Frugality is a virtue that most folks aspire to, at least at some point in their lives.
There can be great value in living beneath your means, not spending wastefully, and being a careful steward of your financial resources.
But frugality can be challenging, especially when it’s not something you have to do, but instead something you want to do in pursuit of another goal.
It’s easy to learn spending habits that are profligate, and harder to cut them back and stamp them out.
As Five Year Fire Escape shows us in this guest post, there are several different techniques you can use to activate, or re-energize, your frugal gland.
You want to start living a frugal life and learn how to stop buying things, or how to stop buying stuff you don’t need. The very last person you should look to is my neighbor. Between you and me, I’m starting to think he also needs a bit of an intervention – I swear there’s an Amazon box on his doorstep every other day!
Oh, and he always has the coolest new patio set. To top it all off, I think he’s owned a new car every year since I’ve known him (about five years if my memory serves me right). He’s not exactly the go-to person if you want tips on how to stop buying stuff.
Despite all of that, though, he’s ALWAYS grumpy and yells at his kids – who, by the way, yell back at him too. Fun times! In fact, I can’t even imagine what a smile would look like on his face. It just goes to show that money and material things clearly don’t equate to happiness.
Why do people buy stuff?
People generally buy stuff because
1) they can afford to buy it,
2) they are impulsive spenders, or
3) they lack financial discipline.
Don’t get me wrong: there are many other reasons why people buy stuff, but these are some of the common ones. Side note – some people think they can afford to buy something because the bank says they can, but they actually can’t.
On a more introspective and deeper level, people buy stuff in pursuit of happiness, to fill a gap, or even to fit in – which is mostly the case with material things. Think about it – with the advent of technology, some people buy iPhones and MacBooks on credit just for social status or to impress other people, even though a basic smartphone and laptop would do.
20 Ways To Rid Yourself of the “Buying Stuff” Habit
In order to stop buying stuff you don’t need, you need to start off by understanding that it’s a habit that you’ve probably developed over the years, for whatever reason. So, in order to stop buying junk, you need to develop new habits – good, constructive habits that will actually help you achieve your financial goals.
Keeping your expenses low in the first place is the best step towards great finances. But if you’re the type that couldn’t stop buying junk over the years, then keep reading. To make things somewhat easier for you, I’ve mapped out some of the steps to take if you’re looking to stop buying stuff you don’t need (you’re welcome).
Get a Goal
Ultimately, the purpose of a goal is to give you something to work towards and a sense of direction. When you focus on that particular goal, you’ll be able to weigh whatever purchase you are considering against it. In other words, ask yourself if that item will make you happier than reaching the goal you’ve set.
I know this all too well. When I was saving up to quit my job, nothing would’ve stopped me on that quest. Not a flood, not a war… absolutely nothing! Well, except running out of toilet paper and maybe burritos. But as much as I love burritos, if skipping a week of all that yumminess put me a step closer to my goal, I would do it without a second thought.
At the end of it all, tell yourself you did something better than buying that dumb thing anyway.
Remove Yourself from Mailing Lists
The thing about mailing lists is that all these companies you’ve shown interest in or supported before will keep flashing all their products at you and you’ll start thinking you need them. But you don’t. Trust me, you don’t. There’s no way you’ll be able to stop buying junk if it’s constantly being dangled in front of you. Unsubscribe!
Sell What You Have
Now this is a task for the brave. You’ll have to start by actually decluttering and separating your items based on what you actually use and what’s just been parking there for what feels like centuries. Thank goodness you don’t need to go around selling what you don’t use from door to door – another save thanks to technology.
Just take pictures of your items and upload them on social media, community groups, and pre-loved goods platforms. Easy as 1,2,3!
Defer Purchases for One Week
I’m happy to say that this is something I’ve mastered. If you’re still struggling with how to stop buying stuff, my advice to you is to stop being so impulsive. Most of the time, all the clutter you accumulate are things that you bought with no intention, either because you bumped into them, they were on sale, or you think to yourself, “Hey, maybe I’ll need this one day.”
Chances are, you won’t. However, if you sleep on a purchase for a week or so, the lust to buy that thing will have passed.
Realize Buying Things Won’t Make You Better
Once you understand that life is about more than material things and possessions, things become a bit clearer. There are purchases that will make you a better person, but that new golf set that you bought to add to your other three (even though you stopped playing golf about a decade ago) probably won’t.
If you’re planning on being healthier and start going to the gym, new workout gear isn’t what’s going to get you there. Get going first and if you feel like you really hate your current gear and it’s holding you back, then you can get yourself new items.
As for me, I’m big on experiences and creating memories, basically, doing things that matter with people who matter. Buying a lot of junk really won’t make you a better human. Period.
Borrow Stuff from Friends
In most cases, you and your friends have similar interests and may even be able to share some items among you. Instead of every one of you buying the same item that you keep in storage and only whip out once a year, there’s absolutely no need to invest in those items, especially if it’s something that can be borrowed.
Enroll Your Friends in Your Goals
What I love most about having like-minded friends is that you can egg each other on and become accountability partners. Saving money with friends makes it somewhat of a less boring and tedious exercise – after all, everything is a thousand times better when you do it with friends.
Think of it like you and your friends are planning a group vacation. You all come together to clarify financial expectations and ensure that everybody keeps to the agreement. You call each other out in the process if someone is slacking. That’s what they can do for you and your personal financial goals, too.
Check Your Circle
Taking a closer look at your circles and those people with whom you spend a lot of time will also help you find out how to stop buying stuff. If you’re surrounded by shoppers, then getting rid of the habit will be extremely difficult for you. Ideally, you need people who will hold you accountable and not influence you through their daily habits.
Reflect on How You Developed Your Habit
As people, we buy things for different reasons. Some do it just because they can and others do it to fill a void or in pursuit of some sort of contentment, which they hope to derive from material possessions. Clarifying your “how” and “why” will allow you to be more mindful when buying something, and that impulsive buying will stop!
Track Your Spending
If you want to see just how much all these things are holding you back, track your expenditures. Trust me – when you see it all add up to a crazy amount, you’ll have no option but to stop immediately! Imagine letting a few little items get in the way of your financial freedom and early retirement.
Stay Away from Temptations
When you think about it, if you want to know how to stop buying stuff, you can liken it to having an addiction. The last thing you want to do is take your friend – who’s a recovering alcoholic – to a bar with all their favorite drinks. That would just be stupid and you’re probably not a good friend.
Similarly, if you want to know how to stop buying stuff, you should limit all forms of temptation, be it the mall, online platforms, friends and family that live to shop – anything and everything that threatens your financial goal.
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Don’t Spend Too Much Time Online
Technology these days is smart. Like, really smart. Apart from online shopping platforms, the mere fact that your online activity can be tracked means that the “right” ads will pop up on your screen. More temptations. When you log on to social media as well, you might see a picture of a colleague with the exact item that you supposedly need. More temptations.
Online can be a very dangerous place because of the flashy society that we live in. You’ll start thinking you need this and that when you actually don’t.
Use Only Cash On Hand for Purchases
This might work for some and not so much for others. If you only keep a certain amount of cash on you – strictly for what you’ve budgeted for – and delete your card details from online shopping platforms, there might be an improvement. The convenience that comes with just pressing the “pay now” option can be so detrimental to your financial goals.
One minute you’re just messaging a friend, and the next minute you realize you’ve just bought a brand new set of rims that you don’t need.
Focus on Holistic Health
Being in the right frame of mind and being physically and spiritually aware can help you feel more fulfilled. In turn, you may stop searching for purpose in possessions and focus on being a well-rounded and financially fulfilled person.
You don’t have to suddenly become a nature lover just because you’re turning over a new leaf (excuse the pun). Find whatever works for you and do what makes you feel like a more content person.
Splurge Only Occasionally
I don’t believe in fully punishing yourself and living an absolutely miserable life just because you’re living frugally or being more mindful of how you spend your money. That sounds horrible. The key is to spoil yourself every now and then with something that you need and have budgeted for in advance.
Stay Away from the Mall
Much like online shopping, if you’re trying to stop buying things, just stay away from the mall. That’s one place where you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by temptation and scores of people that may lead you astray and have you thinking you need yet another pair of running shoes.
If you’ve mastered budgeting, then this one should be second nature to you. Once you learn to set boundaries and limits, your spending becomes a lot more controlled and you’ll get out of the habit of just buying things because you have money at your disposal.
Find Non-Consumption Hobbies
If buying things has become a hobby, that needs to change. Once you dedicate your time to something other than shopping, congratulations! You now have a distraction that is actually constructive. Bonus points if you find a hobby that actually makes you a better person, such as joining the gym or volunteering – you know, something worth doing.
Keep a Wish List (with a Plan and a Budget)
Keeping a wish list can help you spread out your expenses better, as opposed to just spending lump sums with no real purpose. It also helps you ensure that what you’re buying are things that you need and have made provisions for, decreasing frivolous and spontaneous spending.
Some of the things that you can’t borrow from your friends can be rented, rather than purchased for occasional use.If you’re vacationing in another state, you don’t fly over and then purchase another car when you land. You either use ride sharing services or rent a car. The same concepts should be applied in other areas of life.
To stop buying stuff you don’t need, you need to be very clear and intentional about it. It’s not something that just happens overnight because you’ve developed the habit over time. Not only will setting financial goals keep you on track, but it’ll also help you save money! Let’s face it, to achieve financial freedom, you need to prioritize and stop buying junk.