Here’s something I’ve done frequently.

I go to the grocery store for one item, and I come back with five. Or, I go to the mall to replace something that has ripped or fallen apart, and I come back with a few new pieces of clothing. Or maybe I’m ordering something online, and free shipping makes spending $50 seem like a good idea.

Why do I do this? Well, mostly because I give myself reasons to. And Amazon doesn’t mind!

Lately, I’ve been avoiding shopping. My weakness is Whole Foods, where I can’t seem to stop purchasing new spices, dried goods, bulk items like nuts and seeds and beans, and random bits of produce. None of this stuff really goes to waste, but I should be able to walk into a store and walk out with only what I planned to purchase. Right?

So, I thought about the reasons that I give myself whenever I end up buying more than I planned (or budgeted) for. And now, every time I hear myself stating these reasons, I’ll pause and think twice.

Reasons we buy things we do not need and how to avoid them

7 Reasons We Buy Things We Don’t Need

1) It’s such a good deal. Whether it’s 50% off sale or free samples with a $40 purchase, these types of things can be so tempting. Somehow we think we’ve tricked companies into giving us free stuff. But it’s kind of the opposite– companies have tricked us into spending more money than we planned.

2) I’ll need this eventually. Ah, isn’t it fun to buy things for the future? There are some items that are inevitable (like toilet paper and salt), but so many things I’ve purchased “for the future” just sit around forever. Use what you have, and when it’s gone, replace it.

3) I can always return it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not returned very many things in my lifetime. Don’t count on yourself going back to the mall to return something– it’ll just give you another reason to shop more.

4) I don’t have anything quite like this. Whether it’s a new color or a new brand, I’ve often told myself that I need to add an item to my collection of items– yes, collection. So obviously I already have several of these items and I probably don’t need another one (e.g., lipsticks, sweaters, purses, colorful pens, etc.).

5) This will help me be more like (insert name here). Oh, man. I’ve been guilty of this. I see a movie, I watch a show, I open a magazine– and there’s some perfected image that I suddenly want to imitate. And here’s what I’ve learned: no product will ever turn me into someone else. And, I probably shouldn’t make that my goal anyway.

6) One for her/him, one for me. Ever purchased a gift for someone and decided that you should get one for yourself too? I totally have. Let’s commit to true generosity, rather than insisting we should get something just because we’re getting it for someone else.

7) I DESERVE this, and it will make me feel better about (insert problem here). I’m not talking about OTC drugs– that Tylenol will make your headache go away. What I’m talking about is retail therapy, that little concept that makes us think we can assuage our emotions via consumption. Hint: it doesn’t work.


I’m hoping that as you read these, some of them are resonating. I’m hoping it’s not just me.

So, how do we combat these lies so that we can actually put our resources to good use? How can we avoid the clutter and mess that usually result from these purchases?

  • Think of something worth saving up for. Maybe it’s a trip to Yosemite. Or a gift you want to give to someone who matters to you. Maybe it’s a slow cooker or a blender you’ve been eyeing for ages but can’t afford. And every time you want to spend money frivolously, think of that thing.
  • Before heading to the mall or grocery store, tell someone what you plan to purchase there. Have them ask you what you ended up purchasing when you come back.
  • Ignore advertisements as much as you can. These pesky little things are designed to make us feel inadequate so that we’ll purchase something to fix that feeling. And who wants that?
  • Force yourself to write down 5-10 real, legitimate reasons why you need that item, and show it to someone. If they approve of your reasons and agree with you, then consider it!

7 Reasons we buy things we dont need

Do you find yourself buying things you don’t need? What are some reasons you give yourself, and how do you hope to avoid them in the future?