October 27, 2015

Overcoming The Urge To Shop

Compulsive shoppers are not born that way, they are a product of our consumer culture.

In ConsumerLand the consumer's urge to shop has been honed and fine tuned for maximum fun and profit. That this comes almost exclusively from outside influences is rarely acknowledged, as if we were born to shop.

If we are to live simply, this lifelong consumer brainwashing must be overcome.  It is not normal to want to consume till we drop from exhaustion, or die, whichever comes first.

The following are some suggestions for quelling the urge to buy stuff.

1. Declutter your living space. The neater and sparser your surroundings are, the less likely you will want to bring anything else in.

2. Start a shopping diary. Keep track of what you buy, and how much it costs.

3. Use only cash. Credit is too easy, not to mention dangerous as it can give one a false sense of wealth.

4. Only buy timeless things that don't go out of fashion. Or ignore fashion all together and buy long lasting things that make you happy.

Mostly, be gentle with yourself. Overcoming a life of propaganda and social pressure is not an insignificant thing. It is a battle. But it can be won, and it is worth the effort to be free of the pressure to buy, buy, buy.

Other Tips For Overcoming The Urge to Shop

  • Recognize you are not alone, that many people experience the same urge to shop, and many people have successfully overcome this compulsion.
  • Dedicate yourself to a hobby or project.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Be in nature.
  • Volunteer in an area you are passionate about.
  • Get addicted to exercise or some other healthy pursuit.
  • Be content with what you already have.
  • Recognize your "triggers" that lead to shopping. Avoid them, or learn to disarm them.
  • Seek the help of like minded people who understand the seriousness of the effects of rampant consumerism on your life and the lives of those around you.


  1. I agree that like-minded people help keep shopping on track. Also, careful media consumption means less commercials advertisements promoting new products.

    1. So right - limiting exposure to media is crucial. The fewer "get this now" messages (overt or subtle) that we see, the less we feel the urge to buy the things that they try to convince us we need.

  2. Anonymous10/27/2015

    It's a process, that's for sure. Cash only is great advice, I have a debit card, but no credit cards. My biggest problem is in thrift stores since I haven't been to a shopping mall or plaza in years. I've learned to recognize my triggers and walk away feeling better about myself. Anything that leads me to wanting something, I avoid. My pinterest account for instance kept me feeling as though I needed to buy things to make the kind of life I dreamed for myself. I'm talking a green, homesteading kind of life. I closed that account and didn't get back on until recently. You can't buy yourself into a better life!

    1. Great line, Miss Marla - "You can't buy yourself into a better life."

      Words by which to live.

    2. Anonymous10/28/2015

      Gregg, I have been reading this blog for a long time, I keep my life simple, I keep my over lead low, so I can work less, but I have triggers, I collect toys, lol (I know I know, stupid) I started again after 20 years and it destroys my money , which in turn causes me to stress and have to work more , I go through phases where I wont buy for month, than I go nuts and spend hundreds, its crazy, because 90% of my life is on track and living the simple, NBA lifestyle, but than I blow it, any advice?

      when I buy these toys so after they arrive they sit on a shelf and get dusty, so logically I KNOW its dumb, but still I tend to mess up and buy more, even after months and months of NBA living

    3. Anonymous10/29/2015

      I was a collector at one time also. A few years ago my brother died at age 60. Everything that he collected, every item from his household was laid out in the driveway for a big sale. When I feel the need to bring something into my life, I always think of it being laid outside after I'm dead. Asking myself " Would I want to leave this for someone else to clean out?" Or is the money better spent on an experience, rather than a thing? It helps me to keep myself in check.

    4. Anonymous10/29/2015

      Hi, Anonymous - I know exactly what you mean. My way of dealing with this is to wait at least 48 hours before buying something I WANT, not NEED. Yes, I know from experience that this is hard, but honestly, it does work. Case in point: I have wanted a Haws metal watering can for ages. I'm talking eight months here, folks. When I first saw it on Amazon, I almost clicked that Buy Now button. But .. .I waited. At first, 48 hours. Then, a few days more. Then . ..well, I already have a watering can. OK, it's an old plastic one, but it's in good shape and I've had it for a couple of years, so. . .I kept my old watering can and still haven't bought the Haws. Do I still want it? Well, yes. Am I going to buy it? No, not now. Maybe in the spring, depending on my financial situation, but maybe not. The point is: wait. Just try this a few times. I have honestly surprised myself by how well this works. I hope it helps you!


    5. Miss Marla, That is where I am now. I am pulling the bandage off more slowly than that, though. I will soon be to the point where nothing is in storage, so that will be a victory. I have someone helping me sell stuff, so it keeps me moving forward. Otherwise, I might get paralyzed at times. It is just so sad to do.

  3. I just walked to the grocery store. That sets a limit, also.

    1. People used small hand baskets in early grocery stores. When shopping carts were introduced people started filling them up with more groceries. Then when cars became more commonplace, the combination of carts and cars resulted in what we see today. Wasted food, and obesity.

      Walking is the answer. Or biking. Or smaller fridges.

  4. Anonymous10/30/2015

    great ideas, I love this site and all the great commenters, you are exactly right, after I am gone my sister will have to deal with the collection and it not going to have much value and its not really worth her time to have to deal with it , and I picture it at a yard sale for $1.00 each and people picking through it, lol that's a great deterrent, I have taken so many great ideas from this site over the years, Its by far my favorite blog on the web

    thanks so much

    1. Ditto! Roddy, I agree wholeheartedly. I'm a long time fan of NBA. It is my favorite blog too! And pretty much the only one I participate with comments on. I love Gregg and Linda's posts and the great discussions from commenters. The camaraderie here has benefitted me greatly. It truly is supportive of us all no matter where we are in the process of simplifying our lives.

  5. Anonymous10/30/2015

    I am printing out what Miss Marla and Sophie said in the comments and I will keep it by my computer (that's where I spend all my money, on ebay) and it will help remind me to not do it,

    thanks so much!!!

  6. Roddy,

    I have been thinking about your comment since you left it here, because what you are talking about is difficult to overcome... but not impossible. I am happy to see that other NBA readers beat me to it and left some very good advice about how to reduce that niggling urge to BUY.

    Could you also put a block on ebay on your computer so that it is a little more difficult to access? A mandatory waiting period before making any purchase is an excellent idea, and one the Linda and I use all the time.

    You might also check out my post on "How to Not Buy Anything" if you haven't seen it already. It has more ideas about reducing the desire to buy.


    Good luck moving forward. Please do let us know how you are doing, and do not hesitate to lean on the wonderful community that has developed here. As you can see, many are willing to help. Thanks for your comment, and for being a dedicated NBA reader and simple liver.

  7. Anonymous10/30/2015


    awesome idea, I closed my ebay, so now if its something I need, I can use amazon or go without. see that's why this site is awesome, 1 day at a time right? lol

    thanks so very much

    1. Awesome. Taking action feels good.


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