Part 2: How to Buy Less

Last week we talked about why we should want to buy less. Now for the hard part—the follow-through. So today, I'm going to be sharing what I believe is the most helpful advice for how to buy less.

First a quick recap; what is buying less? Buying less isn't about depriving yourself. It's buying enough and then stopping buying. It's not a competition to spend the least money or own the least possessions—it's about buying what adds value and happiness to your life without taking happiness away in other ways.

How to buy less

Identify our buying habits

As much as we like to justify all our buying habits with "I needed new jeans" or "it was just a great deal" if we look closely we can always find underlying reasons and patterns in our buying habits. Is it stress at work that drives you to the cash register? Is it after spending time with a friend who seems to have it all? Or is it just part of a Saturday afternoon routine? Identify the causes and situations surrounding when you buy, and then brainstorm ways to replace shopping with more worthwhile behaviour.

When we look at the triggers that set off a need to shop, we're better equipped to find a solution. If it's stress that makes you shop, maybe a warm bath and a podcast will work. If shopping's a weekend routine, maybe start spending your Saturday cooking a big lunch with friends, or trying out a new hiking trail.

For times when you still feel the compulsion to buy, buy something with a shorter lifespan. Fresh flowers can bring us immediate happiness—but like whatever is causing an impulse to want to buy—won't last too long.

Only buy when all things align

Remember in part 1 when we talked about the many reasons we buy things—sometimes it embodies our style, sometimes it was on sale, or we fell in love with it when it belonged to someone else. Often we checkmark one of these boxes as a good enough reason to buy. But one box does not a good purchase make.

Only buy when you can confidently checkmark all the boxes:

  • it perfectly embodies your style—the pattern, material, colour, cut—you love everything
  • it fits you—clothes flatters your body, decor pieces flatters your existing space
  • the price is right—what you can afford, and what you feel it's worth

It's such an obvious thing, yet I can go through my closet and point to tons of "it's not my size but it was on sale" or "it's not really my style but it looked really good on me". If we truly followed this tip, buying less wouldn't be so hard. We are all so unique, and there are only so many products that are perfect for every individual.

Make a shopping list of the things you don't need

A good tip is to make shopping lists of what we need, but if you're like me, you then inevitably go off-list and come home with with that fourth pair of ankle booties (oops). Instead, examine what you have before you leave the house, and make a list of all the things you don't need to buy. Be honest with yourself (if you have 5 pairs of jeans you probably don't need jeans). When you make a list of what you need, you're leaving everything that's not on the list in a grey area of whether you can buy it or not. So instead make it black and white; I need this, I don't need that.

Don't buy something interchangeable with what you already have

When you have something you love and wear all the time, is your first reaction "I need to buy another one"? Me too. Is this the wrong impulse? Yup. Having a piece you love and wear all the time means you did it right. Ideally, everything you buy should make you feel like that—so don't undo your good purchasing by buying a duplicate.

I felt this impulse with my grey turtleneck (you know, the one I wore here, here, here, & here). I wanted to re-buy that exact turtleneck, I wanted to buy this turtleneck but in a different shade, I wanted to buy another big sweater that same colour. All of these would be interchangeable with the grey turtleneck I already own and love. Any outfit where I would pair them, I could also pair my existing turtleneck (and it would probably look better because it's perfect). Resist the urge to buy something interchangeable with a piece you already have. 

Give yourself parameters

We already gave ourselves the parameter of only buying when we can check all the boxes (style, fit, price) but if you want to jumpstart your buying less, why not add another parameter that you can feel good about; the who you're buying from. Every time we buy something we are giving our stamp of approval—I support your business and think you should be successful. We owe it to each other to make this a world where being a good person and running a fair business is rewarded. 

So give yourself that one last parameter, of only giving your money to individuals or businesses that you truly want to support. Who is this for me? Secondhand shops that re-use the beautiful things we already have, small businesses that put their heart into what they produce, and companies that are transparent about their product and production (read: ethically-made). 

What are your best tips when it comes to buying less and buying intentionally? Do you have any rules for what you can and cannot buy? 

Wishing you, and me, success in making 2015 a year of getting intentional and buying less. If you need some support, you know where to find me.

PS: Check out Part 1: Why we should want to buy less if you haven't!