if I'm going to get out of the rat race, I need to curb the spending habits.  In many ways it reminds me of a diet- I do well for a while but then I feel the need to relax a bit and, tada!, a new (cool but unnecessary) dress enters my life.

My question is- how do YOU resist temptation to buy stuff or free yourself from wanting stuff altogether? 

iamlindoro

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Pay your investments first.  Leave nothing in the bank that will allow you to deviate from your budgeted spending.  Very, very shortly you will lose your cravings for the random crap.

Example:  In my Quicken budget, I have scheduled transactions for all bills and pay, as well as very aggressive transfers to my investments that will leave me a few hundred bucks every pay period to cover food and entertainment.  If I buy something I want from that, it's fine.  Usually if I end up accumulating any extra, though, I make an extra transfer to my investments and enjoy that just as much as buying a toy.  Seeing the stache grow is highly addictive.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 04:14:07 PM by iamlindoro »

amyable

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Is there a particular antecedent for your shopping behavior?  It's different for everyone, but I buy random crap when I am bored--just being aware of this fact puts me miles ahead of where I was a few years ago. 

Maybe identify the particular trigger for your shopping--is it boredom, stress, purely impulse?--and find an alternative behavior.  If it's boredom, find something else you can do instead of shopping;  if it's stress, try meditating; if it's impulse, make yourself wait a few weeks before making a new purchase, etc.

CNM

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Thank you for your responses.

On the question of behavior- I'd say it's mostly impulse combined with boredom.  Other than for groceries, most of the shopping I do online when I'm surfing around for no good reason. 

I guess what I am asking is how one releases oneself from consumer desire?  Intellectually I know that buying [whatever non-essential item] will set me back in my investment goals, and perhaps I'll exercise restraint and not buy it.  But I'll still want it and maybe I'll even regret that I didn't buy it- at least for a short while until my focus shifts elsewhere.  So even if I don't buy, the desire is still there.  And it's harder to overcome a desire than it is to never have had the desire in the first place, kwim?

iamlindoro

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You're right that it's like a diet-- so you remove the temptation or make it inconvenient to indulge it-- that's what I meant by paying the investments first.  I issue a buy order on my investments/index funds the very day I get paid, every single time.  Sometimes I even "give myself a haircut" and transfer a little extra to leave an amount I think will challenge me.  I've gone from "needing" $500 a paycheck for food and entertainment for myself to "needing" 250-300 per pay period for those things.  Everything else is gone as soon as it arrives.

IMO, you don't need to "actively" remove your craving for material goods-- that happens on its own.  If you're like me, an unhealthy compulsion (admittedly wasteful consumerism) is replaced by a healthy one (How much can I get myself to save/how little can I get myself to spend this time?).  I really do take an intense sort of glee from seeing my net worth rise biweekly.

daizy744

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Try to think of every purchase not necessarily in dollar amount (ie, shoes cost $50), but in time effort (ie, I have to work for 3 hours of my life to pay for these shoes). This is the Your Money or Your Life thinking.

Would you then rather have these new shoes that you'll wear xx times. Or would you rather gain the 3 hours (or whatever) of your life back? Which of the two do you value most? That value would be even greater if you take into effect the growth of the $50 when you invest it for retirement.
:-)

Sylly

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Other than for groceries, most of the shopping I do online when I'm surfing around for no good reason. 

I guess what I am asking is how one releases oneself from consumer desire?  Intellectually I know that buying [whatever non-essential item] will set me back in my investment goals, and perhaps I'll exercise restraint and not buy it.  But I'll still want it and maybe I'll even regret that I didn't buy it- at least for a short while until my focus shifts elsewhere.  So even if I don't buy, the desire is still there.  And it's harder to overcome a desire than it is to never have had the desire in the first place, kwim?

I browse online a lot, too. Probably a lot more than I should have. The desire is definitely there, and usually stays for awhile. I rarely pull the trigger, though. I don't know if I would qualify myself as having a lot of restraint. I think I just like to keep my money more.

I don't know if it'll help you, but I'll tell you what goes through my head. Generally if I see something I like, I question whether I need it. That takes care of most things. If I still want it, I question if I really need it. If I still want it, I question if it's worth however much it's going to cost me. Usually the answer is no. I have a very low threshold for the price I'm willing pay for certain things, no matter how cute/nice/pretty/cool something is. This last one stops me from buying all but very few exceptions.

I think this does get better with time. My personal purchases had gone down every year for the last few years, and it's getting easier to not buy anything. It'd be better if I don't waste my time browsing in the first place, but I'm still working on it . I'd say, keep at it, and keep practicing saying no. Good luck!

amustache

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Since you're online a lot, maybe the website below will help.

I stumbled upon this website and it helps with putting things in historic/socioeconomic perspective, as MMM does so often in his posts. It helps me realize how blessed we are to live in the U.S, which definitely helps curb consumer urges.

http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/

James

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I find myself in the same position as you, finding things online to purchase.  One trick that has worked for me is to have a google doc for desired purchases.  First, I have a list of items linked to the best place to buy them.  When I need them or have money (say from a cash Christmas gift), I can purchase items I know I want and will use.  I also can give people ideas from the list of things to buy me at a great price, so if my parents need a birthday gift they can pick something from there if they don't want to give cash.  Second, I add things to the bottom of the list when I find great things online.  I list the item and the website, and compare it to other things on the list.  Usually I realize there are things that are on the list I want more, and if I'm not going to spend the money on things I want more, then why spend it on this item.  Sometimes it stays on the list until purchased, but often it gets deleted after being on the bottom of the list for a month or two.  I realize I didn't need it after all, event though it might have been a quality item at a good price.


Big sales are my downfall for the system, because I can't just add it to the list, I have to act now.  But the comparison still helps, and usually there is something I would want to spend the money on more, so it's easier to just say no despite the sale.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2013, 07:10:10 PM by James »

travelbug

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I also shop online but have trained myself to bookmark awesome things I would like. I have seperate bookmark pages for myself, the children, the home, extras etc.

Then I do a similar thing to James, I just wait until we have extra fun money from Christmas, birthdays or whatever and often when I go back to read my lists I delete 90% of the stuff from it.

It becomes easier over time. but many people have play money, maybe budget yourself some play money per month and buy your desires from that pool only.

We have donated, thrown out or sold that much stuff lately that I swear I will never buy another "thing" again. it is crazy the stuff we have accumulated and we are fairly minimalist anyway.

Good luck OP.

N

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 09:56:23 PM »
you know how they say "dont go to the grocery store on an empty stomach"?
dont go internet shopping (or "browsing") on an empty budget. :)
if you find yourself looking around online at stuff, get up and go do something else for a while. coupla jumping jacks. walk around the block :)

N

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2013, 10:53:50 PM »
My approach/thought process is similar to Sylly and a bit of James! It helps that I actually dislike the process of shopping, so while an afternoon at the mall is fun for some people, I find it boring and a waste of time.

The other key piece of advice I have is DON'T LOOK! How did that cute dress come into your possession? If I am grocery shopping I don't cruise past my fave dress shop, and think " I'll just pop in and see whats there", "I'll just pop in and get some ideas for this season", because from past experience I know I'm highly likely to leave with a cute something or other.  This goes for internet shopping also.  Some of us can look and not buy, and some us have particular weaknesses...we can look at somethings and not buy, but not others. If you know you are likely to buy clothes do NOT go in to "just look": you've spent the money as you cross the threshold into the store.

If you have a bad feeling eg restless, irritable, moody, need comfort and you have used shopping in the past to sooth this then try something free  ($) and positive instead e.g. throw frisbee in the park.  ( not eating and not alcohol or drugs).


 

arebelspy

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2013, 11:06:16 PM »
I have two wish lists, a short term (I.e. next Christmas) and a "someday" list of nice things we'd eventually like to own.

I put some stuff on there, but not too much.   Eventually you get to a point where consumer junk just doesn't appeal to you.

We just got $125 in Amazon gift cards last week (from rewards credit cards), and I have nothing to spend it on (in fact, still had $30 left over from a $50 Amazon gift card I got for Christmas - bought two used books for $20 each, then forgot about it).  We did use some of it to buy a new faucet the other day to replace a leaking one... now have $100+ sitting, and probably will still be six months from now.

I wasn't always like this; I used to want gadgets (and spend lots of money on technology), but now I think about how I'm happy with what I have.

It does depend on the person though - my wife still wants stuff, she just fights the urge (she has amazing willpower, because she buys even less than I, who wants nothing).

I guess what I'm trying to say is to keep working at the attitude of it, because it does get better - either though you eventually not wanting things, or through you working out your willpower muscle and it being strong.   Either of those solutions, IMO, work equally well and help answer the question posed in the OP.

Best of luck!
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DocCyane

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 06:07:41 AM »
My partner and I will contemplate purchases for a long time to make sure it's something we truly want and is worth the money. Then we make a game out of trying to get it for free.

Since folks are constantly tossing out perfectly good items, there are often opportunities from neighbors to get great things at no cost.

We never steal (illegal downloads, etc), but many books and songs are free through the Internet or library. Clothes are cheap at Goodwill. Coupons for services are everywhere.

Acquisition used to be the challenge. Now it's deciding what we really want and need, and getting it for as little money as possible. Enjoy the game!

arebelspy

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 06:24:44 AM »
We never steal violate copyright laws (illegal unauthorized downloads, etc), but many books and songs are free through the Internet or library. Clothes are cheap at Goodwill. Coupons for services are everywhere.

Fixed, to help prevent the spread of FUD.
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GuitarStv

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2013, 06:29:50 AM »
Cooling period FTW.  Any time you're planning on buying something, wait at least a week (a month or more for big purchases) to spend time looking around for alternatives, and to make sure you really want what you're getting.

kolorado

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2013, 08:03:53 AM »
I'm not interested in acquisition by nature so I don't need a lot of strategies to suppress consumerism but the mood does hit occasionally. This year it is buying a small camper. We're going to look at one on Saturday. Anyway, mostly what fires me up and gives me ammo to fight with when the mood hits to spend is knowing and recognizing sales tactics. I don't like to be tricked or manipulated. I want to know that when I do decided to buy it was 100% my decision. I read books and articles on the subjects of sales, marketing and consumerism whenever I can to refresh my resolve. The "cooling off" period is naturally built into being thoroughly sure something is my decision. Almost everything that goes on my "list" is ruled out for purchase within a month because the mood moves on or I recognize that it was the sales pitch that drew me in.

tooqk4u22

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2013, 09:02:09 AM »
.....a fancy new cheese at the grocery store, or some fun looking toy for my kid. 


I used to be into cars and gadgets but have all but lost interest in these things - not sure if its because I got older, cheaper, or more focused on FIRE but it has happened. 

But food is my weakness - I will not give up my fancy cheeses and my steak dinner, but I only have these things periodically - haven't had a steak in two months (might be time) and fancy cheese every few weeks I just buy what I will use that night from the cheese monger (bonus is he lets you sample things will perusing) so while it may be a crazy amount per pound the price ends up being a few bucks for what I buy. 

I have found that if these luxury foods are far more enjoyable the more infrequently you eat them - when you eat some form rice/veggies/chicken everyday for two months the steak tastes a lot better than if you eat it every week.  IMO This applies to all spending.

LiquidSapphire

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2013, 10:59:03 AM »
I use the Amazon Wish List function.  You can use it for anything you find online at any time, not just Amazon products.  You get the rush of "buying" it without actually buying it.  Then a week or so later, come back and see if you still want the item.  A side benefit is I send the list to family/friends as things I want for Christmas/Birthday.  So I actually get stuff I want most of the time now.  I log in every few weeks and delete things because I don't even want them anymore.  It actually happens all the time.  If something ends up sitting there for many months I will generally just buy it.

A lot of people use Pinterest for the same thing.  It's a way to "buy" cute clothes but not actually buy them. 

CNM

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2013, 11:02:43 AM »
I certainly do catch myself when I'm perusing Amazon for some sudden "need" and I shut down the browser and do something else.  But, I am not perfect and stuff creeps in.  This month (February) I'm aiming to have a credit card bill (I put everything other than the mortgage, utilities, & child care on the cc then pay it off monthly) of $500.  This includes groceries for the month, my gym membership, baby supplies, ...everything.  Mustachianism is a process-- I'm making baby steps here.

momo

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2013, 01:35:13 PM »
I am quite happy with less and I actually want the few things I already have. So when my friends ask how I manage to not spend and save, I ask them which do you prefer more cool stuff or more freedom? For me I choose to amass rich experiences and shared memories. Ultimately I want to to achieve freedom to pursue causes and projects I deem worthy with my limited life energies. Call me crazy but somehow buying stuff just does not help.

As such I have grown quite immune to popular things and consumer stuff. Aren't these the very things we are programmed that need? Things such as: cars, cosmetics, credit cards, drinking, eating out, prestigious labels from education, fashion, gambling, jewelry, technology, toys, etc? The thing is I DO NOT want them and I realize hey, no one is forcing me to buy them except me. So I decided no more. Now these things hold little meaning to me and I would not shed a tear if they literally burned in-front of me.

To achieve financial freedom I know I need to have more flexiblity and discipline in my life. Being able to confidentally and firmly say no to myself, peer pressure and unhealthy psychological marketing. How about for you?

I use one technique to help me rationalize potential spending. I chose to deliberate purchases, judiciously weighing if lasting value is created against short-term fixes.

I ask myself does this purchase or activity make me genuinely happier, healthier, wealthier, or wiser? Does this purchase create "rich" experiences in my life? This focused mindset helps me live a stress free, simple and stoic life .

Adam Baker's TED talk expands on the very same idea.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XRPbFIN4lk&feature=youtu.be
Enjoy!

So, what does freedom look like to you? :)

Cheers!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 09:22:25 AM by Stashtastic Momo »

Done by Forty

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2013, 02:09:14 PM »
Thank you for your responses.

On the question of behavior- I'd say it's mostly impulse combined with boredom.  Other than for groceries, most of the shopping I do online when I'm surfing around for no good reason. 

I guess what I am asking is how one releases oneself from consumer desire?  Intellectually I know that buying [whatever non-essential item] will set me back in my investment goals, and perhaps I'll exercise restraint and not buy it.  But I'll still want it and maybe I'll even regret that I didn't buy it- at least for a short while until my focus shifts elsewhere.  So even if I don't buy, the desire is still there.  And it's harder to overcome a desire than it is to never have had the desire in the first place, kwim?

There is a lot of good advice in this thread.  I delay my 'fun' purchases and find that cooler heads usually prevail if I give myself enough time to think about it.

I also try to fixate on the things I really want (financial independence, daydreaming of summer-long hiking trips, homeschooling yet-to-be-realized children) and that puts everyday smaller purchases in the proper context.  When I stack my real wants next to my impulsive wants, the good stuff wins out.

amyable

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2013, 04:01:42 PM »
IMO, you don't need to "actively" remove your craving for material goods-- that happens on its own.

This is how it was for me.  At first I had to make myself stop buying random stuff, but I constantly lusted after new things.  However, after a several months of forcing myself to stop buying stuff (mainly clothing and random food purchases), I honestly just sort of lost my taste for it.


WhatMomWears

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2013, 07:25:47 PM »
Oh my goodness I could have written this question myself! I have had (still have) a serious problem with online shopping. Amazon mostly but also clothing stores for me. I found that boredom and frustration triggered my shopping. I'd browse, put things in my cart, get bored and/or frustrated at something and tell myself I deserved it or that my son really needed that new _____ and buy the whole cart.

At the beginning of this year I really realized I had a problem. We weren't in debt but all the money I was using to pay off the cc every month could be used for savings and eventual FI. So I swore I'd buy no more clothes for myself and no more toys for my son (he has more things than a preschool and I've stashed stuff up in the loft to cover birthday and Christmas). So far I've succeeded in not buying any new clothes for me (totally avoided looking at my favorite sites) but Amazon gets me and when I order something we need for the house it's SO hard to not just include something for him. It's a habit and I'm working on breaking it. I think trying to do an order at the beginning of the month so I'm not constantly looking throughout the month will help but it's a slow relearning process. I also started a blog and find myself working on posts rather than mindlessly browsing. I also have started using my 'down time' reading (shocking with a toddler) or writing in my journal or coming up with new recipes or menus (cooking is a passion) or making cards (a new hobby). Basically I have found that keeping myself busy and away from any of the sites that tempt me helps. Just close the computer, log off, shut it down, or whatever you need in order to stop pushing 'buy' on that cart. And know you're not the only one!

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2013, 09:09:32 PM »
I think of a lot of stores as if they were museums.  I go in, marvel at the beauty, usefulness, workmanship, etc.  But when you go in a museum, you don't get to take things home.  You get the enjoyment of seeing things and appreciating them, but then you leave, and they stay.  This line of thought really helps me.  Just because something wonderful exists, does not mean I need to possess it - that's just selfishness.

Richard3

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2013, 09:45:02 PM »
Quote
We just got $125 in Amazon gift cards last week

Oh man, that just reminded me -  I think I have 135 of Amazon gift cards to use thanks to corporate incentives.

I do need to replace the kindle I broke a couple months ago...

Carolina on My Mind

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2013, 02:51:57 PM »
I recommend that you institute a "buy nothing month" at least once a year.  We can do anything for a month, right?  I started doing that several years ago:  every January, I buy nothing but groceries and household stuff that genuinely can't wait (say, toothpaste or dish soap).  It was hard the first time, but it has gotten easier with every passing year, until now it isn't even a challenge.  I routinely go a whole month or more without buying anything, year round.  And February is the easiest month of all, so you could start now and vow not to buy anything for the rest of the month.  If you see something you want, put it in your wish list and tell yourself that when March 1 rolls around, you can buy it.  Even if you do wind up buying all the stuff in your wish list on March 1 and don't save any money, you've still succeeded because you've improved your impulse control.  Next time it will be easier, and the time after that it will be even easier. 

Adventine

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2013, 04:54:43 PM »
I think of a lot of stores as if they were museums.  I go in, marvel at the beauty, usefulness, workmanship, etc.  But when you go in a museum, you don't get to take things home.  You get the enjoyment of seeing things and appreciating them, but then you leave, and they stay.  This line of thought really helps me.  Just because something wonderful exists, does not mean I need to possess it - that's just selfishness.

That's a really good idea. I think I'll start training myself to think that way whenever I go to the mall.

twinge

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2013, 05:02:58 PM »
Quote
I think of a lot of stores as if they were museums.

This was our exact approach to the local toy shop/bookstore with our kids.  It was a lovely place to see wonderful things and there were displays (e.g. a train set, some building toys etc.) to play with.  It was never even the remotest possibility that one would ever buy something there.  It sunk in, I think: I can't remember ever a time our children have ever begged for anything in a shop. 

CNM

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2013, 04:26:20 PM »
I do like all of the suggestions and I have already employed some of them.  Like, I decided to ask friends if anyone had a certain series of books that I could borrow, rather than buying them on Amazon even though they were on special and "only" sold for $15.  And it worked! 

I'm still on my $500/mo credit card goal for the month.  Unfortunately, I've already had a large charge of $40 for some long-overdue dry cleaning.  But, I'm remaining optimistic and committed.

travelbug

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #30 on: February 04, 2013, 08:14:49 PM »
Quote
I think of a lot of stores as if they were museums.

This was our exact approach to the local toy shop/bookstore with our kids.  It was a lovely place to see wonderful things and there were displays (e.g. a train set, some building toys etc.) to play with.  It was never even the remotest possibility that one would ever buy something there.  It sunk in, I think: I can't remember ever a time our children have ever begged for anything in a shop.

We do this too. When our children ask for a particular toy, which is not that often, when playing in a toy store we tell them to remember and write to Santa or put it on their birthday list. They are fine with that and 99% of the time by the time we are home they have forgotten all about it.

savingtofreedom

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #31 on: February 04, 2013, 09:53:06 PM »
I think of a lot of stores as if they were museums.  I go in, marvel at the beauty, usefulness, workmanship, etc.  But when you go in a museum, you don't get to take things home.  You get the enjoyment of seeing things and appreciating them, but then you leave, and they stay.  This line of thought really helps me.  Just because something wonderful exists, does not mean I need to possess it - that's just selfishness.

This is brilliant.  Great response!

MooreBonds

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Re: How to you resist buying stuff/free yourself from consumerist tendencies?
« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2013, 10:23:19 PM »
Try to think of every purchase not necessarily in dollar amount (ie, shoes cost $50), but in time effort (ie, I have to work for 3 hours of my life to pay for these shoes). This is the Your Money or Your Life thinking.

Would you then rather have these new shoes that you'll wear xx times. Or would you rather gain the 3 hours (or whatever) of your life back? Which of the two do you value most? That value would be even greater if you take into effect the growth of the $50 when you invest it for retirement.
:-)

What works for me is partly this, but even moreso, I look at the effect of adding that $X to the stash for early Financial Independence purposes (whether I actually retire early or not). Because I'm looking at possibly a 50 year retirement horizon, I need to be conservative and assume a 2.5%-3.0% (max) withdrawal, or a stash that is about 40x my annual budget. By looking at the cost of the splurge, multiply that by 40 and that's the amount in your stash that you need to buy that every year.

Sure, you may not buy a new iPhone, or this or that every year....but if you are constantly wanting to drop $250/month on various items, that $250/month comes to $3,000/year....or about $120,000 in your portfolio just to safely fund that measly splurge each month in retirement that you won't really remember or notice!