Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I don't want to want

While walking to the subway from work, I passed a table on the sidewalk where a vendor was selling knock-off bags. I see him nearly every night, and never stop to look. (I prefer the $10 bag vendor, myself, where they don't even both putting a fake logo on the bags.)

However, this particular night, a woman walking in front of me glanced at the table and then darted right over, asking the vendor "How much for this one!?" Her excitement was almost contagious, I felt myself slowing down and glancing over, wondering what it was she was so excited about and whether I should be excited about it too.

I snapped out of it pretty quickly, but as I walked away I realized what my biggest personal finance pet peeve is: that I want things, and I don't want to want them.

Not wanting new clothes would mean not buying new clothes. Not wanting a new phone after two years would mean not spending money on a new phone. Not wanting would mean not being interested in products just because they exist.

Alas, I am only human.

Then I watched the movie Objectified, made by the same team that made the documentary Helvetica. Objectified is an interesting look at how products are designed for our use and what that means for us as consumers. 

One of the things that really jumped out at me was how the designers all want to create something that will never go out of style, that will last longer than all those other "old" things out there, but they all talk about the need for consumers to want new things in order to keep them in a job. There's a lot of other interesting bits in there, about Ikea and Apple and Target and how great design should cost less rather than more, but also about how design will be a huge marketing characteristic in the future.

And really what it boils down to is that, in my opinion, the desire to acquire is one of the leading causes of unhappiness but it's almost impossible to eradicate.

How do you temper the desire for things with the desire to not want desire? I know that avoiding advertising is one (really effective) way, but how else?


  1. Ugh, I totally hear you.

    I keep wanting a new tv. Do I need a tv? No. Do I want a new tv? Absolutely yes. So hard. Every time I'm in an electronics store I'm checking out prices. Looking at deals. Saying to myself "Maybe it if was under $XXX amount".

    I hate that I want a new one. My old one works just fine! Why do I want it? It makes no sense. But I do. So all I can do is try to control the urges and give myself a plan "well, save $20 per month in a TV fund and then you can buy it".

    I also hate wanting what I want.

  2. This is a great question, one that I struggle with, and I look forward to what other commenters will say. My greatest weaknesses are clothes and accessories, and so far, I'm trying to keep the wants in check by looking out only for what I objectively need (keeping my work environment and lifestyle in mind) or to replace things that have worn out. I guess it's better than nothing, but I get frustrated by my preference for variety. Also, I'm pretty good at bargain-hunting but sometimes I wonder whether if I pay more for things, such as designer items, that maybe I'll treasure those things more, they'll last longer, and then I'll buy less?

  3. I avoid the shops as much as I can..this helps.

    I'm trying make 2011 my year of conscious spending, so I'm making a wish list and if after 2-3 months I still really want the item then I'll probably buy it.

    I agree it's so hard!

  4. I avoid the stores, as well as the advertising. And I cut down my online "browsing." All of these things have helped me tremendously.

    Yesterday, I was trying to think of a fun thing I could buy with part of my exercise challenge money. But... I couldn't think of anything. I would love it if my enV2 lasted forever. I have all the clothes I need. I think stepping away from the TV, the online store, the ads, helps you to become content with what you have. And when you're content, you don't want more.

  5. You know, I was JUST having a discussion about this with a friend last night.
    I agree with Red that it has to do with advertising on the tv, online and things you get in the mail. I am trying to cut down on my exposure to these things (even if it means abandoning my beloved fashion blogs for a while). I just want to be happy with what I have!

    (I also had a short laugh at the fact that at the bottom of the page, I see an advertisement for Fossil with the words "Shop Now"!)

  6. I worked in a mall for a few years. That's when my spending turned into a problem. I couldn't avoid the advertising, the cute outfits in the windows, the general aura that people exude when they find a good deal.
    Now that I don't work in the mall, I don't want nearly as much. But the things that I do want? Much more expensive. Instead of a $40 dress, I want a $1500 TV. Or a $2000 mattress set.

    I don't want to want, either. The way I curb my desire to shop & spend, is unintentional. I live in an apartment the size of a shoe box. It's tiny, and thus it cannot hold a large TV. It can't hold a king sized bed, which is what I want. There's nowhere to put the cuisinart food processor I want. So, it's naturally impossible for me to buy the things that I want. It's turned into me wanting more space, instead of a new Tv.
    But, we'll see when we move into a larger place what I'll do :S
    A good post :)
    I'm new to your blog, so I'm going to go hop off and check it out!


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