Recently, I moved to Spain, and I realized how freeing it can be to live with few possessions. Before I moved here, I lived in Sweden. I lived a simple life there, but now it’s even simpler, and it feels good.
In Spain, I rent a fully furnished apartment, which allows me to basically only own a laptop, clothes, and a few other items. My happiness has greatly improved from consuming less and realizing that I do not need a lot of stuff to be happy.
When you consume, ask yourself, why are you consuming? What hole are you artificially trying to fill by purchasing more and more things?
I’ve learned a lot in the last few months about keeping my life simple and consuming less. Here are seven of the strategies that I use to overcome the urge of consumption:
1. Pay with Cash
When you pay with cold hard cash, you’ll be more conscious of your spending. Paying with a debit or credit card is easier, because after all, it’s only a plastic card. I’ve talked with a few people who have drastically cut their spending by eliminating the use of any kind of cards.
Why do you think banks want us to use these cards? Because it increases consumption, and that’s good for business. But what’s good for business might not be good for you in the long run.
2. Leave Your Wallet
When I’m out roaming the streets, I come across opportunities to buy all the time. Here in Southern Spain, we have a lot of restaurants, so the smell of the food is constantly beckoning me to come and taste the delicious dishes that are available.
I only take my wallet with me if I really need to. I decide beforehand what I need to buy and if I really need to buy it. I’m mostly spending money on food, rent, and other necessities. If I bring my wallet everywhere I go, it’s too easy for me to go into a zombie-like state and start buying.
3. Realize What’s Important
What do you really value in life? Examples from my own life would be relationships, doing what I love, and having fun. Yours might be completely different, but almost all human beings want to be happy and find passion in their life.
We’ve been taught to consume and to buy. We’ve been programmed to believe that having a lot of nice stuff automatically equals success. But there’s something left out of that equation, and that’s the fact that success does not equal happiness. This is assuming that material wealth equals success.
When you’re looking at that new phone, computer, or car, do you really need it? If you already have one at home, use that, because there are more important things you can spend your money on.
4. Acknowledge the Urge
Whenever I feel the urge to buy something, I become aware of it and accept it. The only time you can get caught up in the urge to consume is when you’re unaware of its influence over you.
When you shine the light on your need to purchase, you’re instantly conscious about your choices. You can go ahead and buy something, but you’ll be doing it consciously, while knowing the consequences.
5. Explore the Deeper Meaning
Why do we consume? What are we trying to do? We all know people who never seem to stop hoarding and consuming. They fill up their houses with stuff. After a while, they need a bigger house to store all of their stuff in.
It’s a never-ending cycle. What is the deeper meaning of your desire to consume? I know I want a nice phone, a car, and a house, but I realize that they will not make me happy. They are merely preferences, not necessities.
6. Think Strategically
Just realizing that you don’t need something will probably not help you fight the urge to get it, which is why I like to think strategically about the costs of buying something. If you want to buy a car, it’s not just the car you’re buying; it’s the future fuel cost, repairs, and everything else that comes with it.
Minimizing your life will allow you to spend less, work less, and have more free time to do what you want. We all work so we can finally realize our dreams. I have a radical thought: why not work less and spend less so you can do it now?
If you want to buy a big house, then of course you have to work, but is that house really necessary for your happiness? Happiness does not come from external things. You might be happy for a moment, but it will pass. True happiness comes from the inside.
I’ve found asking the right questions to be really powerful. I’ve gotten so good at it that I’m able to fool myself into not buying something. I might look at something I want to buy and think, “maybe I’ll buy it later,” which of course means that I’ll forget and never buy it. An excellent strategy, wouldn’t you say?
Other questions I use are “Do I really need this?” and “How often am I going to use this?”
I’ve noticed that I often want to buy things that I’m probably not going to use more than a few times a month or even less. The only reason I want them is because they’re pretty and they make me look good.
I don’t have to consume. I don’t have to look for happiness. I can do what I want to do right now. Most people can go after their dreams and passions, but they choose not to by making excuses and blaming something outside of them.
Don’t give away your power by whining, pointing, and blaming. Take control of your life and start going after the things that matter to you. You may not succeed right away, but it’s a start.
Originally published on Dumb Little Man