In Money, Shop Quality Series, Shopping, Style

Why are we obsessed with buying new things and spending?

Know how when you watch, read or listen to something and it sticks with you? You can’t seem to shake it off and forget about it?

I’m reaching that pinnacle. In fact, I may already be over the summit.

I’ve watched, heard, read and seen too much to pretend that a severe problem with our society doesn’t exist.

Fashion bloggers (gosh I love them), create amazing outfits and are very kind in the sense that if you can’t afford a higher priced garment (even though it’s probably made in China), you learn how to buy the cheaper Forever 21 or H&M item to get the same “look”.

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But when you really think about it, some uncomfortable questions arise:

  • Why are we so obsessed as a society to always get new things ALL THE TIME?
  • Why do we accept poor quality as “just the way it is” and only look at price?
  • Why do we only want to pay the lowest price for the cheapest crap?
  • Why don’t we care more about what we are buying?

I have no answers, I am just trying to figure this out.

WHY ARE WE OBSESSED WITH GETTING NEW THINGS?

At least, I am.

I don’t know about you, but I am not a frugal or careful person by nature. I am not someone who can sit on her money and only think about saving.

The saving is sexy, but the spending can be really great too.


Like really.. really… great.

A lot of you feel the same way, living vicariously through my rather lavish monthly spending reports, and some of you look forward to them more so than any other post I write.

But I have to tell you, this shopping thing? I’m struggling really hard with this.

I am fighting against what is in my nature to not buy new things but it’s almost like an addiction.

I know I’m not addicted like a TRUE shopaholic, but I still wonder why.

Women-Shopping-Love-Closets-Clothing-Nothing-to-wear-Frustration

In case you’re wondering, you’re a shopaholic with a problem if:

  • You can’t leave a store without buying something
  • You cry when you can’t buy something and fall into a deep depression
  • You don’t care that you can’t pay rent because you need to buy stuff
  • You go deeper and deeper into debt for stuff
  • You manipulate people to buy things for you and withhold on your love, for stuff
  • You go shopping daily, sometimes multiple times a day
  • You can’t think about anything, but buying the next new item

WHY DO WE ONLY LOOK AT PRICE AND NOT THE WHOLE PICTURE?

Even people who are frugal and/or cheap (two different labels, don’t get it twisted), immediately look at the price, and use it as a gauge.

Did you know that companies are so skilled at human behavioural psychology that they KNOW we only choose stuff that is priced in the middle?

We don’t necessarily want the cheapest crap, but we also aren’t willing to buy the best item out there. We choose something in the middle in terms of a price point, and that’s where they gouge your pockets.

For those of us reading about style, trends, and just in general being blissfully ignorant about the dangers of what we’re ingesting and buying.

It’s really our fault that companies make lower and lower priced garments, because they’re trying to make a profit to fill the demand that is in society – if not them, then someone else will step in to fill their shoes.

What we ask for, and what we pay for with our money, drives what companies create.

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Just the other day, I heard a tween say:

Girl: OOoo! That top is SO CUTE and it’s only $14.99! OMG!

Girl 2: You know that stuff is made in like, sweatshops right? They get paid almost nothing which is why it’s so cheap.

Girl: …Yeah, but whatever. They need the money to live right? I’m actually helping them by buying this.

Girl 2: But you can get the same thing that’s made here, and is sweatshop free.

Girl: Why the hell should I pay more for the same thing? I don’t care about those people. I don’t know who they are.

(Swear words have been edited out.)

Or when you’re in a grocery store, and you look at something like an apple that costs 4X the price of the non-organic apple, it makes you wonder if a little pesticide is all that bad.

I mean, we’re all going to die some day, right?

DOES MONEY REALLY CONTROL OUR BEHAVIOUR AND OUR LIFE THE WAY IT SEEMS TO?

Are we really so obsessed with saving money and having millions by the time we retire that we’re willing to compromise on health for a few bucks?

(That is, if we reach that point. Who knows, we might already be dead or in very ill health.)

I was reading somewhere about the correlation of the rise of petrochemical industry and the parallel rise in cancer, asthma, allergies and problems with our health.

When I was a kid, I never even heard of a peanut allergy being as common as it is today.

If someone had an allergy (I knew one kid who was allergic to bees), it was kind of cool because they were different and they could DIE FROM THAT *dum dum dum*

(What can I say? We were stupid, morbid kids.)

Now it’s normal to have nut allergies, peanut allergies, gluten, soy, wheat, and a whole host of other things that we’re all allergic to.

Kids are banned from eating certain foods in school because other kids are allergic to them.

It’s really becoming a problem, allergies.

There’s  NO research or proof that petrochemicals cause these health problems, but you know the saying: If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it just might be a duck.

SUSPICIONS CAN LEAD TO RATHER ACCURATE RESULTS

It wasn’t proven back in my grandmother’s day that cigarettes were bad for you, but she had an instinct when her doctor told her to take up smoking to calm her nerves, that it didn’t sound quite right.

(And she had no money for cigarettes anyway.)

Photograph-Travel-China-Beijing-Seniors-Women-Old

She lived until 89, only dying of a complications that were the result of malnutrition and lack of proper food for her entire life. She was very poor, and in the darkest period of her life, only had rice and melted pork lard to spread over the rice to eat, and some water.

Now, cigarettes are the scapegoat of scapegoats to blame for all the evils of society, particularly condemned by the government.

They make a heck of a lot of money, and even with all the high tariffs and warning labels on packages everywhere, people can’t get enough.

(Plus the government makes a lot of money off people who smoke. They want you to quit… but not really because those taxes are filling their coffers year after year.)


Sure, smoking has declined over the years, but it’s still rather popular and a sign of ‘cool’, although I saw that more people seem to smoke in Quebec, France and China, than anywhere else I’ve been.

It’s almost surprising for me to see a smoker in Toronto. Either smokers are very good at hiding, or people are quitting.

I have no real ending. I’m still trying to figure this out for myself, and I’ll let you know once I reach a sweet spot. But…

Why don’t we care more? Is ignorance really that bliss?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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6 Comments

  1. SarahN

    This is an on going dialogue in my head when I shop.

    With clothes, after a year of ‘second hand only’ with my mother, I’m mainly a second hand shopper. I know what I buy new and where I’ll buy it from (I think I’m commented on this before..)

    So few things are ‘made in Australia’ and it makes it a game of what’s the lesser evil sometimes – China or Vietnam? Pakistan or Turkey? I mean… so little of what we buy now comes from our wealthy societies own labour…

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Almost makes you want to buy fabric and learn how to sew.

      Reply
  2. Ms. Raggedly Rich

    I always try to go for quality over price – sometimes it’s worth investing the extra $30 to get something that’ll last you 10 more years than the competitor.

    There’s this concept called “the monkeysphere” – you should google it! It’s all about how there’s an immediate group of people we’re able to conceptualize, and everything beyond that is abstract. Of course the normal joe would care about sweatshops, but the normal joe also doesn’t have the capacity to conceptualize sweatshops as real people. Every once in a while when that group of people has a face and a name and a story, we can empathize with them, but usually, we don’t have that capacity. If we did, I think we’d be living in a very different world.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Like all the monkeys in one room typing? Interesting…

      Reply
  3. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    Wow, this is a great post. Mr. Adventure Rich has always been a proponent of better quality over price/quantity. He chooses the sturdy “made in the USA” utensil, tool, or piece of furniture/equipment over a cheaper version any day. It took me awhile to see the logic here, but buying good quality items is really satisfying.

    Reply

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