I have been slowly, slowly trying to move towards minimalism (towards being the key word there). The first step was getting rid of unused stuff, which I spent months doing. Now my focus is on being a more mindful shopper. There are a lot of ways to do that. I hope to expand on this topic in future posts, but today let’s look at just one – acknowledging what we want vs. what we need.
Whether you are trying to be a minimalist, be a conscious shopper, or spend less money, examining wants and needs is extremely helpful. I have been doing this since I started bullet journaling about a year ago. It is super easy, only takes a couple minutes, but saves your space from clutter and wasteful purchases.
I think this exercise is most effective if you have an actual list so you can see how much stuff you’re thinking about buying. You can make it on your phone, in a journal, or on a single sheet of paper. Have a “Want” section and a “Need” section. When you start thinking about purchasing something, pause and ask, “Is this something I want or something I need?” If you’re starting a new job, you might need that pair of pants or that button down shirt. When you’re almost out of face wash, you will need to replace it. But that moisturizer you just discovered when you’re only 1/3 of the way through yours? That’s a want. That milk frother you’ve been eyeing to step up your home latte game? Also a want. You could justify it by saying it will save you money to make lattes at home instead of buying them at a coffee shop, but is it really a necessity or something you need this very instant? No. This doesn’t mean you should never get it. So write it down on your want list.
Wait a while and then revist your list. Do you still want what’s there? If yes, then buy the item(s) you want the most when you have some extra money or as a reward when you’ve accomplished a goal. I don’t want to say only buy stuff you really need, because who can even define that? What one person might need another person doesn’t. And what is life without a few simple pleasures? However, we’re trying to be conscious here. That is why instead of falling into something you think you want one moment, we pause and wait. Overtime your opinions can change and you might not want it anymore. And if you do, perhaps you will at least have realized how much use each product will get.
For example, the milk frother. I have honestly wanted one for a few months now. It’s on my want list in my journal. It’s on my Amazon wish list. When I first decided I wanted one, I thought about it almost every day. It was winter and I was drinking a lot of tea. But then I stopped making tea as often. It was still in the back of my mind, but my want wasn’t as intense. Now I’m back in my tea habit and the luxuriousness of frothed milk in my chai tea is a fantasy again. I now know I would get a lot of use out of it, but it’s still not a necessity. After I’ve paid off more loans, move, or Fall comes again, then I will give it more serious thought. For now, it’s something I know I want but it can wait.
Now, in general, part of my journey is to take a few days before buying anything in an attempt to stop buying on impulse. Have I still caved a few times? Of course. Anyone that can go into Target and come out with only what they went in for are golden gods. Plus so many of us shop online where impulse shopping is easy to do. However, mindful shopping is too. When you come across something you want, add it to your list and bookmark it. Then you will have easy access to the product again if/when you decide it’s something you will use or can afford.
As for shopping in store, sometimes we come across something that we really want and are not sure we’ll be able to find it again. Before buying, at least ask yourself if it’s a want or a need, what you will do with it, and how much use it will get. There are always exceptions to the rules and we can’t always give ourselves a lot of time to think. Do your best and try to be as mindful as you can. If you decide it was impulsive after all and you haven’t used it before the return period is up, consider taking it back to the store and learn from the experience.
No one’s shopping habits are perfect, but simply thinking about wants vs. needs is one big step into being a more conscious consumer.