In my new book How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World, I talk about the many relationships we have with the world and how those relationships affect both our own well-being and that of our communities and planet.
One of those relationships is the one we have with stuff. We have been convinced that the more stuff we have, the happier we will be, but all the research shows just the opposite. That there are many other things–like being of service–that are much more likely to make us happy.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves buying more and more stuff without thinking about it and the stuff spiral we are in is killing our habitat. So here are three short tips about not being anything by mistake–unconsciously–from How to Be Alive.
Don’t make shopping a social activity
Shopping has become one of America’s top two pastimes (watching TV still beats it). It has become a social activity. And what happens is that you end up buying stuff you don’t really need when you actually just want to spend time with your friends. So just do something else. Plan to cook together, craft together, exercise together, or play games together, but don’t plan to shop together.
Leave your credit cards at home
All the studies show that we don’t feel we are spending our money when we use credit cards, so we are more likely to buy things we can’t afford and don’t really want or need. One study out of Purdue University showed that people who merely saw a credit card logo were willing to pay three times more for a piece of clothing than people who didn’t see it. In another study, MBA students at MIT were willing to pay more than twice as much for sports tickets when they could use a credit card instead of cash. Fill your wallet only with what cash you can afford to spend and leave credit cards at home.
Never shop on your mobile device
Research says we spend more when we shop on our mobile devices. Why? Partly because online retailers gamify shopping and take advantage of those boring commuting or waiting-in-line moments. Read, knit, solve puzzles, or listen to music when you are bored, but don’t shop on your mobile device.