What I Learned From My Shopping Ban


During September I didn’t buy anything new (besides some tape to pack boxes for moving). This month was hard and easy for a few reasons, but I found this month somewhat easier than most previous months. I did learn some cool things about myself and how my mind is influenced by shopping.

First, I learned that not buying new things is hard, but it gets a million times harder as soon as you go shopping. I went to a huge outdoor market/fair/event in Midway, Utah (Swiss Days, for those of you familiar with it) with my wife and my parents. We had a great time up in the mountains, staying in a cabin, seeing all the cool shops, interacting with people and eating some great food. But the main reason people go there is to buy, buy, buy! Most people attend with the intention of spending money on something. This is the ultimate pre-meditated impulse buy. They only know that they will buy something, whether they know what it is or why they need it. I had a hard time resisting the urge to buy and I knew that I wasn’t buying anything this month! Resisting the urge to shop and buy is difficult.

Second, shiny things only satisfy for so long. I found that some of my urges to buy new things come from a desire to have something new and shiny (metaphorically, of course). Whether we want something newer than our neighbor, spouse, friend, or society in general, or if we have become dissatisfied with what we currently have (dirty shoes, old bike, slow computer), the urge is real and strong. I think this dissatisfaction with what we have is the root of most shopping urges. Your shoes look old and dirty compared to the new ones in the store. Compared to the latest smart phone, yours is scratched and the camera has fewer megapixels. We learn from a very young age to want the latest and greatest to the point where we forget to be grateful for what we have.

Learn to be grateful for what you have and you will become a happier person (and one who shops less!). I love this quote:

The secret to having it all is recognizing you already do

When I wanted to buy something I asked myself: “Why do I want this? Do I already have something that does this job? Do I need to replace that thing? Will this really improve my life or add beauty to my day?” and other similar questions. Then I learned to be grateful for the stuff I already have. The other secret is realizing that “having it all” doesn’t even apply to “stuff” or “things”, but to people, love, emotions, shelter, gratitude, friendship, knowledge, etc. Everything else is superfluous when compared to these things. Of course we need clothes, food, shoes, dishes, transportation, books, computers, etc., but these things are meant to improve our lives, not become our lives.

There’s a great line from the Mumford & Sons song “Awake My Soul” that goes, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” I love this line! Yes, I own a car, a laptop, a desk, a bed. I use air conditioning, I have a bookshelf full of books, a smart phone, pots and pans and more. I use and appreciate all of these things and every time I use them I am so grateful for modern conveniences. The problem with shopping is that we buy things that we don’t need and later on we don’t use them or don’t want them. We invest our love and life to the care of inanimate objects that we bought on an impulse, most of which we don’t actually love.

So, instead of investing your love and life into buying 100 pairs of shoes, a brand new sports car, the newest smart phone, or whatever, invest in people, memories, experiences, good food, your health and well-being, charities, and other worthy causes. I promise you’ll be happier if you can learn to be grateful for what you have instead of looking to material goods to make you happy. Spend time doing things you really love instead of wandering around department stores and malls.

I am still learning to appreciate all that I have been blessed with and it’s a tough journey. Don’t give up! Start from where you’re at and take it one step at a time. My shopping ban will probably continue. My shopping will mostly be to replace outdated, broken or ruined things (a car that died, shoes that fall apart, broken dishes). Will you join me?

If you want some more great posts about shopping and/or not buying new things, check out these two great posts:

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