It’s easy to imagine what is gained when we buy. If we’re not holding it in our hands as we leave the store, it will most certainly be sitting on the doorstep within two days. Even the intangible aspects aren’t difficult to fathom. We’re told from every direction about the amazing ways our lives will improve, if only we had this one thing.
A rush of dopamine flows into the brain just as quickly as the money flows out of our bank account. A brief feeling of accomplishment occurs (read more about the ‘false first step‘). Then, a moment of bliss, because we’ve been told that this is the purchase that will get us closer to being the person we want to be.
On the little white tag it lists a price. But is that the only price we’re paying?
The time it takes to earn the money we spend. We only have 24 hours in each day that passes, and the item represents an amount of time we’ve spent earning the necessary funds to purchase it. In some cases, the item represents time that we will later have to spend, in increasing amounts due to interest charges on credit card debt. In that sense, we pay for our living costs with our living time, sometimes with future time. So by purchasing something, we’re actually paying with hours of our lives spent earning the money to acquire it. It may not seem like much, but collectively – what is the total ‘time cost’ that these purchases represent? It is likely more than you’d think.
The appreciation of owning it. How long was it between the time we decided that we wanted something and then bought it? Sometimes, it can be a split second, with a one-click purchase button. Although it may seem like instant gratification would be a good thing – it’s not. The longer we wait to acquire something, the more we value and appreciate having it in our lives.
The drive for innovation that comes with desire. You’ve likely heard the English proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, right? A deep longing and wish for something is actually an amazing motivator for creativity. By immediately fulfilling the want, we are losing the drive to create. We become continuous consumers instead of being productive creators, adding our voice and talents to the world. It is also incredibly rewarding to work hard on a creative solution and find one. Perhaps we have something around the house that would solve the problem already, if we were to use a little creativity?
The space that the item takes up at home. Before purchasing, was the future place of the item considered? Will we have an proper place for it to neatly go? This particular item may be small, but we must consider the collective effect of all the things we purchase. Perhaps this causes us to need a larger, more expensive living space to hold all the things which we’ve made these split-second decisions to buy? At worst, a storage unit we pay for to contain these things?
The peace of no clutter. In December, my wife Amy and I removed 992 things from our home by playing minsgame. The experience has been nothing short of life changing, in several ways. We’re not even done fully reducing our possessions yet and our home’s surfaces are clear, cleaning up from cooking dinner is easier, and my closet has never looked better. We never even realized the burden that all of our unused and unwanted items had on our psyche. By selling, giving away and recycling our excess we have been relieved of a stress we didn’t even realize we had. We are almost anxious to continue as we simplify all areas of our life and expect to see similar results in lifestyle improvement.
I’m sure that there are even more than what is mentioned above, but these are the things most obvious to me. I’m working on being more intentional about what I’m losing with each purchase. How about you?