07/14/13 16:30:26



Inspired by Sven’s #thingsididnotbuy series, I thought I’d chime in and give my two cents. His main idea is to post tech-related products and luxury goods he would have liked to buy, but doesn’t, not necessarily to save money. But money saving is kind of what he’s going for with this. I’m very stingy.

First of all, impulse buying is very hard to control, and everyone who wants to get this under control is on my list of heroes, because there are so many little decisions a human has to intercept. We’ve been taught from society that sometimes you have to do “yourself a favor“. Doing yourself a favor usually involves buying something, be it food, tech, or some other crap you don’t need.

Saving money is a topic that interests me. So while #thingsididnotbuy has a tech-focus, I want to approach this more broadly.

I don’t buy most things, but that doesn’t mean that the temptation to accumulate “stuff” doesn’t exist, it does. Thanks to tricky marketing all kinds of temptations and desires exist. Desires for food, apps, entertainment, fun, relaxation, books, “another world”, etc. People search for excitement, something that makes a bad day become good, and so forth. That is all natural, but what I’ve learned, and that seems to be a common theme of my generation, is that minimalism is a desirable goal for a human being. In a perfect minimalist world, there are no distractions, no bullshit, nothing unnecessary, but I digress. We want to exercise how to make better buying decisions.

1. Make a budget

Simple enough, just decide that you are not going to spend more than XXX amount of money on certain activities.

One thing that works tremendously well with a budget are luxury goods and media. Media such as apps, music, movies, books.[1]

The budget can either be “I’m not going to spend more than 20€ on the iTunes Store” or “I’m not going to spend more than 5€ on one app”. I would recommend to cap the budget at some total amount.

iTunes voucher cards are sometimes available for 10% or 20% off. That means a 25€ voucher is only 20€, etc. So by buying a 20€ card, you save an additional 5€ per 25€ spent on media. Buying one 20€ card per month and only buying when there is plus on one’s iTunes account makes it very easy to control impulse purchases.

To get these vouchers, you can either buy them directly at a store, or go to eBay. Search for items that are reduced by 20% or more and never pay more than 20% off the original price. As soon as you see the price rising, go find another item. It is really easy. It takes about 10 minutes, and two to three emails, compared to an hour+ running to a store and buying a voucher there.

2. Illusive items

We live in a very constructed world. Most of the things we grew up with are questionable in value. Take Christmas for instance. You’re supposed to spend money on stuff to make your loved ones happy. It is assumed that a bought item brings happiness and joy. The value of a present increases, the more it cost. I don’t want to write about my gripes with the Christmas season any more than necessary though.

The point I want to express here is: you have been taught to believe that certain things are more desirable than others, because people say so; and people before said so. No one questioned whether having a TV set is something you actually need. So start questioning yourself more.
I don’t need to have a computer, but I choose to have one. That’s a dramatic difference. If you choose to buy something, not just have it, you are going to be more happy with that thing, whatever it is. A TV set costs a lot of money. From experience I know how a typical evening looks like. When I look at that event, that’s not what I want my evenings to look like, so I choose not to have a TV. It is a mindful decision. Learn more about mindfulness with this book.

So for every purchase you are going to make, ask yourself why you are buying it. I realize that apps, music, technology stuff, is stuff I buy to feel excitement, to geek out, to have fun.[2] So for every app I buy, I wait a little before I buy “into” that thing. I did not buy Vesper, I did not buy Tweetbot for Mac. Both apps don’t offer the kind of value I expect from an item of that price. But when I choose to buy, I celebrate my purchase. I know this sounds ridiculous, I celebrate in a very literal way.[3]

See, when you don’t just blindly buy things anymore because they are desirable, you start making conscious buying decisions. It is not about buying anymore, it is about “do I want to let this thing into my life? Do I have room for it?”.
And because it’s so rare that new stuff comes in, every new thing that does, is very exciting. I sit in my chair and throw my arms up so exciting is it. My colleagues look flummoxed. But I don’t care.

You need to chill, if you will. If you just buy, buy, buy, you make hectic and fast purchases decisions. Slow down. And I mean slow way down. That is what makes the difference.

These are the two things that leave plus on my bank account every month: budgeting and conscious buying decisions.

If you have some questions regarding minimalism, relaxation, or meditation, leave a comment.

  1. Yes, apps are media. If you haven’t realized that yet, you must have slept the last 10 years.)  ↩

  2. I consider AppleScripting a hobby. So that’s where all my Keyboard Maestro stuff gets created. Late at night.  ↩

  3. Celebration takes the form of dancing, yelling, etc. Looks weird, but makes me happy.  ↩