The Joy Of Spending - Thoughts On Mindful Consumption

I’ve had some feedback lately about my post titled More Is Less. The intention with that post is not to punish myself for my consumption, far from it.

The point of the "No Buy" challenge is to get in touch with what is far more satisfying than standard consumerism:

Mindful Consumption

The challenge I’ve given myself of not buying material things until the end of August of 2018 is not to save money, though that will certainly be a nice side effect to the behaviour.


The purpose of this challenge is to successfully reset my consumption patterns toward what is meaningful to me and to my household. Unfortunately, I was starting to make purchases for the feelings associated with the activity—excitement, a bandaid for FOMO, the buzz of getting a good deal (regardless of whether you really need or want what’s on sale), the inherent temporary comfort of accumulation—and no longer for the outcome of it.

We’re all hoarders to a certain degree. Most of us have more than what we need or really want in at least one category of consumables; be it too much/too many car(s), too many toys, too much TV, too many clothes, too many video games, too many cosmetics, too much jewellery, too much kitchenware, too many pets…you get the idea. 

Having too much of something by other people’s standards isn’t necessarily a problem. If we actively use and enjoy this perceived excess, it adds to our quality of life. Well, as long as we own it and not the other way around. 

If we really enjoy what we own and derive daily/weekly pleasure out of it, it’s accretive to our quality of life. I guess you could say it’s offering a positive return on investment (ROI), despite the depreciation and eventual obsolescence of the given item(s).

How can we determine whether purchases we've made are delivering a positive ROI?

There’s the good king, called ‘instrumental materialism’, which involves using material things to fulfil your personal values and goals. Then there’s the bad kind, called ‘terminal materialism’, where you use your money and material possessions to improve your own social status and to generate envy in others.
— Claudia Hammond, "Mind Over Money" (2016), p. 207.
  1. We still feel good about them.
  2. We invest time and effort into them by maintaining, using, even sharing them.
  3. We believe that losing them (by giving them away, selling them, trading them or having them stolen) would have an impact on our happiness on a day-to-day basis.

Unfortunately, if we get real with ourselves, a lot of what we own doesn't give us the “warm fuzzies.” A lot of what we own becomes nothing more than a burden over the long term.

Having “too much” leads to feelings of obligation, guilt, overwhelm. In short, they inevitably lead us to experience a long-term consumption hangover. 

Here are a few examples:

The more impulsive people are, the more susceptible they are to errors in reasoning, which could explain the link between impulsivity and problems gambling.
— Claudia Hammond, "Mind Over Money" (2016), p. 268.
  • Did we really need to buy the item we liked in every single colour available? Are we really going to use all of them?
  • Did we really need to buy that power tool if we only require it for a single job? Would we have been better to try to borrow or rent instead?
  • Do we really have time to enjoy this recreational vehicle when we work six days a week or did we buy it just because we like the idea of free time it represents?

In order to avoid the snowballing of the problem, I find it useful to do two things:

  1. Do some purging from time to time
  2. Go on a “No Buy”

Either or both of these activities can be the vehicle that helps us wake up and ask the necessary questions:

  • When I choose to spend money, what’s the biggest bang for my buck? (Hint: I'm not talking about sale price.)
  • When I choose to let go of something, how does it make me feel?
  • What purchases over the last few years have been the most rewarding? Why?
  • What is it that I can get rid of that will restore the spring in my step?
  • What planned purchase do I need to rethink now that I have more clarity about what and how I’ve been consuming?

All of these questions are essential to good consumption. Some might say that it takes time and effort to go through these types of introspective exercises. To that type of objection, I would say that consumption requires a great deal more time and effort (yes, even when it’s done online). 

Acquiring consumable goods has no upside when it’s done for the sake of acquiring. But, it—along with divesting—has major upside when it’s done for the purpose of living our best life.

Surprisingly, family income didn’t make a difference to how much children saved of gave away. It was emotional warmth that mattered, with those children living in a warm family more likely to save up their cash, sometimes for their own college fees.
— Claudia Hammond, "Mind Over Money" (2016), p. 28.

And living our best life usually involves:

I’m appreciating my gentle progress toward more mindful consumption. (My actions have been immediate, but my mind still has some catch up to do.)

I’ve been there before and I know how good it feels. If you’re there or have been there, you already know what I mean. 

If you haven’t experienced it, I don't think you'll be disappointed if you give it a try. 

Image credit/copyright: bigjom /

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