How to Buy Less (And Still Feel Like You Have Enough)

Practical tips for how to buy less and still feel satisfied with what you have.

How to Buy Less & Be Happier

The catalogs come in the mail and I flip through the pages mindlessly. Summer dresses, picnic gear, the latest cooking gadgets. Recently I almost had myself convinced that I need this corn stripper from Sur La Table. My chef’s knife has always done the job perfectly well, but wouldn’t this nifty gadget do it better?

It’s so easy to get caught up in shopping fever. I’m the first to admit that I enjoy following fashion trends, checking out cool inventions or trying new beauty products. But my house is plenty full and I’m better off getting rid of stuff than adding at this point. The last thing I want to do is to contribute to mindless consumption of stuff that ends up in the landfill.

Yet, it is possible to be satisfied with buying less or not at all. Here are a few tips that help me when I feel a shopping binge coming on:

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Gut check

Do I really need this? Take the time to ask yourself that question and wait for the answer. If you’re already at the mall, with sweater in hand, put it down and take a break. See if it’s still calling your name half an hour later or the next day. Or in the case of my corn stripper, JUST SAY NO!

Shop your house

Before you head out to the store or onto the internet, make sure you don’t already own something that can do the job. A shopping trip in your own home can turn up wonders! A pair of dressy sandals you forgot in the back of the closet, a set of grandma’s glasses you never unpacked or any number of things that might be hiding in your basement or attic.

shop signShop mindfully

Plan your shopping wisely. Make lists. Don’t shop while tired, hungry or feeling blue. Skip window shopping if it’s too tempting – or treat it like a trip to the museum – just for looking, not buying!

Buy quality

Whenever possible, pay more for high-quality products rather than inexpensive versions. A set of durable, glass storage containers will last a lot longer than cheap plastic ones – plus they are safer and better for the environment too. Same goes for cheap fashion – if you can pay a bit more for better-made (maybe even organic!) clothing, you’ll be much happier with it in the long run.

Buy reusable & multipurpose

Instead of purchasing disposable products like plastic wrap, bags or paper towels over and over again, go for well-made reusable versions – there are so many great options these days. I’m also a big fan of multi-tasking products – like moisturizers with sunscreen and all-purpose cleaning sprays. Why buy two products when you only need one?

Rent or borrow

You’ve probably read about the new sharing economy – but have you participated in it yet? From car sharing (zipcar, uber) to laundry services (washio) to borrowing tools from your neighbor – it’s possible to avoid buying large, expensive items. Yes, giving up your car is a bigger step, but maybe you’re ready for it?

Be grateful

One thing we all forget to do is to take time to be grateful for what we have. Next time that uncontrollable urge to shop hits, try this: take a stroll around your house and appreciate the useful, valuable, pretty things you already have. Maybe you don’t need that corn stripper after all.

What do you do to buy less?

green & healthy wishes Micaela signature

(Top image by The Bees via flickr cc)


    1. Not that I know of Paige. I’ve heard about it and am intrigued….

  1. I just love this post! It is so easy to get caught up in needing the next gadget or new fashion. One additional tip is to get off all of the catalog mailing lists. Less temptation – you don’t miss what you don’t know exists. Sharing.

    1. Good point! I need to get off a lot of lists. I do enjoy getting some of them – just for inspiration, but most are just a waste of paper.

  2. Great suggestions. Buying less is a powerful way to reduce our environmental impact, since everything we buy has a big water/carbon/resource footprint. But it’s also a great way to use the power of our purse to send a message that we want better products, not just more. Thanks for raising this issue.

    1. I agree Diane – the purse can be very powerful! Buying better products is key!

  3. Great post, Micaela! I used to believe heavily in “shop therapy” before I saw The Story of Stuff. Now, when I feel the need to get myself a little something, I opt for “Usedful” things. A new-to-you shirt from Goodwill gives me the same boost as something from the mall.

    1. Yep, I have found the same thing is true Erin – I love buying used!

  4. We recognized that owning stuff became too important in our lives. A recent relocation afforded us an excellent opportunity to tackle the problem. We did some serious consolidating before the move and donated a large volume of possessions that had to go (Craigslist was our friend). We also decided to get a smaller house than we were used to. By dropping 1,000 square feet it forces us to focus on what’s important and when it comes time to make a purchase, we opt for items that can serve multiple purposes. We’re only a year into this experiment; but it’s been a great move. The smaller house has also cut heating and cooling expenses while also getting the family to interact more. It’s all good!

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