From the Dollar Decisions Blog comes some very enlightening information from Orange County Cooperative Extension agent Deborah Taylor. I admit, I am a victim of this too.
The vast majority of Americans are trapped in a “work and spend” cycle. As a society, we have at our disposal an abundance of material goods, which we have to work at an incredible pace to pay for. Typically when Americans purchase one item, an upgrade of another item is required. This is a social phenomenon related to consumer goods, which results in spiraling consumption (chain purchasing) resulting from dissatisfaction created by a new possession.
For example, Jane buys a new couch for $400 for her living room to replace the old, donated one she’d had for the past 10 years. Now that it is in her home, her living room chair looks shabby and outdated. Jane decides she must also replace this chair to complete her living room’s new look. However, once the new chair, which cost $250, is in place, Jane cannot help but notice how dirty and dingy the carpet looks beside the clean, new furniture upholstery. Jane decides to replace the living room carpet, but finds she will get a “better price” if she replaces all the carpet in her home. The total cost for replacing the carpet is $2,300. Jane’s original $400 purchase has now escalated into nearly $3,000.
For the unsuspecting consumer, this phenomenon can be invisible in the marketplace. In every area of our lives, we are coerced into buying more items to supplement the new items we have purchased. If you buy a new dress, you will need new shoes or a new handbag. If you buy a new couch, you will need a new chair. Although some of this need to constantly “add-on” or upgrade” is driven by aesthetics, manufacturers also drive some of it. For example, in the area of electronics, old equipment may not be compatible with new equipment. An example: having to buy a new printer to go with a newly purchased computer because the connections on the old printer are not compatible with the ones on the new computer.
How can consumers avoid falling prey to chain purchasing? Control your desire to purchase. When you buy a product, think about how much “more” you will need to fulfill that purchase (more games for the game console, more accessories for the redone kitchen, etc.).
Whenever you see a symbol of excessive spending, look at it for what it is: successful marketing. If you desire a certain item, ask yourself if you really need it. Control yourself by placing voluntary restraints on competitive consumption.
Consider sharing expensive purchases (like a lawnmower) with your neighbors. Consider rentals or secondhand items when shopping for sporting equipment and narrow-use items.
Become an educated consumer. When you see a product you want, research it and understand it before making the purchase.
Avoid “retail therapy.” Spending can be addictive. If a particular mood or event triggers a desire to shop, find other ways to spend time or relieve stress. Make time. Look for ways to reduce the time you spend working so you can increase the time doing things that are more valuable to you. Choose activities to do with that extra time that do not involve spending and consumerism.