Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conscious consumption

Last night I was looking at a pair of pink earrings. They were pretty. They were also RM40. Supposedly made of Swarovski crystal, but only a single bead. I thought of all the earrings I already have -- especially the pink ones -- and decided I didn't need a pair of RM40 earrings. They didn't seem worth the price... although they were pretty.

I suddenly feel very grown-up. Maybe my parents are finally starting to rub off on me.

Lately I've been thinking that it really wouldn't hurt me to get rid of some stuff I never use. There are a lot of things I could do without, if I were honest. Most things I own aren't necessities. I'm reminded of Logan Smith & Tammy Strobel's story about decluttering and living a simple life.

But while many people have blamed our modern spending habits on a desire to keep up with the Joneses, I don't believe that's always the main reason why people like to buy stuff. I never did accummulate things in order to prove anything to anyone. For me, it was the security of having things around: If I ever need it, it'll be there, was my way of thinking. Made me feel as if I was in control of my world. An illusion, but a comforting one nevertheless.

Besides, I deserve nice things, don't I? And I earn the money, right? So why shouldn't I buy nice things for myself? After all, not like anyone else is going to buy them for me... That was my reasoning. So, if I wanted it and I could afford it, why not? Why deprive myself? I deserve to be happy! Do you see the mental self-talk here? It's not called "retail therapy" for nothing!

Of course, advertising and marketing also exist to make customers want things they don't need. My eyes still light up when I see a "Sale!" sign, and it often makes me itch to buy something I otherwise would never have considered buying -- just because the product is temporarily available at a much lower price than usual. I don't know why I react this way. Maybe because it's a "good deal" and I just want to grab it before it's gone. I think the feeling of always wanting more, or better, is closely related as well: caused by the fear of losing out. Sometimes it's not that we're trying to impress anyone, but we're more focused on acquiring what we can so that we don't get cheated of... whatever it is. Never mind whether it's good or desirable or useful, as long as we don't miss out!

In the end, though, I still think a large part of it is a lifestyle choice. Living in the city, I can see how an Astro subscription (satellite tv) has become so common among middle-class working professionals that nobody really questions whether they really need one in their homes. I don't have anything against it; I'm just saying this is a lifestyle choice that people are making, often without even pausing to think about it.


BP said...

Plenty of Astro dishes out in the Sabah boondocks when I was there.

And I no longer have Astro at home. Relatives ask why.

I suppose it's a sign of maturity, thinking this way about one's expenses...

Sunflower said...

That's why I suddenly feel very grown-up!

Recently I spent a lot of time in a friend's place and the tv was on most of the time when I was there. From the experience, I can safely say I haven't missed anything by not watching tv for more than 2 years.