Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you buy the things that you buy? “Well that’s a silly question,” you may be thinking. “I buy them because I need them.” Bread, toilet paper, soap- okay, those are needs. There are so many things we buy though that have nothing to do with needs, or even with wants.
They have everything to do with deeper psychological and emotional reasons; if we never stop to ask “why,” we can stay stuck in a pattern of buying things that we either don’t need, can’t afford, or might not even like.
I would argue that even with a need like soap, there can be a “why”: why that particular brand or scent? Does it remind you of someone? etc. Companies spend billions paying market/brand researchers to delve into the “whys” behind their customers’ shopping habits with interviews, surveys, and studies. They want to know what drives us to buy what we do. What if we researched our own “whys”? What would we discover?
Imagine being the parent of a 4th grade daughter. One day while out shopping, you buy her the most adorable outfit. Why? “She’s a growing kid and needs clothes” looks like the immediate answer.
Let’s dig deeper. If we are really honest, could the reason be one of the following?
- “I can make up for missing out on _______ by buying this.”
- “If I buy my daughter name brand clothes, even though I can’t afford them, it’ll help her to be accepted at school. I never felt accepted by my peers.”
- “Even though it’s out of my budget, I never had this as a child; I want my child to have the things I never had.”
- “My mother bought me an outfit just like this when I was a child; I miss her and buying this makes me feel closer to her.”
I’ve bought clothes that weren’t really “me,” but I wanted to fit in. Picked certain brands or items over others because of who I thought they would make me, or because I wanted a certain image.
I have been looking for picture books to add to my daughter’s nursery as the end of my pregnancy draws near. I knew I was looking for all the books that I had as a child. The why took a bit more time to figure out.
I realized that books like Corduroy and The Poky Little Puppy represented the good times of my childhood- the times I wanted to remember and hold onto. Having those books again wasn’t just for my daughter– they were also for me. I didn’t want to remember the hard things that happened, I wanted to focus on the positives; reading as a child was always something surrounded by positive memories. I have to be aware of this “why” and keep myself from going on a never ending quest to recreate my childhood book collection.
Finding out the “why” behind our “buy” may not be comfortable, but it is one step towards not buying things for emotional reasons. Knowing the “why” attracting you to something may help you avoid buyer’s remorse, giving you the insight you need to walk away from an item that you would normally purchase without a second thought.