How To Stop Being A Consumer

One great thing you can do to help Mutilate Your Mortgage and pay it off faster is to stop being a consumer. Now most think about consumerism as upgrading to a new mobile phone even though your current one is fine however it does go a lot deeper than that. When we start out in the world we depend on our parents to do everything for us. They are the authority figures and the providers. We don’t know how to get food, they get it for us. We don’t know how to get shelter, they provide it for us. As we grow older we are capable of providing these things for ourselves however most continue to get food and shelter from their parents until they finish Uni or get fed up with their draconian rules. We move out.

From here though we tend to default to the “authority” figures rather than truly supply ourselves with these things and it’s here I think that true consumerism starts to begin. Do you do your own taxes? Or do you default to the “professional” tax account to do them for you? Do you mow your own lawn? Or do you default to the “professional” gardening service to do it for you? Do you grow your own food? Or do you default to the “professional” supermarket system to do it for you? Do you make your lunches for work? Or do you default to the “professional” café’s and restaurants to do it for you? Consumerism doesn’t just take the form of buying widgets to please oneself (although that is a very real and big problem in today’s world) it also takes the form of allowing someone to live their life consuming things that they should really be learning how to do themselves. So I’m going to separate this post into two different parts for each type.

1. The Going To The Shopping Centre Type

This is what most people think of when you say “consumerism”. Buying plastic toys and crap that breaks five seconds later and is then thrown out. On a recent trip to a friends birthday party I drove down a street with so much stuff on the sides of the road for hard rubbish collection it just made me sad. There were probably about 20+ different piles, all about the size of a large car filled with mattresses, cupboards, old TV’s and so on. Things that can be properly recycled or sold off to be used by someone else but will now just add to the giant tips we hide everywhere. As ERE points out, there are two problems to overcome when trying to turn off the consumerism switch. Some might even say there’s a third which is the initial step of realising that it’s a problem in the first place!

  1. The source of happiness that is consumerism goes away.
  2. Consumerism as a problem solver is no longer a possibility.

The first point is I think the hardest for most people to deal with. When you stop consuming you lose your “retail therapy” kick and some can even get a bit sad or depressed because of it. Usually it’s not the lack of consuming that’s depressing them, it’s something else. But because they’re not able to consume and get that “kick” of happiness every now and then they notice this depression or sadness more and more as time goes on. The solution here is not to go back to consuming but of course to fix the source of that sadness instead. After studying the effect in people for a while now it seems to also be linked to the person being more centred on external appreciation as opposed to being able to internally appreciate themselves. If you buy things and post them on Facebook eagerly waiting for friends and family to chime in with “oh that’s awesome” or “wow I’m so jealous” then this description is aimed at you.

External appreciation obviously comes from external sources as described above. People telling you how good you are, wanting your life, envying you and so on. Internal appreciation on the other hand comes entirely from within. It doesn’t matter if you’re ignored or even hated, you think highly of yourself and encourage, help and congratulate yourself regularly. If you do this, then external purchases mean nothing (or very little) because you’re already getting encouragement from yourself so why would you need other people to be jealous of you too? If you really want to test which side you lie on, buy something that really makes you happy… but don’t tell ANYONE and see how you feel. Are you just busting to tell someone about it? Craving that external assurance and admiration? Or do you honestly not care either way?

The solution for this type of behaviour is to learn to become more content and happy with the life you currently have as opposed to always wanting something else or someone else’s life. Once you can spend a day or a week or a month just enjoying your life without external things “propping up” your happiness levels then you’ll more than likely find buying things is kind of irrelevant. Sure, you could buy those new shoes… but you’ve already got ten pairs and an eleventh pair isn’t exactly going to make you any happier. Sure, you could buy that new power tool but again, it’s not going to make you any happier and you’ll only use it once so you could easily just do that part by hand instead.

There are many theories on curbing this behaviour such as freezing your credit card (literally in ice in the freezer) so that you are forced to wait before purchasing things. Committing to writing things down on a list and waiting 2-4 weeks before buying it to make sure it’s fully wanted and not an impulse buy. I’m more for the following checklist:

  1. Does this item help meet my goals? (paying off the house, getting fitter, learning more etc)
  2. If it does, can I do without the item just this once and instead do the task manually?
  3. If I can’t or I’ve required the item more than 3 times, wait another month and see if I still remember it by then.
  4. If I still remember and want the item after a month start searching online for general prices and where I can get it second hand only.
  5. If it’s still required that I buy this item I sometimes try and tie it into Birthday’s or Christmas presents.
  6. If that doesn’t work then I buy the item at the best price I can making sure I’ll be able to sell it at a similar or higher price in the future.

This means that I’ll happily buy a $200 set of weights if I know I can sell them again for $190 a year later. Rather than buying something to keep forever, I buy it with the assumption that I’ll be selling as soon as it’s no longer required. This system seems to eliminate all but the most crucial things and after a while you don’t even bother considering most things as they get instantly disqualified by the list (mainly number 1 or 2). Doing things manually once or twice a year instead of having the latest “chip cutter” utensil has many benefits than just the initial cost saving. Your house is less cluttered, you have to clean less, your mind is a lot “less burdened” by all the stuff, it’s easier to move, things are easier to find, contents insurance costs less, there is less to replace, less things break down and you can operate as per normal in locations where you don’t have access to that specific device. Again although many of the things we discuss here at MTM might seem isolated on their own (such as reducing clutter) it all ties in together with regards to reducing your daily burden, your daily expenses and thus increasing your savings rates which then increases you mutilation ability. Further more things start to cross pollinate with each other so you get multiple benefits as shown above.

One final point to also remember is to always buy the best you can. Buy quality that lasts for decades not years when buying most items (clothes, couches, plates etc). These are often more expensive but are well worth it. Not only do you get a superior product for the time you use it, you also often end up better off financially as the item won’t break ten times. This saves resources but also saves you time, effort, money and headache researching the same item over and over and over again. An added bonus is that if you combine buying quality with the idea of selling it as soon as it’s no longer required you can often recoup a large portion of your original price (especially if you’ve bought it second hand in the first place).

2. The Paying For “Services” Type

Although less well known, paying for services is fast becoming a very hidden problem for many people. Companies much prefer this model for suckling money out of you for a multitude of reasons. It is a (pretty much) guaranteed source of income for them if you’re paying $XX/month. They can more easily predict future cash flow and it helps justify the value of their business (we have 100,000 customers!!!). The other major reason is that it is a lot less obvious where your money is going when it’s automatically direct debited out of your account each month. People just see their balance go to $0 and “not know where the money is going!“. Magazine subscriptions, regular gardening services, cable (holy crap cable this has to be one of the worst offenders!), regular pet cleaning services, gym memberships (the other worst offender), that $100/month mobile phone subscription and on and on and on. If it’s a service, you should make DAMN sure it is giving you a variable crap tonne of quality of life improvement for the amount you’re paying and then try over and over again to get that amount down. Case in point, I just got another 13% off our electricity bill the other week woo!

Now I’m not saying that all subscription services (or services for that matter at all) are evil. But you should be actively working towards eliminating them one by one at all times. They are a tax on your life for being lazy and not learning how to properly manage your life. Do you fall for that line of getting a tax agent doing your taxes because they’ll “save you money”? Well then why not take you tax to them, watch what they do, ask them questions and then do a bit more learning yourself and from the next year onwards do your own taxes? Do you get someone to clean your house or clip your dog? I’m sorry, but unless you’re already a millionaire you should be cleaning your own damn house and dog. If you’re here because you’ve got a mortgage then you have even less of an excuse to be outsourcing this stuff. Stop being a wuss and clean your own house! Is it too big? Good! Move to a smaller house then and sell off half the junk in all your rooms. That might sound like a “silly thing” but I can almost guarantee you’ll prefer your life after you do it AND you’ll be saving thousands of dollars too.

As said, it’s best to tackle these service charges one at a time which first requires you to make a list of all of them. I’d suggest cutting the easiest ones like magazines or other things that you’re not too fond of but likely just “haven’t had time” to deal with before. Make time now, in fact, I’ll wait while you go cancel a service right now!

Go on, cancel it…

OK so after you’ve taken off the easier ones I’d mostly suggest going for the major one. Cable. If you need help weaning yourself off of TV see here but kicking this habit will open up so much time for you to do good in your life I can barely describe it sufficiently. As an example it’s 7:30 pm right now, most people are watching TV but I’m actually doing something productive, mentally stimulating and helpful to others. It’s just one benefit of our no TV house. Another main one is that without TV sucking 4 hours of your life away each night you’ll have plenty of time to kill all those other services. You’ll have time to hit those goals of yours like exercising more, fixing that stuck sliding door (did this last week) and so on. As above, multiple interconnected benefits from one point to the other.

Making It

When you eventually have a think about it and realise that you haven’t been to a shopping centre in about 6-12 months you’ll know that you’ve successfully dragged yourself out of consumerism. When little trinkets like the latest iPhone 9 don’t really interest you or if they do, you know that they won’t really make you happy so it’s not that big a deal you’ll know you’re clean. And when you’re cleaning your own house, doing your own taxes, fixing the things that brake in your house yourself instead of watching MKR you’ll know to come back here for the next lesson on destroying that mortgage of yours

For the newer readers... if you’re interested in learning more about being mortgage free in under 10 years, automatically and without cutting back on the things you love... You’ll probably like How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early, Go From No Idea To Mortgage Free In Under 10 Years.

The benefits include: 1) How to pay off your mortgage faster than 99% of people with one hour a month of work 2) How to get rid of your debt and have the freedom to spend money on the things you love, guilt free 3) Clear outline of how to setup your expenses, mortgage and general finance 4) How offset accounts work and how to get the same result without being gouged by the big banks 5) How to cut through the crap and focus on the things that truly matter when taking down a mortgage 6) How to adjust the strategy so it works for you, even if you have kids, even if you only have one income 7) How to do all of these things and maintain a normal social life (and never be cheap).


How To Pay Off A Mortgage Early Course    How To Stay Employed In The Robotic Future Course