Why buying things won’t make you happy


You’re feeling bored or a little down. To cheer yourself up, you make it your mission to find that perfect shirt or pair of jeans for that special night out coming up.

Or you finally get that raise you’ve been hoping for and, well, now that you can afford it, you buy that new car you’ve had your eye on.

We buy when we are bored, depressed, lonely, seeking something more in life, lose our focus, want to celebrate, and when we want to be well liked and fit in (i.e. keeping up with the Joneses).

I’m guilty. If you’ve read my family’s story, you know that when we were finally feeling more comfortable several years ago, we bought a nice, new SUV. But that wasn’t enough; we had to buy a new camper to tow with that SUV. And so it goes.

We keep buying more and more to fill some need in our lives but, many times, it is just never enough and we continue to buy until we find ourselves buried in a mountain of debt and clutter.

Thankfully, my husband and I eventually stopped buying, paid off all of our consumer debt and started saving more. We sold many of our possessions and gave just as many away.

When our material possessions were paired down to what we needed, we became happier and more content. Our focus shifted to areas such as learning and personal growth, as well as hobbies, nature and fitness. Our needs and desires were met with something other than buying more “stuff”.

From Your Money or Your Life,

We seek external solutions to signals from the heart and mind that something is out of balance. We try to satisfy psychological and spiritual needs with consumption at a physical level.”

According to Ian Zimmerman, PhD. of Psychology Today, when people focus on materialism and continue to buy and buy in an attempt at happiness, “they’re often dooming themselves to unhappiness”. The general consensus is that, the majority of of the time, people with more of a focus on materialism tend to have less time and less focus on personal growth and relationships.

While buying and shopping are not inherently bad, it is important to recognize why you are doing it.

Do you need what you are buying? If you do, no worries. But if you are not buying something you need, dig a little deeper to see if you are shopping due to boredom, depression, or to keep up with the Joneses.

The first, and most important, step is to recognize the “why”.

What do you do if you find yourself frequently shopping and buying things to fill an interpersonal need rather than an actual physical need?

How to stop buying things you don’t need

Be grateful

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write what you are thankful for every day, even if it’s something as small as a good cup of coffee.

Recognize that sometimes we all go through tough times and have bad days, but that’s just part of our story and what makes us stronger. Look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Experiment – try not to gossip or complain for 7 days and see how it feels

Join a group

Find a group of like-minded people that are supportive. Maybe it’s a sports team (for me it’s taekwondo). Maybe it’s a cause or charity. Maybe it’s a religious group. Maybe it’s a book club. Check out meetup.com for groups in your area.

Change bad habits and routines into healthy ones

If you think shopping is a habit for you, when you feel like going out and buying new “stuff” (clothes, electronics, shoes, jewelry, etc.) to make yourself feel better, identify the cue or feeling you get before you go shopping.

Replace the actual routine of shopping and buying with something else you enjoy. Some suggestions: exercise, talk to a friend, have a cup of tea outdoors, take a walk or hike, host a casual get together with friends/family, read a good book.

If you replace the shopping routine often enough, the old habit becomes dormant and is replaced by new routines.

Slow down

If you have too much on your plate, you aren’t likely to pay attention to the important things, like your health and relationships.

Clear your calendar. When the important things become priority, you are happier and less likely to spend recklessly. Learn to say “no”.

When you find yourself consistently buying unnecessarily to meet perceived needs and desires unrelated to actual physical needs, look inside yourself and find the “why”. Take the next step to fill those needs and desires with something healthier for you and your pocketbook.

As Dr. Robert Holden writes on Heal Your Life.com,

Inner happiness— like inner wisdom—is wrapped up inside of you already. The great thing about inner happiness is that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t already have it”

Happiness is not an object that we can acquire, it is something that is part of our soul, we just have to learn to recognize it.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation if you buy products through these links. See the full disclosure here

2 thoughts on “Why buying things won’t make you happy

  1. Mrs Ikonz and I are starting to focus less on spending and more on funding real gratification (financial freedom).

    We’recommend selling unwanted items and not spend more money on consumer items, but instead putting money towards a home we can enjoy and travelling in retirement.

    1. So great to hear about your goals of financial freedom! Travelling more in retirement is one of our main goals for retirement as well.

      We have found that selling the stuff we don’t need and not buying more is beneficial to the pocketbook – but also creates a more relaxing environment at home with less clutter to organize, clean and maintain.

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