We may be on the heels of a record-breaking holiday-spending season, but a growing number of people aren’t about that life. If you’re alarmed by how our fast-casual consumption seems to be smothering the planet one Forever 21 blouse at a time, or if you believe in the wallet-cleansing power of material minimalism, you’re probably one of them.
Adopting an anti-consumerist lifestyle, in which you limit your possessions and new purchases, has some purported benefits. You’ll almost definitely save money. The environment will be a little less weighed down by all the disposable goods you’re not buying. And if you believe best-selling organizational wizard Marie Kondo, your very soul will be as peaceful as your clutter-free drawers, countertops, and closets.
But no matter how much of a DIY, tiny house-living, no-spend weekender you are, you might be derailing your quest to live on less if you’re still doing these six things:
Depending on Amazon for ALL the things
With the Whole Foods acquisition, Alexa making its way into cars and kitchen appliances, and rumors swirling about brick-and-mortar retailer buyouts, Amazon seems to be taking over the world (or at least your wallet). And with recent estimates that the online giant accounts for nearly half of all online sales, the question becomes: What can’t Amazon do for you?
Before you push back and say you almost never shop on Amazon unless it’s something you truly need, you better check your Dash buttons. With one-click (or one-voice) shopping available on nearly every platform known to man, it’s all too easy to stock your pantry and fill your house with impulse items delivered directly to your door in a jet-fueled, two-day blur.
One favorite trick to quash mindless shopping is to put items in your cart, get off the site, and then ask yourself if you really need to make that purchase before logging back on.
Spending too much time on social media
With the majority of adults spending 30 percent of their time online on social media, it’s hardly surprising that social media could be why your anti-consumerist lifestyle isn’t working. Every quick scroll through Facebook or Instagram becomes a battle between you and that latest Kickstarter project, lip kit, or semi-annual sale. To make matters worse, targeted ads make it seem like you only have to think about rose gold before every product on your feed is both shiny and blush-y.
Social media makes the struggle to avoid wanton spending all the more real because with just a quick swipe on your phone you’ve made a purchase. Speaking of your smartphone…
Being app blind
Consumerism isn’t just about material goods. The modern world is full of ways you can consume, consume, consume without having anything to physically show for it. Take your phone: There are a lot of amazing apps that can improve your life (or at least kill time during your commute), but few of those tools are truly free. Between in-app purchases and monthly “pro” subscriptions, those small, recurring payments add up, but may fly under your wasteful-spending radar.
To avoid going “app blind,” scrutinize both your home screen and your bank account for apps you don’t use and charges you were unaware of. (Hello, 5-pack of candy bombs.)
It’s easy enough to justify a laptop, tablet, or smartphone purchase—work! The kids! Life as I know it! But the endless cycle of add-ons and upgrades that come with these big-ticket items can cost you.
For instance, if you purchased a MacBook Pro for $2,000 this year, you might have also found yourself purchasing a dongle (stop laughing) for $19 to connect your other tech. You also probably purchased Apple Care for $275-ish because things will happen during the seven years you own it.
If, like most people, you watch videos or listen to content through your laptop, you’ll probably pop for earbuds at $19, which you’ll promptly lose and have to replace every month or so. If you own an Apple watch, you’ll also end up picking up the charging dock for a cool $79 and extra charger for the laptop power adaptor for $59 when the original inevitably stops working.
You may think that you’re buying quality items to use for an extended period, and if you’re highly organized and immune to cool-looking new headphones you may be right. But if your gadgets tend to get smooshed, crushed, frayed, or lost on a regular basis, think twice before purchasing, or at least designate a desk drawer for all those loose accessories.
If you’re looking for ways to distract yourself from all the unwelcome ads for flash sales and hot new products bombarding you from seemingly every direction, hobbies can seem like a great way to unwind. In theory, these activities provide low-cost, productive ways to enrich your life. In theory.
But consider hiking. All you really need is a comfortable pair of boots, water and snacks, and maybe a portable GPS to make a day of it. Yet it’s all too easy to splash out for fancy hiking shoes at REI, crampons for the snow, a sturdy backpack, and a wearable water bottle, especially if the cool kids in your meetup group are sporting the same.
When the urge to go upscale with your free time hits, get yourself to a thrift store or resale site quick. You may even be able to pool tools and supplies with locally based likeminded enthusiasts and check it out as you would a library book. After all, if you can dream a piece of gear, we’d be willing to bet our own fancy hiking shoes that someone has already bought it.
“Millennials want experiences, not things!” we’re told over and over again. And that’s probably a good thing. Many people adhere to an anti-consumption mindset so that they can afford to roadtrip through Iceland, hike glaciers, or learn how to cook in Italy, learning more about themselves and the world than would ever be possible rummaging through sale bins at the mall.
But be careful that you’re not overpacking for your journey or loading up on souvenirs once you get there. Stuff is stuff, even if you buy it from an independent artisan in the Himalayas.