Monday, January 31, 2011

Think Before You Buy

I like to shop. For groceries, for clothes, for just about everything. In fact, I've coined the term "coveting" as in, I will covet the things I want but not actually buy them. Let's use it in a sentence, shall we? This weekend, I went and coveted the new spring fashions at the mall. Covet. Wow. I feel like a terrible person for even admitting this. Coveting is one of the big ten (as in commandments) and though I am by no means a "churchy" person, I think the ten commandments are pretty good guide when it comes to good and ethical behavior. Commandment number ten states:

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.
Though I've never hungered for my neighbor's livestock,  I've certainly found myself lusting over a friend's pretty new handbag, or wishing it was my roof that was adorned with shining new solar panels. That's kind of the same thing, isn't it? It is a daily struggle for me to just be happy with what we've got. And what we've got is good. Great. Fantastic. More than I could hope for and more than I deserve. So why, oh why, do I still feel like I need more stuff?

I could easily blame it someone else. According to Consumer Reports, the average American is exposed to 247 commercial messages every day.  Of course, if you don’t watch TV, you’ll cut a lot of those ads out, but even then there are still ads flying at you from every which way. And what are all these ads telling us? That we will not be happy, healthy, wealthy, wise, popular, or anything else–unless we buy these products. So what do we do? We buy. And buy. And buy. And buy. And every time we buy, we create waste, consume energy, and in the long run make ourselves less happy than when we started.

I've done what I can do. I don't go "coveting" anymore. Let's face it. I can't go into a store and just look. I can't. I know that now. And I try to shop with lists as I find this really helps me stay on track and keeps "extras" out of my basket. But every now and then, something bright and shiny grabs my attention and it gets brought home where I glare at it, knowing the money I spent on it would have been better spent somewhere else.

So how do I avoid bringing it home in the first place? I found this handy list of questions on the Mother Nature Network that might just be the ticket. The idea is to print the questions out on a little card and stick it in your wallet so that whenever you are confronted with a purchase, you have a little something to help you really think it through.  Of course you don't really have to carry it with you. You could just mentally ask these questions. But will you remember to? I won't. I need something concrete. Perhaps I'll put it on neon colored card stock so I'll be sure to notice it each and every time open my wallet.

1. Is this purchase something I need?
2. Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?
3. Can I borrow one instead of buying new?
4. Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?
5. Can I buy a used one?
6. How does this item encourage a simple lifestyle?
7. Do I really have the money for this purchase?
8. Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible materials?
9. Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?
10. What is the impact on the environment of the full life cycle of it?
Less Stuff=Simple Life and Happy Planet!


  1. I love this idea! I'm going to create one of these little cards today (and like you, it will need to be really neon for me to pay attention to it)

  2. I'm going to put this list on my fridge AND in my purse. I think it's interesting how this covetting thing applies to people with a "natural" manifests itself in people feeling badly when they can't afford Waldorf-style wood/wool/silk toys, when their house doesn't look like those Waldorf-blog homes do. I know that's where I fall into the trap. But then I remind myself that I love yard-sale chic, and admire all my old mismatched furniture as unique, repurposed, and beautiful! Great post, as usual!

  3. This is a great idea! I am usually pretty good at talking myself out of purchases in the store, but this will really make me think about everything I buy! By the shall not covet your neighbour's male OR female servants...hahaha!! Too funny. I'll have to remember that, they are just so tempting! Have a great week!