Updated: Dec 19, 2022
It's finally time for Part III.
This post is all about optional consumption.
During this time of year, we are faced with many opportunities for consumption - we buy holiday decor, many single-use items (like wrapping paper or greeting cards), and of course we buy gifts.
My advice for this type of consumption is easy to remember, difficult to do: buy less things.
Easier said than done, right? I have one clarification before listing my questions to ask yourself before buying a thing - I say buy less "things" because I am a big fan of the experience or non-tangible purchase. For example, one of my Christmas presents to my mom every year is a Netflix subscription (hi Mom!). Always consider if there's something that's not a physical item that you can purchase for yourself or someone else instead!
Here are some considerations that have helped me when I contemplate buying an item. A couple of these are stolen from my guys The Minimalists, but I have definitely used all of these when making purchasing decisions.
What's going to happen to this item when I'm done with it? If this item has no other place to go than eventually the landfill, strongly consider alternatives. Even if this is something that can be donated, ask yourself if there's another way to achieve whatever you were getting at by potentially buying this item.
How long or often will this thing bring me joy or value? If this item will only bring "single-use happiness", reconsider buying it. If I will only get value or joy out of something 1-3 times in a year (or in your lifetime), I usually don't buy it.
Am I buying this item because it has a known use or is it "just in case"? So often we buy things "just in case we have guests" or "just in case my other one breaks". Living in a world of convenience, we are lucky to have almost anything we would need at a grocery store close by - so when those guests do come over or that thing does break, we can quickly buy that thing, but only when we know it will be used.
Am I buying this gift for someone because of how it makes me feel or because that person wants or needs it? Woof. Think about that. Does the recipient want or need this item? Will they actually use it? If not, consider why you're buying it. Could it be because it makes you feel something? If you don't know for sure the recipient has a use for this gift, then consider a gift card or perhaps an experience gift.
What's the actual cost of this item? What is the storage, maintenance, psychological costs, etc.? This is especially relevant in a place like Alaska where recreational items take up a lot of space! (Related link: here's my discussion last year with Colin Wright about fat tire bikes and how we should think differently about the gear industry.)
Would the best version of myself buy this item? Wow. Another truth bomb from The Minimalists. This is so very direct but it's quite effective if you use. Maybe another way to phrase this would be "does buying this item help me achieve my goals?" or "does buying this item align with my values?".
Which of these questions resonates with you? Or challenges your traditional habits of consumption? What questions do you ask yourself before making a purchase? We'd love to hear it! Leave us a comment or two.