When I look back over the biggest spending splurges in my lifetime (excepting those that were carefully planned), all of them have one major factor in common: they were bought during times where I was sad and had a low self-image, even if I wasn’t consciously feeling it at the time. In almost every case, I can tie the splurge to some sort of negative feeling in my life at the time.
I’m not alone in feeling this way. Advertising constantly preys on those with a weak self-image and feelings of loneliness, sadness, and inadequacy. We see happy, beautiful people and the products that make them happy and beautiful. We want to be happy and beautiful, too, so we’re open to buying these products.
The feeling continues in the store. We see cleverly arranged items on the shelves, positioned and packaged so that they lead us to imagine a better life. Games and movies show exciting pictures on the packaging; clothes are arranged beautifully on mannequins; high-end electronics are shiny and sleek and call to us. We want to be shiny and sleek and beautiful, too, so we buy, buy, buy.
It’s not easy overcoming such powerful feelings, and quite often we feel locked into a lifestyle of consumerism. We buy things that we believe will be a balm for our feelings, but we find ourselves inevitably buying more things not long after. How do we stop the cycle?
For me, the key was doing lots of little, inexpensive things to improve my mood and self-image. Whenever I began to feel like I needed to buy something, I would count to ten and then do one of these things. Nearly every time, the desire to buy went away. Here are my personal keys for overcoming the desire to spend.
Take a shower. I always feel better after performing basic personal hygiene, and the shower is the best part. I feel clean, refreshed, and new. I get a smaller burst of this whenever I brush my teeth as well.
Take a walk. If the weather allows it, I take a walk around the block. I usually try to keep a fast pace: fast enough to get the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing, but not fast enough to get winded. Following this with a shower is almost always a balm for my soul.
Play with a child. For me, I play with my son. We wrestle on the floor, roll a ball around, or play with one of his trucks. His attitude towards everything in life just rubs off on me and soon I find wonder in a wind-up car.
Make a call. When I’m down, I call certain family members and friends who always manage to cheer me up. Most of them can tell when I’m down just by the tone of my voice, and they always find just the right things to say.
Clean the house. Straightening up my environment also cheers me up. Although I don’t enjoy the process, in the end, I feel fantastic looking around at a clean room or a clean home.
Look through my “memory book.” I keep a book of photos and letters and mementos of the times in my life that I always enjoy remembering. Whenever I leaf through the book, I realize how great my life already is – and how that greatness doesn’t require a new thing.