With Black Friday just past and the long holiday shopping season ahead, it’s time to think about how to unplug from consumerism. Webster’s Dictionary defines consumerism as, “A preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods.” Consumerism occurs when you think about buying stuff or actually buy stuff far too often, to the point where it’s a regular part of your life. In other words, when you live in western society and there are stores on every corner and a bajillion websites vying for your attention, consumerism becomes the default way of life. Much of our economy (and culture) is based on consumerism. Often, shopping drowns out other activities. It takes a lot of fortitude to resist. 

I think about this a lot this time of year because, frankly, I just don’t see the thrill of holiday shopping. I see the barrage of ads on TV and online and I just think, “Meh. That’s a lot of garbage.” Granted, some of this comes from my age. I’m at the point where I no longer need much and want less. I’ve also lived through a lot of Black Fridays and learned that most of the “sales” aren’t really that great. (My one constant Black Friday buy is tax software. There are usually good deals on that, and they aren’t repeated until the desperate days of March and April. Super sexy holiday purchase, that.)

Anyway, I long ago stopped participating in the mindless holiday buy-fest and instead opted to unplug from consumerism. It actually makes the holidays more enjoyable. I’m able to focus on time with friends and family instead of running around or hitting websites, chasing that elusive “deal” on something I don’t even really need or want. 

So how do you unplug from consumerism? How do you drown out the constant buzz of, “Buy, buy, buy!” and reclaim your time, money, and sanity? Here are some ideas:

Limit advertising

Simply reducing or eliminating the advertising to which you’re exposed is a great first step. If you can afford it, pay for the ad-free versions of streaming services (or just eliminate as much TV as possible). Get off all the catalog and mailing lists, and unsubscribe from all the email newsletters and deal bulletins. Install ad-blockers on your web browsers. Reducing advertising removes temptation and that’s a great way to unplug from consumerism. 

Don’t include shopping in social activities

Making shopping social is the fast track to consumerism hell. When shopping becomes social, it removes the boundaries between shopping as a necessary evil and something to do for fun. It’s much easier to be tempted to buy when your friends are also buying.  When you’re shopping for entertainment, buying becomes part of that entertainment. Find something else to do during your https://www.savingadvice.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=102731&action=edit#edit_timestampsocial time. Plan other activities, or engage in something positive, like volunteering somewhere. 

Appreciate what you have

Look around you and see how much you already own. You probably already own some really nice stuff, and you may even find stuff you didn’t know you had. Appreciate and use your existing stuff rather than constantly looking for something new. If what you have isn’t exactly the way you want it, try to repurpose it or fix it up so it does match what you want. 

Get intimate with your clutter

While you’re appreciating what you have, take a moment and spend time with your clutter. All that stuff you own but don’t really want/use, the stuff that is now broken, the duplicate stuff, the stuff you have no idea why it’s even in your house… That’s your clutter. It’s a result of consumerism gone out of control. Once you realize how much of this stuff is in your house, you’ll likely find your urge to buy more greatly reduced. 

Don’t Fall for FOMO

There is very little in this world that is for sale today that won’t be for sale tomorrow. (And possibly for a lower price.) Any ad or person that tries to sell you on the limited time thing is trying to make you rush into a purchase you didn’t intend to make. Some people really struggle with this fear of missing out (FOMO) and it’s hard to say no. Just breathe and realize that even if by some crazy chance this specific thing isn’t available tomorrow, a just-as-good item will be. Don’t buy stuff until you’re ready and you’re sure you really want/need it. 

List it

If you see something you want, put it on a wish list or wait list. Leave it there for a while and see if the urge to buy goes away. Chances are, it will. You’ll realize you’re happier with the money than the thing. And if you do realize you need the item, then it’s still there for your consideration. 

Also, when you do have to go shopping for needed items, make a list and stick to it. If you need one sweater and one pair of shoes for a wedding, for example, that’s all you buy. If anything catches your eye that’s not on the list, put it on that wish list for later consideration. 

Don’t be a zombie

Shopping zombies are depressing. They are those people you see wandering the stores with seemingly no purpose. They’re mindlessly stuffing things in their carts while they chat on the phone or shuffle aimlessly around the aisles. I often wonder why they’re not out doing other things like living life instead of slouching around a store buying stuff they don’t seem to even want. Avoid zombie-ism. Have a purpose when you shop. Get in and get out and zoom past the zombies who will still be there three hours later.  

Speaking of dead… 

Ask yourself if this shopping trip or thing you’re buying will be something you’ll remember on your death bed. No? Find something else to do. Go out for a walk with your partner, play a game or watch a movie you already own, read a book, or use some of your already owned stuff to make a memory. 

Take up another hobby

If shopping is your hobby, find another. Just don’t get sucked into shopping for the new hobby to the point where now you’re justifying  your shopping hobby as shopping for your hobby. That way lies madness.

Add friction to the buying process

Do whatever you can to make buying things more difficult. Delete credit cards from websites. Freeze credit cards or put them in a time-lock safe. Block problematic websites. Create rules like, “One item in means one has to go out,” or create no-buy challenges. Make yourself face the environmental or ethical problems caused by the item you want. (Feeling bad is a buzzkill.) Anything you can do to make it more difficult, both physically and mentally, will help you unplug from consumerism. 

Identify your weaknesses (and avoid them)

Do you have an addiction to certain things or stores that you just can’t pass up without buying something? Do you shop when bored or angry? Learn to identify your weak spots and avoid or manage them. Find other substitutes or ways to deal with your emotions. 

Stay away from forums 

For the longest time, my problem was hanging out on forums dedicated to board games and puzzles. While not specifically about buying, those forums showcased all the new releases and pictures of pretty games and puzzles. It made me want, and wanting turned to buying. When I deleted those bookmarks and forced myself to stop looking at those forums, my buying went way down. 

If you must…

Finally, if you must satisfy the consumer bug, do so at secondhand stores, swaps, or through bartering. You’re not helping your clutter problem, but at least you’re not spending excessive money and wasting resources. 

Read More:

  • The Joy of Cleaning Out Your Wishlists
  • Oprah’s Favorite Things: Consumerism Orgy
  • Learn to Be Alone Without Shopping
Jennifer Derrick

Jennifer Derrick is a freelance writer, novelist and children’s book author.  When she’s not writing Jennifer enjoys running marathons, playing tennis, boardgames and reading pretty much everything she can get her hands on.  You can learn more about Jennifer at: https://jenniferderrick.com/.