Consumerism means acquiring both goods and services in large amounts. The roots of this may be traced to the ancient civilizations of Rome, Egypt, and Babylon; where people bought far more than what they needed. The Industrial Revolution added fuel to the fire in consumerism. It has grown to rule the world, more so in the Occidental half, especially the USA and India.
Conspicuous Consumption refers to acquiring luxuries to flaunt the economic power. This trend is on the rise, and very often we don’t even use most of the stuff that we buy. In the craze to buy things, we fail to realize that there is a difference between the need and want.
The pitfall of rampant consumerism is that debts increase and savings almost become non-existent. You wouldn’t like to be in a position where you can’t afford to send your child to a good college as you bought heaps of luxury toys for him. And if somebody tries to lecture you about controlling your spending and you tell them, “Why shouldn’t I spend, that’s the reason I am earning?”
Undoubtedly, in today’s time where marketing and advertisement play a significant role in influencing shopping habits, it is difficult to stop yourself from indulging in consumerism. Here are ways to wean from consumerism:
Happiness is Beyond Owning Things: Don’t let the things you own end up owning you. You need to realize that money doesn’t buy happiness. Money may seem like a solution to your problem, but it only replaces the one it solves. An increase in the paycheck often translates into lifestyle indulgences. As a result, the same financial worries and budget problems exist, with just more stuff. A preoccupation with owning things is merely an attempt to fill a void. At times, the stuff might fill the emptiness, but soon you feel the same hole.
Develop Hobbies Other than Retail Therapy: Maybe you have had a breakup, a bad week at work, a squabble with your friend or have gained a few pounds; then what do you do to de-stress? Many of you will decide to shop till you drop at the nearest mall. It is because you believe the new things will help you evade the pain and feel happy. Think again! Spending your hard earned money unmindfully will only affect your personal financial well being. The best way to deal with the stress is to inculcate pastimes that aren’t so expensive like reading, watching films at home, gardening, taking your pet for a walk, working out or meeting with friends.
Save First, Spend Later: Setting up a budget is mandatory for all households. Saving must be a part of your monthly financial plan. The habit of indulging in shopping the minute the salary credits in your account only leaves you in debt by the end of the month. The debt causes stress and often forces you to take up jobs that you don’t enjoy.
Avoid Conspicuous Consumption: A social scientist coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ to refer to the excessive spending on services and goods that are acquired mainly for the purpose to display wealth and impress with material possessions. It results in wasted money and time. This habit can be best described as ‘eating ourselves to death’; just to demonstrate superiority you spend unmindfully affecting your prospects.
Say No To Credit Card and Yes to Cash: Next time you visit a department store or shopping mall, leave your credit card at home. Often credit cards tempt you to buy luxury goods just because it is cool to have them. This habit can easily be controlled by carrying cash for shopping. It will help you spend wisely as you have limited resources.
Avoid Splurging on Holidays: Enjoy the spiritual significance of the holidays instead of celebrating them by indulging in excessive shopping. In ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss, it is written that ‘Christmas cannot be bought from a store, it has a greater significance than that.’ So, instead of increasing your shopping budget, rather, be spiritually richer by attending church and spending quality time with family. Similarly, Diwali, should not be loved for the deals and discounts that you get, rather enjoy a lovely dinner with your near and dear ones and thank Almighty. Valentine’s Day is yet another day, which encourages extravagancy. Love is sadly measured in terms of expensive gifts, the more diamonds your lover showers on you, the more special you are likely to feel. One needs to develop the maturity to understand that there is romance in the simplest of gifts as well. A creative handmade gift may be priceless, in comparison to the most expensive perfume in the world.
Avoid Hoarding: We love to buy things which we intend to use later, but never end up using. Half of your wardrobe may be filled with dresses, which are still packed in boxes, as you bought them with the thought that we will wear them when you lose weight. But, that day looks far! Your house may be filled with vases, dinner sets, shoes, linen; none of which you have used in years and the probability of using it looks distant. The minimalist theory of buying just a handful of items or not buying anything new till they wear off is often laughed at in this materialistic world.
Don’t give in to the kids’ tantrums: If possible, go shopping alone as children often demand candies and chocolates, which unnecessarily add to your shopping expenses. In case leaving your kids behind is not an option, teach them well. Also, remember never to give in to their tantrums in the mall for a toy or candy. Be firm with your kids. Buying just a few toys at a time for behaving well may be okay. Explain to them that gorging on sweets is unhealthy. Refuse to buy new books for them unless and until they have read the ones at home. Rather, encourage them to join a library.
In the end, remember escaping the consumerism is not an easy battle but certainly worth fighting because it robs you of the life far more that what you may realize.