You’re Not That New Pair Of Shoes – 9 Ways Buying Things Won’t Make You Happy

Some people buy things because they think it will make them happier. They may buy a new pair of shoes to feel better about themselves or a new car to impress someone. Well, I want to tell you something: Buying things won’t make you a happier person. Instead, you should focus on what makes YOU…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: October 4, 2016

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Buying things and adding debt to your life won't make you happy. Instead, you should do what makes YOU happy and think carefully about your spending.Some people buy things because they think it will make them happier. They may buy a new pair of shoes to feel better about themselves or a new car to impress someone.

Well, I want to tell you something: Buying things won’t make you a happier person. Instead, you should focus on what makes YOU happy.

However, that doesn’t stop some people from spending much more than they have, especially because it’s easy to think that buying things will make them a happier person.

Considering that 68% of people live paycheck to paycheck, 26% have no savings whatsoever, the median amount saved for retirement is less than $60,000, and the average household has $7,283 in credit card debt- I’m going to assume that the average person is feeling more stress than happiness due to the things that they buy.

Sure, you may get a little bit of excitement as you purchase that new pair of shoes or new car (occasionally), but for the most part, you won’t still have that same feeling years later.

You probably won’t even be happy with that purchase just a month later!

Usually, you’ll regret it or feel some other negative feeling, and in today’s post we’ll talk about why that spending won’t make you happy.

Now, I’m not saying that all spending is bad. Spending is fine, as long as it’s budgeted for, you can afford it, and it actually makes you happy! In this blog post, I’m referring to the opposite type of spending- the type where you’re trying to impress someone, emotional spending, and so on.

Related:

Buying things won’t make you happy for many reasons. Continue reading below to learn more.

 

Your stuff doesn’t define who you are.

Having more stuff doesn’t make you happier and your stuff doesn’t define who you are.

You’re not that pair of pants…

You’re not your car…

You should only purchase things that you want and/or need, and not if you are trying to pretend to be someone else. You should only own something if you truly want it. Who cares about what everyone else has!

 

Your emotions can lead to spending disasters.

Some people spend money and buy things because they believe that it will make them happy. This is known as emotional spending.

According to NerdWallet, the average U.S. household (who has debt) has an average credit card debt of $15,611, and I’m sure some of that is due to emotional spending.

Emotional spending occurs for many different reasons. You may have had a bad day at work, a fight with your loved one, and so on. You might even be spending because you are stressed out about the amount of spending you have done.

However, emotional spending usually just leads to more problems and most often, never cures anything.

To end your emotional spending habit, I recommend:

  • Figuring out how much debt you have. You’ll most likely be shocked, and hopefully this will persuade you to change your spending habits and the way you deal with stress.
  • Understanding why you spend when you’re stressed. In order to stop stress spending, you need to really think about why you have this problem. Without understanding your problem, you may continue to fall into the same cycle over and over again.
  • Thinking about your financial goals, so that you can stay motivated.
  • Finding different ways to deal with stress.
  • Sticking to a budget.

 

Buying things can prevent you from reaching your goal.

You may be preventing yourself from reaching a financial goal by purchasing more and more. This can lead to additional stress, sadness, a feeling of defeat, and more.

The next time you are going to purchase something that is just a “want,” you may want to think about whether or not it will hold you back from your goal.

 

More stuff means more to maintain.

With every item you add to your life, there will be more and more that you’ll have to spend extra time and money to maintain. Things may get broken, lost, stolen, dirty, etc. They may need to be repaired or even replaced.

Who wants all of that stress?

 

That purchase may cost you more in the long run.

To build on the previous point, the initial cost of purchasing an item may not be the only cost. You may also need to pay to store the item, organize it, interest charges, and so on.

This can lead to more stress, more time spent on the item, and so on.

 

There’s always something else to buy.

I know people who are always buying the latest and greatest items. Every year they will buy the newest iPhone, they’ll upgrade their laptop, and more. Most of these people are in debt and live a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.

Are these people happy?

I don’t know, but I don’t see how upgrading every single year could make you a happier person if you can’t afford it.

The thing is, there will always be something newer to buy. If you want the latest and greatest thing, you may be disappointed because there will always be something else.

 

What makes one person happy won’t necessarily be the same for you.

I’m sure almost everyone, at one point in their life, has felt the need to keep up with someone else.

You may want the same car, the same house, the same designer clothing, and so on.

The problem with this is that it can make you broke.

When trying to keep up with someone else, you might spend money you do not have. You might put expenses on credit cards to (in a pretend world) “afford” things. You might buy things that you do not care about. The problems can go on and on.

This can lead to a significant amount of debt.

Trying to the same things as someone else is not worth it because:

  • You will never be happy, no matter how much money you spend.
  • You will constantly compare yourself to everyone.
  • You will go into debt because that’s the only way you feel like you can keep up.
  • You will have a loan payment for everything because that’s the only way you can “afford” things.
  • You won’t have any money leftover for retirement, an emergency fund, etc. because you’re spending it all on things you do not need.

Instead, you should figure out why you want to keep up with someone else, think about your own life and your own goals, realize that jealousy won’t get you anywhere, and try your best to live within your means.

 

You’re not impressing anyone.

If you’re purchasing things just to impress others, well- you will be disappointed. For the most part, no one cares or will even know that you bought something new.

You should do what makes you happy and only buy things for yourself- not to impress anyone else.

 

Money problems may lead to stress and other problems.

If you buy things that you cannot afford, this can lead to significant amounts of stress and other financial problems.

You may find yourself with more credit card debt than you can handle, personal loans, high interest charges, stuck in a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, and more.

Who wants all of that?

Do you think that buying things makes you happy? Why or why not?

 


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. LOL I think I just posted this after I left the last comment. You’re not your stuff. πŸ™‚

  2. Wise words. Even though I am now out of debt and have changed my ways a lot, I do still struggle with spending. There is always some project, some room that needs to be painted, some chair that needs to be replaced. I try hard to differentiate between wants and needs but it easily gets muddy for me! Reminders like this are helpful for getting some clarity…

    1. Amanda

      It’s funny, as I was reading through the post, I was thinking about how I don’t tend to spend money on things that don’t make me happy (in fact, I rarely spend money on clothes, shoes, etc.). Then I read Linda’s comment and realized the money I spend on my DIY and home improvement projects is still spending on non-needs. Sometimes this spending brings a small amount of joy for a while, but it always disappears. Great reminder to take a really close look at where I’m spending!

      1. Yes, exactly! When you add it all up, it comes together quickly πŸ™‚

  3. Great list of things here that put it in really motivating terms!

    I think that being clutter-free and organised really does become addicting (in a good way) and it soon becomes easy to resist the temptation of more stuff. The more we train our will-power the stronger it gets! πŸ™‚

    Jasmin

  4. I purchased my dream car because I could afford it and partially for lifestyle inflation. You are right, once the initial newness wears off, people still complement you for having a nice car, but, at the end of the day it is only a car.

    I sold it two weeks ago as my hobbies and scheduled have changed and it was no longer practical. It was a hard decision because it was fun to drive (a Mustang GT), but, it is nice knowing I don’t have to spend time to maintain it by keeping it covered to prevent scratches, etc.

    I think it’s okay to have quality items, but, it’s the motive that matters more.

  5. That’s a great point that buying stuff can bring more stress than happiness. I’ve always been in the “buying things won’t make you happy” meaning it won’t bring a positive feeling out of you and will leave you in a neutral position but never thought to look at it as buying things will bring a negative feeling out of you.

    I haven’t bought anything that I don’t need for the past few months, I have to splurge at least once in a while to blow off the thrifty living lifestyle!

  6. Yes, definitely! I hardly ever buy clothing now, which is normal to some- but not for me. I used to work in retail and would spend a crazy amount on clothing pretty much every single day that I worked.

  7. Melissa M.

    It took many years for me to realize all of this. It’s tough to change those thought processes, and at times I still struggle with “I want I want I want,” but the older I get the more I realize how much better experiences and connections are than material possessions.

    I used to go to Target and buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, decorative items, etc etc, then leave it all sitting in my house in bags for days before even unpacking anything. All that “buying” was a temporary fix for a bad mood, and it took a long time to shift to more appropriate ways of dealing with my feelings.

    Thanks for this insightful post, Michelle!

  8. Ugh. I’m so happy I paid off all my credit card debt years ago. It was such a feeling of relief!

    Buying things definitely doesn’t make me happy. I really want to retire early and I don’t make a huge salary, so I put a lot of thought into buying most things (except groceries and necessary items). Even though I do a lot of my clothes shopping at the thrift store I only buy items that I absolutely love and know I would wear a lot.

    1. Good job on paying off your credit card debt!

  9. Beth

    It’s very weird that a topic that has been heavy on my mind is now a topic that I have been reading about on many blogs recently. It’s sort of like when you don’t notice a type of car until maybe you have that type of car – and then you see it everywhere. LOL

    I rarely go shopping unless it is for my kids or of course, grocery shopping. I really despise the whole process of like going to multiple stores and getting in and out of my car and walking around the stores looking for whatever it may be and paying for the items and I especially hate lugging it all home adding to the stuff I already have. The happiness I get from getting something new lasts literally about 1 minute. I try to avoid it all costs.

    Anyway – Happiness is a choice within you and stuff will not make you happy. Only you can do that. πŸ˜‰

    1. LOVE your comment Beth. You are so right!

  10. Michael

    The simple truth is people judge you every second every day – judge you by the car you drive, the phone you have etc. etc. etc. Sales guys at a car lot will rush to you if you get off a Benz than if you did a Honda or a Nissan.

    I have been made fun of for living well below my means. However, this one doesn’t bother me at all one bit! A lot of people feel pressured into maintaining a lifestyle they can’t afford to maintain social status. All I can say is “wrong answer”. Anytime you are pressured into something, it is usually wrong.

  11. I don’t think buying things makes you happy. If buying things makes you happy you’re allowing the items to have control over your emotions and letting them define you.

  12. Mustard Seed Money

    I don’t think buying things make you happy otherwise millionaire and billionaires would be the happiest people on the planet. Happiness for me is spending time with my friends and family and using my talents to help others. Thanks for the awesome post!!!

  13. I used to think buying things makes me happy but at the end of the day, it doesn’t. Quite the opposite to be honest! I’m more careful when I shop now and always ask the question whether it is necessary to buy it or not. I think being responsible with what you buy makes you happy. I agree that nobody cares what you buy, so no need to impress people. πŸ™‚

  14. Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog

    Agreed. I’ve never been into material things much.

  15. Lindsey Mozgai

    For me, buying things do not bring me happiness. However, money spent on experiences and trips has never failed to bring me happiness and are often my fondest memories.

  16. One of the first rules of finance is learning how to clamp down on spending. Franklin’s maxim of a dollar saved a dollar earned is still true. I think the most important part to remember about money is that it cannot bring you Love or anything of lasting spiritual value, it can only give you the freedom to pursue it.

  17. Have you been monitoring my Amazon account? πŸ˜‰ I’m totally with you on things not making you happy. The weird thing I’ve been experiencing, now that we’re so close to early retirement, is this feeling that I’ll never get to dress up like a business woman again. And so I decided to buy a few pairs of (very reasonably priced!) shoes to wear to meetings for my last year, so I could essentially play dress up for my victory lap year. Pretty ridiculous, I know, but so far I’ve been feeling good about the expenditure. πŸ™‚

    1. Haha, I know how you feel. I hardly ever dress up now, and it is so different from when I was a financial analyst and had to wear dress suits all the time.

  18. Buying stuff is certainly not the best way to attain happiness. Of course, if it’s something you’ve saved up for and worked hard to get you may experience some joy at the purchase. However, buying things to manage your emotions is a clear sign that something is wrong and spending money isn’t likely to solve it.

  19. Erica Holland | ModMoney

    I love this post! I’ll be the first to admit that my guilty pleasure is buying new workout clothes. I justify it by telling myself that they motivate me to hit the gym or sign up for fitness classes. But the sense of joy is always fleeting! It’s great to remind ourselves what is truly important in life and to focus on what will make us happy in the long run.

  20. Nicki

    I had an emotional shopping problem. The things were for my 2 little girls. I never bought for myself. All it did was cause overflowing closets of clothes they grew out of way to fast, and more toys scattered to clutter the house. Once I realized this I nipped it in the tush. Don’t get me wrong… I still do some shopping,but on a budget. We actually enjoy spending time as a family going to garage sales.. it curbs the urge and is easier on the pocket book. I’m glad you picked this topic. Great read!!!

  21. I think this is a great subject to write about and is definitely something that a lot of people struggle with at least once in their life. I think posts like these help to remind people that material things cannot bring true long-lasting happiness. Hopefully posts like these also help people get back on track with their personal finances as well. Thanks for writing! Your blog is great!

  22. Erin

    Buying stuff definitely makes you feel “happy” for about 5 minutes – most likely when you first put it on or put it to use. I am not a huge shopper – especially for clothes – but one trick I like is to pick up things that I think I want/need and carry them around the store with me. The more I look at them and think about them, 9 times out of 10 I realize I do not need/want them and I put them back. It also helps me narrow down from a large group of items which items are really something I need to buy that day.

  23. Jason

    This post seems to diagnose 333% of my current buying habit. I always surfed online for new ‘things’. As soon as I purchased something new, I felt like something void was being filled inside me. But it only lasted for a day or two. I finally realized that my continuous buying habit was to fill something void inside me. But at the same time, buying things cluttered my life more and more, thus it made my void bigger and I searched for something more, which kept me inside a repetitive vicious cycle. I finally decided to end this vicious cycle by learning something new instead of buying something new. What is void inside me has to be filled with something intangible because the void itself is intangible. πŸ™‚

  24. every day presents a new opportunity to someone to change their way of thinking so not only will their spending habits decrease and their side hustle millionaire potential increased, but they can also benefit from which your spiritual growth and a new entrepreneurial way of thinking that will help them achieve more than making more money or line years to come. I think it’s safe to say almost everyone is guilty of buying too many things they thought that would make them happy in the moment while slowly but surely going into personal debt.