November 20, 2018

Can Buying Things Change Your Life?

Can buying things change your life? For the better?

I can't think of many things that I have bought that have changed mine. I know that is the promise made by advertisers far and wide for decades, but in the real world this usually fails to pan out.

Can I think of anything I have bought that has changed my life? And if so, has that change been an overall positive one?

I can think of experiences, like going to school, that qualify as having changed my life. And there are many people in this category as well, and I am who I am today because of them. But stuff?

I am hard pressed to think of any material possessions I have purchased that changed me in anywhere close to the same way. We have all spent a lot of money in our lives buying material possessions. Why is it so hard to think of even a handful of worthy ones?

I will try.

My guitar is the first possession that I can think of that has had a meaningful impact on my life. Some of the best money I have ever spent, although I initially learned to play on guitars that were given or borrowed to me.

And I guess my leather hiking boots would make the cut, too, although the pair I am using now were sourced for free.

I enjoy cooking, and the tools and supplies in my kitchen help me make nutritional magic. That mojo could make the difference between sickness and health, so is potentially life changing.

Owning a motor vehicle certainly changed my life, but considering the impact of the internal combustion engine, not to mention the complete hassle of car ownership, I am not sure the overall effect has been positive. I can't say the same of all the bicycles I have owned over the past 50-some years - they have all been life changing possessions.

Finally, I would have to include any art supplies in the life-enhancing category. Paint, brushes, watercolour paper, an easel; all have yielded positive benefits. 

Some people like the rush that results from the process of buying things. I'm not immune to this effect, but I have never let that become the driving force in acquiring material objects. 

Far from being addicted to shopping, I am more like phobic. Therefore I avoid the buyers' remorse that often follows many (most) purchases for a lot of people. It is that moment when we realize that the object we just paid for is unlikely to change our lives, and we would probably be better off without it altogether. 

My personal solution is to not have a lot of things. When I do acquire something, I make every effort to source it for free. It is amazing, if one is willing to be patient, how often this is possible. It may provide a fraction of the initial rush, but in the long term it is the object itself, and not how it was acquired, that makes a difference.

So before forfeiting your hard earned cash, ask yourself, 

"Will buying this item change my life?" 

"Will I still think this is a potential life changing item if I wait a day? A week? A month?"

And lastly, "Can I source it for free?

If a possession helps us reach a goal, or otherwise makes our lives more beautiful and enjoyable, then it might be worth owning; it might change your life. 

Otherwise, save your money, and look to have an experience, or to help someone or something else. That is where the real life changing events take place.


  1. Your thoughts remind me of what stuck with me from a book I read about 30 years ago - I think it was on homeschooling. The author said that the best use of our money beyond basic needs is to invest in TOOLS and SKILLS. All of the valuable purchases you mention seem to me to fall in those categories. For me, even my boots are necessary tools if I want to use my body to do anything, because my feet can't do without the firm support.

    I was just telling someone this week about Christmas presents that I remember most from my childhood: they were the books that one set of grandparents gave us every year, one per grandchild. I still own some of them, and at the time they were always my favorite presents. Ever since I've had money of my own to spend, books have been one of my biggest investments.

    I think about this whole question of gift-giving more and more every year, now that I'm a grandmother of so many. Thank you for a thought-provoking and timely post.

    1. Gift giving could be a challenge with many grandkids. My grandparents gave me a book every Christmas when I was young, and I cherished each and every one.

  2. Anonymous11/20/2018

    Gregg, I see the real value in all of the items you have mentioned. GretchenJoanna, I think you have hit the nail on the head when you say 'tools and skills'. I could never be a true minimalist in the commonly understood sense of the word because I need my tools - pots and pans, hammers and shovels, sewing machine (treadle operated :-)) and knitting needles, piano etc....

    I also have to count books as among the most life-changing purchases and do have a well-considered library which I refer to often. I count myself lucky not to enjoy shopping and blessed that both of my kids didn't bat an eyelid when I suggested we forgo Christmas from now on.


    1. Maybe you are still a minimalist if you have all those things precious to you, but no more. A piano IS a large possession. But what a thing!

      Here's to having a #buynothingchristmas. Kudos to you and your kids.

  3. I like tools and skills too.
    Things I've bought that have changed my life include:
    1) My education. Textbooks. Education humbled me. Still does. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
    2) Computer (and internet service)
    3) A 20 year old van that my daughter and I lived in for a summer (traveled from Georgia to Alaska in 1992) Many experiences on that trip changed my life. Being an old vehicle some repairs were necessary along the way. That exposed me a number of experiences and people that were a part of the life-changing experience that trip was.
    4) My tent, down sleeping bag and camping gear. Allowed me to do many things that truly changed my life.
    5) Several nice cameras. At one time photography was my artistic expression. It deeply connected me to nature.
    6) Stereo to play music.

    1. Yes, camping gear for sure. Some of the best moments of my life have been while backpacking in places like Glacier National Park in Montana.

    2. Kindred spirits about camping experiences changing our lives. Glacier NP is breathtaking. Camping gear also gives me a sense of security. Hardly a year goes by that I don't use some of my equipment for an event other than camping. Like when the power is out due to weather events.
      Gear provides for some of my basic needs if shit really hits the fan.

  4. I love that. Will this purchase change my life? Well the candy bar might make me feel better. I wish I had been less materialistic 20 years ago, that would have changed my life. Great post.

    1. It is never too late to give up materialistic pursuits. Having said that, if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved a lot of money.


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