You Don’t Need to Buy Something to Change Yourself

At various points in my life, I’ve been really into the idea of getting myself into shape. I bought gym memberships. I bought exercise equipment. I bought workout videos. I bought exercise clothes.

In the end, the single most successful thing I’ve ever done in terms of personal fitness is to go on walks, to stretch, and to do some bodyweight exercises, like holding my body in a plank position or doing some squats.

At various points in my life, I’ve been really into studying the bible as a way to figure out my spiritual yearnings. I bought bible translations. I bought study guides. I bought notebooks. I bought pens. I bought highlighters.

In the end, the single most successful thing I’ve ever done in terms of bible study is to simply sit down and read a few chapters each day and share my thoughts on them in a private social media group.

All throughout my life, I’ve been a voracious reader. I bought countless books. I bought countless magazines. I stuffed my shelves with them.

In the end, the single most successful thing I’ve ever done in terms of actually enjoying reading is to check out a pile from the library, stick them on my bedside table, and start reading them.

At various points in my life, I tried to improve my social skills. I bought books and took classes and bought clothing and hygiene products and all kinds of things that I believed would boost my social acumen.

In the end, the single most successful thing I’ve ever done in terms of improving my social skills is to simply ask questions of people and listen with sincerity to their answers. I got that from a book I originally bought for 50 cents at a used book shop. Buying a bunch of stuff didn’t help one little bit.

There’s a thread here. You don’t need to buy something to change yourself. If there’s something you want to change about yourself, the purchase of a product won’t initiate that change. What will initiate that change is your action. All that a product can possibly do is make an action that you’re already doing more effective. If you’re not already doing that action, then that purchase is a waste of money.

If you want to lose weight, simply watch your calories. Count them with a free calorie counting app on your phone. There’s no need to buy diet programs or diet pills or anything like that. Just watch what you eat with care.

If you want to be more fit, simply start moving around more and leveraging your body weight. Go on walks. Do some pushups. Do some planks. You don’t need gym memberships or exercise gear or videos. You don’t need anything else until long walks and planks and pushups and situps become trivially easy.

If you want to learn about something, you don’t need to go buy class materials or books or anything like that. Just go to the library, check out a few books, sit them on your bedside table, and read. If you want an overview of a topic to start with, look it up on Wikipedia and read the entry.

If you want to do something, do it. If you need equipment to do it on any level, go get the absolute minimum equipment you need (preferably by borrowing it, like a library book, or by buying used or very low end, if you absolutely have to) and then just do it.

You don’t need items to do something.

You don’t need new shoes to take up walking. Just go walk around your block.

You don’t need new exercise clothes to start doing yoga. Just start doing downward dog in your living room.

You don’t need new exercise equipment to get fit. Just start doing planks and pushups and squats in your living room.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of new books to read. Go check out a book from the library and curl up in a chair.

You don’t need a bunch of new kitchen equipment to get better at cooking. Get a cheap kitchen knife and a cheap spatula from the local department store or dollar store and used pot and a used skillet and a used baking pan from Goodwill and that’s all you need – you probably already have that stuff. Just go in the kitchen and cook something. Then, do it again the next day, and the day after that.

You don’t need a bunch of discs to take up disc golf. Take one frisbee and try it out. Work on throwing that one disc until you can throw it accurately at a long distance.

You don’t need a fancy pen and a fancy notebook to take up journaling. Grab a cheap pen you probably already have and a $0.25 composition notebook from the dollar store and start writing.

It goes on and on and on like this. You just don’t need a bunch of stuff to take up a hobby or learn a new skill or improve yourself. You don’t need to spend that money. You don’t need to have to find a place to store those new items.

You just need to get out there and do it.

Better yet, do it today.

Thinking about taking up walking as a healthy hobby? Don’t wait until you can afford walking shoes or some such nonsense. Go outside today and walk around the block. If that feels good, do it again. Save the shoes for when you’re walking a lot and feel like you might need them.

Thinking about getting in shape? Don’t put it off until you can afford a gym membership. Instead, do jumping jacks until you’re panting, take a two minute break, then do a plank until you’re panting and have to drop to your knees, then take another break, then do squats until your legs tell you to stop. Do that every day until it’s easy, then you’ll have a good sense of what else you might want to work on.

Thinking about reading more? Stop at the library on the way home, grab a couple of books, and then start reading one. Turn off your phone while you’re reading and sit in a room without a television or a computer and try to lose yourself in the book.

Thinking about taking up journaling? Find a cheap pen and any old notebook and just dump out whatever’s on your mind.

Do. Don’t buy. Do.

You don’t need to buy something to change yourself. Buy something because you actually need it due to the person that you are, not the person you think you might be someday. Instead, do something. Doing something doesn’t cost much of anything and it actually achieves results without draining your wallet.

“But there’s this thing I really want to do that absolutely REQUIRES spending!” Does it really? Are you sure there’s not a way to borrow items or use trial memberships until you are absolutely dead sure that this is going to be a lasting part of your life? Or are you just putting another barrier in front of yourself to keep yourself from doing it?

Give yourself a 30-day challenge that’s centered around doing the thing you want to do. The calendar page is turning, so make it your goal for this coming month. Each day, you’re going to actually do something regarding the thing you’ve been thinking about. You’re not going to buy stuff for it. You’re not going to put it off because you’re going to buy stuff for it “someday.” You’re going to do it.

While you might not find that the thing you’re doing is right for you, you will find something that’s perhaps even more important: that you don’t need to buy stuff to do stuff.

Good luck!

More by Trent Hamm:

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.