5 Rules of Conscious Shopping: How to Buy Less and Better
Shopping is essentially about making choices. There’s a great wide world of stuff for sale out there and shopping is the process by which we decide what is going into the cart and thereby into our homes and our lives.
The sheer quantity of stuff we have to choose from is both a privilege and a curse. Giving yourself some parameters helps narrow your options to things you can feel good about owning and giving to your loved ones. We call this conscious shopping.
Putting the conscious into shopping means thinking about everything you buy and how it affects the world around you. Because we’re constantly exchanging money for stuff, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of every little transaction, but what you buy is actually a very real way to exert influence.
When you choose useful, well-made, sustainable things from ethical companies, you elevate those values. Leave the things that don’t meet your high standards on the shelf and you’ve turned shopping into a powerful way to steer the marketplace in a more responsible direction.
- Buy Less
Before you put your money down, ask yourself what need you are satisfying. To break the over-buying habit, you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re able to pin the desire to buy on boredom or the feeling that you want a pick-me-up, try to rein in that acquisitive impulse. Identifying why you feel the urge to buy helps you decide whether you really need something new or not.
- Buy Useful
When you truly do need a new thing, it’s time to do your research, also known as shopping around. Before you buy, make sure that you are getting the most useful thing possible, the one that’s really going to improve your life. When online reviews seem to go around in circles (one person loves it, the next hates it), try reaching out to friends and family for their experiences. The goal is to have fewer things that are better at fulfilling their intended functions. This approach also keeps you from buying different versions of the same thing over and over, which wastes time, money, and stuff.
- Buy Well-Made
Have you ever noticed this pattern? When you buy cheap junk what you get is kinda, well, cheap junk? And cheap junk soon wears out, falls apart, ends up in the bin, and has to be replaced. Spending more upfront on something well-made from quality materials is almost always worth it because things that are better made last longer and do their job better. Buying something more expensive can save you money in the long run because you won’t have to replace things as often and you’ll be contributing less to the global waste crisis.
- Buy Eco
Speaking of less waste, this needs to be a big priority in every purchase you make. Only buy products with sustainable sourcing and disposal credentials. Companies have been allowed to get away with trashy practices for too long and now we’re all paying the price. Make sure you support businesses that have thought through the environmental impacts of what they are selling and taken on the responsibility of their ecological footprint all the way through their sourcing, production, shipping, use-life, and eventual disposal.
- Buy Ethical
Conscious shopping eventually comes down to deciding what kind of companies you want to support, which in turn comes down to what kind of world you want to live in. Most of the time, your money disappears into a company’s pockets after your transaction never to be seen again. But more socially responsible companies are making it a point to give back a portion of their profits to lift up their local and global communities, improving the quality of people’s lives now and preserving our planet for the future. Show your support for ethical business practices when you buy.
You’ve Got the Power
But wait, you might be thinking, if I apply all these rules, it significantly reduces what I can buy. That's kind of the point. If you observe these rules as rigorously as possible, your pool of potential goods does shrink dramatically. This inevitably leads to the conclusion that you don’t need most of the stuff you think about buying, especially when it comes at a high cost to the lives of other humans and the environment.
For the things you really do need, conscious shopping allows you to make better purchasing decisions so that you get the best things you can afford while sending a powerful message about the kind of business practices you want to see in the world.