Smarter Spending and the Joy of Less

I’m a marketer so of course I want people to buy things.

Like (Virgin) mobile phones and domestic and trans-Atlantic flights for example.

But as we approach another “Black Friday” holiday shopping season kickoff…

Part of me can’t help but think – do we really need all this stuff that’s being advertised?

You may recall a very unfortunate incident when a Wal-Mart employee was actually trampled to death at Wal-Mart during this day.

What could have been so crucial to buy that worked people into such a mob frenzy?

For the last year I’ve been taking a new approach to spending and loving it.

I call it the Joy of Less. I wrote about it last summer.

It started with the onset of the Recession. Like many people, with uncertainty looming, I felt a need to save more and to be more careful with my spending.

But what started as an act of deprivation soon turned in to a source of joy.

Instead of shopping for clothes, I started  shopping my own closet.

I cleaned out and donated the clothes I never wore that were cluttering my view of what I really had.

I set a sort of color “uniform” for any future purchases. They had to go with what I already owned or I wouldn’t consider them.

And I looked for fewer more quality items.

Now as a brand person, at first I felt a bit I guilty about this new philosophy.

Isn’t conspicuous consumption, the oil that greases the wheels of the economy?

But I’ve come to realize that this joy of less approach doesn’t mean Ive stopped spending all together.

It just means I have a new relationship with the things I do purchase.

I value them more.

Because they were the result of a thoughtful approach and not just a whim, I feel more attached to them.

And In many cases I am actually spending more per item than I would have before.  I’m just buying less things.

I have other friends who have shifted their spending to experiences (vacations, classes, etc.) and away from objects because they believe they and their families get more out of them.

This holiday I am heading to the mall (though not on Black Friday!).

But it will be with a more considered list of what will really bring pleasure to people I love.

It will be interesting (and no doubt somewhat frightening) to observe what happens with retail trends this year.

Some people say we are beginning to tip toe out of the recession.

And others are more skeptical.

Either way, I think consumer behavior has probably been permanently changed in ways we are just beginning to grasp.

And new behaviors will outlast this current economic crisis.

I believe in these harder times with harder choices, we’ve all learned new lessons about the “value” of possessions.

What’s your twist?
How are you spending differently this Holiday?

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0 thoughts on “Smarter Spending and the Joy of Less

  1. I think there has been a massive cultural shift away from ostentatious displays of wealth to frugality. I’ve gone through the same shift in priorities as you – although not out of choice.

    Like you, after a slightly turbulent adjustment, I have found spending wisely and sensibly not only challenging, but fun and rewarding. Money management skills are something I’ve never needed before.

    As you say, it’s not just about buying cheap junk in a crude attempt to reduce outgoings, but making considered decisions about what actually creates real value for me as a consumer and as a human being. I was lost in a storm of wastefulness that saw me spend £100 a night on booze and taxis – and because of my new smart spending philosophy this has ended, whilst the nights out I have are as, or even more, fun.

    It’s a change for the better.

    Links:
    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com – massive money saving message boards
    http://www.oolamoola.co.uk – a blog I worked on the launch with the great people @mademymany – the finer things in life for less.

  2. I’m with you. Somewhere along the line the true meaning of the holidays was lost. Let’s bring it back: Less stuff, more love.

  3. Julie, I agree wholeheartedly with you. There is an emerging trend in the joy of less and somewhat frugality has become a lifestyle. What’s interesting is that online sales have been much more resilient than brick and mortar since the start of the recession, so I wonder how many people are actually going to show up in stores on black friday since they can get better deals online and resist to useless temptations…

  4. “Isn’t conspicuous consumption the oil that greases the wheels of the economy?”

    I believe so, and I worry that if the whole country becomes more choosy, it is going to lead to fewer purchases. As the first commenter said: “Less stuff, more love.” Unfortunately, love can’t create jobs.

  5. As an advertising professional, I’ve always believed in supporting the brands. Even those I didn’t work on. The ultimate consumer. Sure, it’s fun to acquire pretty things (and lots of shoes) but at some point you think, “How many black sweaters does one really need?”

    To my Green Crusader husband, purchases were on a true “need to” basis. If it was fixable-fix it, rather than buy new. Experiences were his gift of choice. Hot air ballooning. Sailing down the Hudson River with friends. A road trip to see The Police.

    The memories are mine to keep forever. They’ll never fade. Unlike those sweaters.

  6. I admire this post and thank you for it.
    As a marketing professional, our goal often seems like it is to get people to love, love, love your brand and buy, buy, buy more. But inside we know that buying beyond your means isn’t right.
    The real goal is to help people find the right brands in the right quantities to meet their needs. When we accept that buying endlessly is not desirable, we’ll find it easier to be proud of what we do.

    • @Julia Well-said. I think the notion of “right sizing” (vs. blind consumption) is right on.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Julie