Why We Buy Stuff We Don’t Need

Day 213/365: How does the mind work when it makes us buy stuff we don’t actually need? It’s all in the “response”…

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

There’s this thing called impulsive buying. It happened to me about 2 months ago, when one night, I simply decided to buy a $400 brand-new digital piano.

Back then, I was really curious to learn to play the instrument and was convinced that this was the best decision of my life.

Time proved me wrong. Time proved that I did nothing but bought something impulsively. I didn’t really need the piano, let alone a new piano that costs as much as two months of rent, but nevertheless, I bought it.

“I now have a room that’s stuffy enough and also has a big, unused piano laying around in it” — Gabriel Iosa

I thought about this a lot lately, about why we buy stuff we don’t need. The solution seems to have something to do with our mental state, our available money and our urge for instant gratification.

In order for people to buy stuff they later realise they don’t need, three steps need to be taken:

  1. Having the money at hand: whenever you have money at hand, there’s always the almost certain risk of spending that money on stuff you most of the times don’t need. People are spenders in the majority of cases because if they weren’t spenders, we’d all be billionaires.
  2. Being in an inferior mental state: people often get off track. It’s normal. Some people get mad, angry, sad, depressed, excited and so on. These are all states that are one or two tones above or below the normal mental state of calm and clarity. When this happens, the mind looks for ways to calm itself down. This is when most impulsive buying is done. With the money at hand and the desire to change something, the mind quickly realises that it can work on your state simply by adding something of monetary value to your life. If you really need it or not, it’s not really important at that time.
  3. Committing to it: the last phase of the impulsive buying is taking the decision to actually do it. There’s always going to be some ruminating in the mind about whether you should do it or not, but if the above two conditions are met, there’s an almost 100% chance of buying.

How to avoid impulsive buying? It’s all about taking a step back.

Taking a step back

We humans can’t always control the way our minds work. We can’t say no to a thought or idea. If we do that to a negative thought, for example, we get stuck with it for days, even weeks, keeping with it and ruminating away at it. The only thing we can do to stop a thought or an impulse is to take a step back.

Rather than engaging with the thought or impulse, rather than thinking about it over and over again, the best thing we can do is to respond with a break, a short period of nothingness, and then simply letting the impulse go away as fast and as clear as it came in.

There’s no way we can control the activity of our minds, but we can take a step back and control the way we respond to our thoughts, ideas and even impulses.

The next time you’re feeling down and just got your paycheck, take a step back before letting the impulse dive in. If you don’t, it will make you buy the whole video games store down the street…

Thank you for your time!

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