How to Resist the Urge to Spend

Even as I’ve pared down my belongings, the hardest part of my minimalism journey is resisting the urge to buy things. Whether it’s clothing, a cute pair of earrings, makeup, or cute baskets and bins to aid me in my next organizing project.

And this is a problem because this urge, this overwhelming need for instant gratification, is exactly how I ended up with too much stuff in the first place.

Not only that, but for many of us, this is how we end up in debt or unable to save money.

At the risk of sounding preachy (but trust me, I’m in the same boat as you), I’m going to share some ideas for how you can resist the urge to spend if that’s something you are struggling with.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

What is your goal?

Are you trying to keep your house uncluttered? Save up for a house? Get out of debt? Have enough money for traveling?

What is most important for you to be able to do in life?

If buying spending money on a certain something is not supporting your goals and values, then maybe it’s better to leave it behind. Trust me, if it doesn’t fit in your vision, you won’t miss it.

On the other hand, if this thing you are buying helps you achieve a goal you have, then maybe the investment is worth it.

But before you reach for your wallet, move on to the next part, because maybe it’s something that can wait.

Is the need Real or Imagined?

Maybe spending money on this thing does align with your goals and the kind of life you want.

But ask yourself this, “can I achieve my goal/live the life I want to live without this thing”?

If the answer is yes, then consider not spending your money on whatever it is.

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we need to have certain things in order to get where we want to be or have the life we envision. But sometimes that “need” is actually just “optional”.

And since it’s optional, you totally have the option of spending your money on it if it’s still something you both feel holds true value and you really want.

Is the Urgency of Buying it now Real or Imagined?

If you determine that you really do need or want something, is it absolutely necessary to have it now?

Is it something that you can wait for? Save up for? Research some more and find the best quality and price of?

If you’re struggling with asking yourself if you should buy something, chances are it’s not an immediate need. Most things that are an immediate need are not things we spend time mulling over. We just go out and get it! Maybe we mull over the options but we know we have to make a decision NOW because it’s a true immediate need. (Eg. When I run out of diapers for the boys, that’s an immediate need. I may sit in the aisle for 5 minutes trying to figure out if Huggies or Pampers or Honest diapers are the best options, but I know in the end, I still have to walk out of the store with diapers)

If it’s not a true immediate need, do yourself a favor and come back to it later. You can make a plan to save up for it or do a little more searching. Sometimes you’ll find a better option. Sometimes the urge will disappear completely.

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved items in my cart online and then a week later, came back and deleted all of it. Try it out. There are very little things that are gonna dissapear completely.

The whole idea that you won’t be able to buy it later or find it somewhere else is a marketing tactic that all stores and companies use so that they can get the sale.

Just remember YOU are in control as the consumer. Don’t be bullied by sales tactics.

A few other things you can do to determine if you should spend or not:

Follow Canadian illustrator, Sarah Lazarovic’s “Buyerarchy of Needs”, modeled after Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (those of you who have taken
psychology classes)

photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

This pyramid shows us that buying something should really be our last resort. In most cases, we already own what we need, or we can borrow it or find it used, or make it ourselves.

Consumerism has taught us that buying is at the bottom of the pyramid. If we have a need, then just go out and buy it and buy a LOT of it, and buy it on sale because this offer won’t last! And then you go to the store the very next week and see that it’s now 70% off and you could have paid less and congratulations, now you have buyer’s remorse!!!

When it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with buying things. But the urge to buy things NOW comes from a society that has conditioned us into believing that we will be happier, better off, and more successful if we buy everything that catches our eye.

It’s addicting.

And it leads many of us into destructive habits that actually lead us into being less able to enjoy a good quality of life.

Who can relax when they are in debt? Or when the clutter has taken over the house and they can’t keep up with cleaning it?

We already know this, but having more stuff doesn’t equal happiness. Many people who have a lot feel empty, and I think it’s because while they are acquiring a great deal of nice stuff, it’s not fulfilling our need for things of true value.

What are the things that make YOU truly happy?

I’ll tell you what mine are.

Fun experiences like traveling, visiting a park or the beach, attending a music concert, or playing a fun game with others.

Getting lost in a good book.

Eating a delicious meal.

Making art or crafting.

Going on walks

Quality time with the people I love

How many of those things are free? A few of them require money to do, but for the most part, they don’t require a lot of money.

I encourage you to go make a list for yourself of the things that bring you the most satisfaction and joy. See how many of them have to do with “things”

Have you ever heard it said that the happiest people on Earth are often those that don’t have much? Travel the world and there are many groups of people who live very simply, just having their basic needs met, and they are some of the happiest people.

(Please note: I’m not talking about people who live in extreme poverty, because living in poverty brings lots of struggle and suffering to those living in situations where their basic needs are not being met.)

Guys, I’m not saying consumerism is the enemy or that buying stuff will make you miserable. I’m just saying that the reasons we buy things can make a world of difference in our overall happiness.

I don’t advocate a strict minimalist lifestyle for everyone. But I do believe that a more minimal approach to life is something we all can adopt to some extent.

People who practice living minimally or simply have reported feeling less burdened, having more financial freedom, having more time to do the things they enjoy, and feeling generally more happy than they did before making changes to the way they consumed things.

Minimalism has no real rules. It’s just a mindset of not letting things control you and eliminating the pressure to buy or have things we don’t need.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you read through all of this and felt empowered to not give in to urge to spend money on something superfluous, I count that as a win!

Before writing this, I myself had an urge to buy some cute clothes that I knew were not in my budget, and writing this out helped me talk myself out of it. (My husband will surely be grateful for that!)

It can be hard to resist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for indulging once in awhile and I love to use the phrase “Treat yoself!” from my favorite Parks and Rec characters. But I think this mentality has become too much of a norm and for how often we use it as validation, it’s just not a sustainable or smart way to spend. Those are my thoughts at least. * stepping off soap box and hoping I didn’t make anyone angry *

Please leave a comment with your thoughts or ideas. I love hearing everyone’s take on these topics!

One thought on “How to Resist the Urge to Spend

  1. Thanks for this reminder and very well written post. I definitely need to improve on this. When we were a young growing family, we had many generous people who passed onto us things that they no longer wanted or needed. We appreciated those things. But this pattern continued for years and we didn’t know how to say no or even that we wanted to. We were just accustomed to accepting free stuff without really thinking about if we actually needed it. We are learning to be more selective when someone offers us stuff. It feels good.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that with new technology and the data collecting on each of us, it’s getting even more difficult to resist the urge to buy things. They know exactly what to put in front of us. We have to see through all their tactics and become emotionally unattached when we shop for things because if you really think about it, any kind of marketing boils down to selling our emotions. We buy our emotions.
    Btw, I love the “Buyerarchy of Needs”.


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