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To buy or not to buy, that’s the consuming question

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming questionYes, this is the BUY section.

Yet this is a story about possibly not buying.

Before you click away in disgust, in search of hot bargains and purchasing tips from elsewhere, let me tell you some quick and interesting facts on the links between purchasing and happiness…

There’s plenty of research regularly conducted on SPENDING. These studies usually cover;

- WHAT we spend our hard earned cash on

- WHY we spend

So, does money buy happiness?

Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs (housing, warmth, food, clothing etc). But beyond this, money isn’t at all guaranteed to make you any more content.

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming question

However, apparently;

- HOW and WHEN you spend your money can greatly influence your bliss levels
The latest round of research is all about fiscal emotional efficiency, or how to get the most happiness bang for your buck.

Up until a few years ago, I was a serious Miss Spendy-Spendpants. I lived from paycheck to paycheck, regularly impulse shopped and, on more than one occasion, couldn’t have survived without my credit card(s) to get me by. It seems I wasn’t alone.

Approximately 70% of Australian households received a monetary bonus as part of the 2009 stimulus package. It was designed to encourage spending and stimulate the economy and help to shift us out of the GFC. Various surveys have been conducted on how these bonuses were spent but they all seem to agree that:

  • 40% spent it
  • 30% used it to pay bills like phone, electricity, medical etc
  • 2% used it to pay of credit card debt
  • 3% used it to pay of mortgage debt
  • 6% invested it
  • 19% saved it (Note: and with the smugness that only a newly converted Saver can have – I fell into this category. Sorry, just couldn’t help myself!)

Most recently, in July 2010, MasterCard released its figures that stated that Australians’ top three spending priorities for the first half of 2010 were:

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming questiondining and entertainment (61%)

fashion and accessories (48%)

consumer electronics (36%)

Fitness and wellness was named a top spending priority in 2009 (during the GFC interestingly enough), but has since slipped from 47% to 30%, while spending on consumer electronics is the only category where people expect to be spending more than they intended to last year (up from 29%  to 36%).

In my case, it was a combination of growing up, observing how good financial habits seemed to make other people’s lives more enjoyable and beginning to investigate what truly made me happy. Those three things combined lead to the realisation that being Miss Spendy wasn’t going to work for me long-term.

Facts like these below also continue to help me spend a little more responsibly.

People are happier:

  • when spending money on experiences instead of material objects
  • when relishing and planning what to buy, long before actually buying it
  • when stopping comparing what you have, compared to others
  • when spending money to help others

Experiences make you smile

Spending money for an experience produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending cash on things. Yep, purchasing things like skydiving, an over-the-water hut off a tropical island, dinner at a beautiful restaurant, concert tickets, racing car lessons or a Vietnamese cooking class beats a fabulous frock or new TV any day.

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming questionBecause the problem with that gorgeous new dress or enormous TV is that you’re going to grow accustomed to it. The shine will wear off and you’ll be looking at the dress hanging in your wardrobe, thinking “that colour is so not cool anymore. I wish it sat differently. I’m a bit sick of it. And that TV, it’s just so small. And the technology has improved so much now”. The only solution? Better go buy new ones. And on and on it goes.

Spending on services and recreation also usually strengthen social bonds as you’re more likely to be undertaking the activity with another person. Academics all agree that people who have strong, consistent personal relationships are miles happier than those not-so-social types, so throw in a fun activity that you’ve purchased and it’s likely that the experience combined will double the fun. Experience based outlets such as Red Balloon Day know they’re onto a winner and their popularity proves it.

Get planning

Anticipation is king. This part is simple – the build up, the looking forward to, the contemplation – this all makes finally getting what you’ve paid for that much more enjoyable.

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming questionIn past times, before online shopping, credit cards and buying things via your mobile phone made instant purchasing possible, you’d have to plan and save for something, which deepened and sweetened the whole experience. Working hard for something, the journey or thrill of the hunt, made the end result much more satisfying and valuable.

Want to book a holiday extravaganza to New York? Perhaps you should book it a long way in advance, rather than on impulse and at the last minute. Give yourself the time to enjoy looking forward to it – that’s all about getting extra happiness value for your dollar! Want a new iPhone? Take the time to think about how it will make your life easier, how you’ll be able to connect with friends and family, what fun you’ll have with it, how it will come in handy. Savour the concept before you go to purchase it and take it home.

Another great way to extend or draw out your happiness is to buy small pleasures instead of just one. This doesn’t mean making loads of unnecessary, pointless purchases, but instead of one large, quality purchase like a newer model car (that you’ll get used to and soon want to upgrade again), go for some more consistent treats. Once a week, indulge in a massage, eat out at your favourite exquisite restaurant, fill your house with beautiful flowers or plants, pay for a babysitter and go out dancing. Yes, you may adapt to these things too, but because there are so many riches in your life, it will take much longer.

No more keeping up with, or outdoing, the Joneses

On a global scale, last year’s GFC prompted many people to re-think their needs and get “back-to-basics”. Spending quality time at home with family and friends has become more popular, as have simple joys like cooking or exercising together, playing boardgames, watching TV or DVDs together or going on picnics. For many, purchasing flashy, showy luxury items has actually been on the decline. Whether or not this trend will last is anyone’s guess!

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming question

Choose friends who don’t pressure or compete. If needs be, explain to family and friends that you’re trying to lead a simpler life and not be so tied to material things. They’ll either get it or they won’t but this isn’t your concern. And remember, if you get laughed at or snubbed, how you choose to react to their position on materialism is entirely up to you.

Giving is actually getting

On a purely selfish level, giving your money away to help others that need it, will make YOU happier. However, the research shows that it will only make you feel happier if you don’ feel pushed or coerced into giving this money.

So start the ball rolling – what charities do you think deserve your hard earned cash? Who do YOU want to help?

Even if you are giving away money to make yourself feel better, the end result for those that need it is the same , so don’t beat yourself up over it!

To buy or not to buy, that's the consuming question

Visit to discover American Tammy Strobe’s incredible journey toward simple, minimalist living. Taken straight from her site is this:

Somewhere along the way we start thinking we need more and more stuff to be happy. But is that really true? Do we need a bigger house, a better car, or a large salary to find happiness? Imagine what the world would look like if we pursued our dreams rather than more stuff. RowdyKittens chronicles my writing on how to change the world through simple, minimalist living, while helping others at the same time.

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