Debt Finances & Money

I’m tired of buying and spending

I think I’ve become anti-consumer. I used to want all the latest gadgets.  I used to envision the nicest things in our home. I used to lust over new cars and dream about driving long patches of asphalt in a Ferrari. But now I just can’t deal with the onslaught of advertisements and “deals” and the idea of spending.

I’ve been sick of spending well before getting out of consumer debt, so it wasn’t the idea of being debt-free making me not want to spend. So what is it? Well, it’s not that I don’t want “stuff”, but when I begin to consider actually buying something I desire or even need, a feeling just washes over me and I lose the urge. I can’t even explain the feeling other than “ugh”.

I’m not quite sure if it’s a good or a bad thing either. Often the immediate thoughts are either “what we have is good enough for now” or “it’s too much effort to find the right thing”. For example, I’d like new living room furniture. I don’t like the style or lack of comfort of our existing sofas, but after dealing with furniture stores in the past and knowing how expensive decent furniture can be, I just don’t want to deal with it.

As another example, I drive about 55-60 miles per day for work, so I listen to a lot of radio and CDs. I’d love to have more listening options, which could entail an MP3 player or HD radio or satellite radio. I got Stacie an iPod Nano for Christmas in 2008 and she loves it. She uses an FM transmitter in her car to play it over the radio, which is not optimal, but it works. I’ve considered getting one for myself many times, but I think “it’s just another thing I have to manage in my life“. I have to maintain iTunes, my song library, figure out how to connect it in my truck, charge it and worry about it breaking or being stolen or lost. And I’m sure I would then want to upgrade my truck stereo so I can plug it in directly rather than through an FM Transmitter, which would cost at least $100 or more.

I listen to friends, coworkers and family talking about the latest deals or things they just “must have”, and where I used to feel envy or caught up in the “buying mood”, now I just think “but aren’t you in debt?” or “do you have a plan to pay it off?” or “how does that gadget help fulfill your life?“. I usually don’t verbalize these questions, depending on who it is, but they do pop into my head.

I recognize that I shouldn’t be judgmental, but I can’t help but worry for my friends and family, knowing the deep crap I got myself into and barely got out of with regards to debt and spending. I was lucky enough to get a series of jobs with good salaries, plus a frugal wife, which both helped me to get my act together, pay off the debt and not accrue too much more in the process. But I know my fellow consumers don’t have one or both of these things in their lives, and will be paying off today’s purchases years and years from now.

I can quickly come off as preachy and lecturing outside of this blog (ask my wife, my mom, my sister, etc.), which is why my writing style is more about telling my own story rather than telling you what YOU should do. Each of our situations is different and I can’t begin to fathom all the crap going on in your lives, so I just put forth a few key principals that I’ve learned to help me reign in the spending, get out of debt, and change my perspective on the art of consumerism:

  1. Cut spending – If you think you MUST have that coffee (even home-brewed) every morning or you can’t live, then you’re not in the right mindset to begin getting out of the hole you’re in. Or if you’re in a habit of “rewarding” yourself with little gifts for things like “getting through the day”, step back and look at the big picture to see how much it all adds up. Just some examples, but I’m sure you have things or services or activities in your life you just can’t seem to part with, but if you’re serious about getting out of debt and getting a good financial record, you’ll at least try.
  2. Start saving – One of the reasons people get into debt is because they either lack discipline or they lack planning for what life throws at us. You might have a “take it as it comes” mentality, and have the savings account to match, but you need more than just credit cards to watch your back, or else you’ll just be stuck your whole life. Contribute at least a few bucks out of each paycheck towards a savings account (not under your mattress or a piggy bank…something more secure and harder to access) and don’t access it unless you absolutely HAVE TO! And going out for drinks after a rough day at work is NOT a reason to empty your savings.
  3. Repeat – Don’t try to cut out everything at once or contribute too much to savings because it probably won’t last. Cut the easy things and put those expenses into savings. See how you feel about it and ride it out for some time, then see what the next lowest hanging fruit is that you can cut out and stuff into your bank account.
  4. Ignore Investing – I don’t mean stop contributing to investments; rather, I mean don’t get distracted by all those commercials for money market this and IRA that. Your immediate goal is just fixing your finances; you’ll work on sorting out your future after you get control of your present.
  5. Ask for help – I contribute some of my success to being open about the stupid mistakes we’ve made financially. Some people, perhaps you, have issues with opening up about money, and that’s understandable. But you need to talk to someone, whether it’s a friend, family member, professional counselor or a bunch of strangers (through a blog). You’ll realize that your mess is not unique. Others have lived through it and gotten out. While your life is different, at least listen to their stories and you’ll see some things to apply in your own life.

So, this article took a bit of a turn from my original intention of complaining about spending to giving advice about getting out of a financial hole, but that’s fine. I would, however, like to know if any of you also feel like you’re tired of all the deals and ads and opportunities to spend, just like I am. Let me know in the comments, along with your thoughts on my 5 tips.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I totally agree. I’m way past having “gadget lust”.

    I went to the mall this week (I was feeling sick, and got bored), and went for the specific purpose of buying something, anything. And I just couldn’t do it. I have clothes. I have food. I have shelter, good friends and family….what more do you need?

    Debt Kid

  • Same goes here, not that I can’t afford, I just don’t feel like buying stuff I already have, as long as it is still working then that’s okay. I don’t have to keep buying things for the sole purpose of satisfying my vices. I buy what I really needed and what could really help me save a little.

  • I think maybe this is just a form of consumerism burnout, in the same category as frugal burnout — in that you just can’t take it anymore.

    I credit too the deluge of ads we see on a daily basis. Especially if you’re driving so much and hearing so many ads. If you watch too many commercials and see too many advertisements, it becomes this perpetual cacophony of demands to spend your money. So even if you want to buy stuff, you have to then figure out what you want to buy and how to prioritize it. It’s wearying — even if that seems ridiculous from an outside perspective.

    It’s just another form of information overload: Ads almost seem to demand that we buy. We get resentful — not just that everyone wants our hard-earned dollars, but also that we are told to want so much, it’s hard to know where to start. And whatever you buy, you’re giving up other opportunities for other things you want (or are supposed to want).

    It’s enough to drive anyone into an anti-consumerism funk.

    Since I’ve used TiVo (then later switched to DVR) it is a lot easier to cope with this phenomenon. I think it’s because I just don’t hear as many commercials. On the other hand, this can make the ones you do see have more of an impact. So, when I start to feel antsy and wanting to buy something, I end up (willingly or not) picturing the mall or superstore I’d have to visit to get it. And, once again, a malaise washes over me that makes me just want to stay home and be happy with the stuff I already have.

    It’s weird, but handy!

  • I drive a 1987 Honda Accord, the radio has not worked in 10 years don,t think I am missing anything. I can buy all the VHS movies I can ever watch for a $1 each at yard sales, don,t think I am missing anything. I get great clothes by shopping thrift stores, just bought a great shirt (Van Huesen) for a $1, don,t really think I am missing anything. The wife and I go out to eat mostly at Asian buffets, foods great!, price reasonable, don,t thinkng Im missing anything. We rent an $800 a month apartment, don,t rain in here, so im happy. I make a upper middle class salary and do not owe anything to anyone other than regular monthly bills. I think I live a good life. Americans have gone overboard with buying this and buying that.

  • I love point #3. Taking you time to figure out how to budget and cut expenses. It takes time to a) realize what you already spend and b) how to go about lowering the expenses. Giving yourself some semblance of freedom is so helpful. We have stacked some extra cash in our checking account as we crack down on our budget, that we could use to pay off our debts, but we are waiting to make sure we have our budget tight so we do not make anymore mistakes.

  • My husband runs his own lawn care business, which is seasonal as we are in WV. So from November to March/April we are reduced back down to one income.

    He actually has several places he could “go to work” over the winter (he has worked at almost every fast food restaurant in our town) but he would not be very happy during that time…so we discussed it and I said that I would rather have him Happy 🙂 and stay home to explore other things he can do for $$ during that time that would interest him more…like sell on ebay, make things to sell, online $$ opportunities, etc. He also gets alot done around the house during that time too, so he is my Handyman 🙂 This winter he has gotten to spend alot of time home with the kids as they have been out of school due to snow quite a bit, so that also makes it very convenient to not have to make sitter arrangements (though I am a bit jealous of all their together time!)…

    So, to get to my point, during these 5 months we switch to SuperFrugal mode, as a necessity. This past year I had planned to have funds saved to cover this time period, but ended up using the $$ for a badly needed new roof. But I was ecstatic to do it, as in the past I wouldn’t have had the $$ to replace the roof…but since I had buidling my emergency/Winter Fund it was no problem! Yay Me!

    But I find that when we get back to having 2 incomes again, it is still hard to spend $$ on things…even things that are not splurges but more smart or necessary purchases. It is like once I hit the zone, it is hard to come back out. That is a good thing though I guess. We have all gotten much better at realizing the “wants” vs. needs…and we just don’t have many needs.

    During those lean months we KNOW that there is absolutely not any extra $ to spare so we have plenty of time to think about the things that we want to buy and determine if it is an actual NEED or just a want…no spur of the moment spending. It is simply not an option as we have to stick to the budget!

    I can’t wait to cancel our cable (as soon as American Idol is over-sorry it is my only vice-until Football comes back on in the Fall which is my Husbands’). I can tell a huge difference in my kids when they can’t just turn on the tv and space out in front of it…it also makes me mad at all the advertising, especially during childrens shows!

    I am going to add that extra $$ saved to my emergency/winter fund for this year. I am more excited about rebuilding my savings than I could be about any mere object I could possibly buy!

  • We are bombarded with ‘opportunities to buy’ in our culture. It’s information overload…if we’re not careful we’ll feel ‘out of touch’ by saying no to so many wants, Not needs….it sounds to me like you’re done with all the mantras that people live by…spend, spend, spend….

  • An excellent article. I don’t usually read finance blogs but this post stood out to me, especially the beginning.

    I’m completely the same way. I procrastinate on buying new things, because I know they will just be more hassle than they are worth.

    It takes me a long time to buy something. I just moved to another country so I own practically nothing. I live in a furnished apartment and it feels great.

    Keeping my life simple takes work, buying and spending and increasing the complexity is easy.

  • Agreed. I still want a lot of things, but less than before. I’m definitely trying to work on it. I’ve noticed a flashy car or newest gadget doesn’t appeal to me but does to so many of my friends. It’s unbelievable how overextended people will make themselves over stuff. It’s almost ‘normal’ for someone to have a minimum wage job and a 100 dollar a month cell phone plan, or a car lease that is 75% the cost of rent in the SF bay area. Ack!

    Personally, having student loans that I pay off scares me enough to try my hardest not to acquire additional debt.

  • You know, i totally get this. I really haven’t bought anything that wasn’t functional in quite a long time. Even then, it makes me cringe. I was using an electric trimmer that would get caught on my facial hair until i recently used reward points to replace it. I wonder if i would be using it still today if i wasn’t for my amex points.

  • I’m tired of upgrades to durable goods and paying useage fees. I have a “new” 2003 tube tv, 32″, that is now in my bedroom. It should last another 5+ years but people ask me when I’m upgrading it to HD.
    Internet use, cellphone, cable, I pay almost $200 a month for these services that I didn’t have back when I started college. It will cost me an extra $2400 to “live” now than it did in the 90s.

    My digital camera is 3 years old and already feels old. But it works great. I’ll keep it until it breaks. My old 35 mm from the 80s still works…

    We’re used to this now. Cell phones are made to be disposed of every 2 years, I have friends who upgrade their iPod with each new release while I’ve owned 2, ever.

    We get what we deserve sometimes as consumers. It’s nice to break the cycle and be happy with what we have… and the extra money!

  • Hi! Excellent post! I feel as though I am an “anti-consumer” now a days. My husband and I are within 1 year of being debt free and I am so excited. We are living comfortably and making way more than the minimum payment on our 2 cards we owe on. Each of us have an emergency fund in our checking accounts and I built up an emergency stash in the basement of toiletries and non perishable items. Over the last 6 months, I do not have a need to spend money. I know we should upgrade our microwave ( It is the knob- turn kind, with no clock) but it works just fine. We do not have car payments. Our cellphones are older. My husbands phone was purchased in 1999 and I have had my latest phone since 2002. They both work just fine as well. We have them for emergencies only as we still have our landline.

    I love my life without the latest gadgets. I dont need the IPhone or an IPod or the newest flat screen TV. I cannot wait to be debt free!

  • Hi Dude, I feel I found my twin soul mate 🙂
    I am managing my life and family life in a simple and modest way.
    A friend of mine invited me to see a movie on his new LCD screen.. I asked him “aren’t you in deep mortgage depts ??” he said “hey, but it was in a one-time-offer..” Where on earth did he lose his brains ?
    He stared at me as if I was crazy to connect between the two.

    I try to teach my daughter to find the right answer “do you need it” or “do you want it”. (Not easy when all the media is pushing Ads in her face)
    I am sad to say, I think many people with low self esteem are too troubled with ‘what others will think about them’. So they try to cover the gap with new things.
    Once people find out that they are GOOD as they are, it helps to overcome the urge to BUY new stuff which is not needed.

  • Good article, which I think reflects a growing sentiment. We just don’t need much of the stuff we buy. Its that simple.

    I look at children such as my own, and see how they “must” get that new toy, and how excited they are to play with it….for a few weeks. Then, that toy they just “had to have”, isn’t used anymore.

    That’s ok and natural for kids. But not for adults.

    We need to really ask ourselves if we “need” something before purchasing. Its ok to buy something wanted but not needed, but the distinction should be made clear in our minds when we purchase. Its a good habit to get into. Also, thinking in terms of opportunity cost is a good practice as well. For example. instead of grabbing dinner outside and spending $9.00, think about how you could eat 2 healhier dinners at home for $4.50 each.

  • In our children’s birthdays it got even worse.. we saw them sitting in a pile of new presents, ripping the cover paper, holding them for 5 sec’ and throwing them a side only to open another present.
    We then decided, to pile all the new presents, and open them one in every week or so.
    The effect was that each game had been appreciated, enjoyed, played with and excited from, for long weeks after the birthday.

  • Ha ha ha! I can totally identify with the ipod/ truck radio scenario. I drive a 92 Honda Accord that just has a basic radio/tape player (props to Joe and his 87 Accord!). I usually just channel surf with the radio when I’m on a long drive. But recently in order to fix a loose antenna mount that was allowing water to get in the trunk, I decided to take the antenna out of the car and coverover the mounting hole with tape (Leak solved!). I was astonished that I can still get 3 FM stations even without an antenna! It’s good enough for me, besides which I really have more important things to do with the $35-150 or it would cost to install a new antenna and/or update the car stereo.

    PS Honda Joe, beware! There is a character in Chuck Klosterman’s “Downtown Owl” who drives a truck without a working radio in Nebraska and almost dies because he gets caught in a blizzard because he can’t receive the weather warning in his truck. Maybe it’s worth getting a junkyard radio and putting it in yourself.

  • Hi….read all these things i think if we are doing some thing we don,t need to cut of everything at once .people get in trouble beacuse they either lack of dicipline and lack of planning.

  • Hello to all
    My name is Dave and I’m an alchoh….oops…wrong venue!
    Actually, I was one of the “bad guys” who wrote, produced and promoted advertising and marketing in the retail trades. I gave it up because I got sick of distorting benefits to the point of lying about products.
    Nowadays, while watching live TV, reading the paper or listening to radio, the unending glut of ads turns my stomach. Almost all my TV viewing is done on pre-recorded tape off an old hand-me-down recorder…I simply fast-forward all the junk. I feel good when I do it. The truth be told, advertising in all forms can be good for the economy if it’s done honestly, sincerly and without glitz. Just once I’d like to see an unadorned female, ie, no facelift, not skinny, little if any makeup and “regular” hair ask me to buy something. Just be real reading an honest script.
    There used to an old saying in advertising that proclaimed “It’s not the steak, it’s the SIZZLE!”. Well, sooner or later you really do need the steak.
    Thanks for allowing an old snakeoil salesman to vent.
    Good luck,

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