“The heart wants what the heart wants…”
Advertisers work tirelessly to influence our spending habits and incorporate a variety of tactics to accomplish their goal.
They understand that controlling a consumer’s checkbook often begins on an emotional level. They know that influencing a consumers’ attitude or belief toward their product is one important avenue to influencing their behavior. Case in point: A recent advertising campaign by Subaru proudly proclaims their desire to communicate with a potential buyer’s heart and mind in an effort to influence their behavior.
After trying numerous approaches in the past to contain overspending, I believe this is the strategy that keeps many of us from breaking free from our personal patterns of overspending. We’ve tried budgeting, waiting periods, and cutting up credit cards…only to find out that these external fixes don’t win out over our internal desires. They may work for a short time, but because advertisers have connected with our heart, our mind, and our emotions, our unhealthy spending patterns almost always return.
To overcome overspending in our lives, we need to find a new approach. If external fixes have not sufficiently changed your behavior, consider the need to redefine your attitudes and beliefs towards possessions and spending. These internal changes will, in turn, begin to have an impact on your external behavior.
For a new approach to spending less, try one of these inside-out principles:
1. Recognize that we live in an overhyped culture of consumption. From the moment we were born, we’ve been bombarded with thousands of advertising messages every day. According to Yankelovich, a market research firm, the average American living in a city today sees up to 5,000 ad messages everyday. Each of these messages compel us to purchase and consume. While deep down, most of us know that overspending is not a wise behavior, we’ve been told to purchase and consume so many times and from so many voices, that we start to buy into what they’re selling. Realize that nearly every moment of every day, you are being sold something… and become wiser towards their tactics because of it.
2. Watch less television. In 2009, broadcast television took in $22 billion in advertising sales and cable television earned $20 billion. Corporations don’t spend that much money on television commercials because they think they can get you to buy their product, they spend that much money because they know they can get you to buy their product. Television is an industry built on the assumption that you can be convinced to spend (and overspend) your money. You are not immune. After all, if the selling platform ever stopped working, it would no longer exist. If you want to turn off overspending, start by turning off the television.
3. Consider the full cost of your purchases. Usually when we purchase an item, we only look at the sticker price. But this is rarely the full cost of our purchases. In fact, whether it be cleaning, organizing, maintaining, fixing, replacing, or removing, every purchase we make costs us additional time, energy, and focus. In addition, many of our purchases today require further financial investment tomorrow (electricity, accessories, upgrades, etc). Making a habit of intentionally factoring those expenses into our purchases will allow our minds to make more competent and confident decisions with our dollars.
4. Consider the benefits of owning less. Owning fewer possessions has numerous short-term and long-term benefits. For example, a home with fewer possessions is easier to clean and maintain. Homes absent of clutter are less stressful and more rejuvenating. People who buy less, carry less debt and possess greater opportunity to financially support causes they believe in. The sooner we get a clear understanding of the benefits of owning less, the sooner we embrace a lifestyle of buying less.
5. Practice generosity. Generosity has a powerful affect on our lives. Studies have shown that generous people are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life. This may be because generosity forces us to appreciate the things we own and how much we have to give others. Ultimately, generosity begins to change the way we view the world. We begin to find our fulfillment in life by helping others. And when we begin to experience fulfillment in generosity, we have less need to fill our lives with unnecessary purchases.
6. Find time each day to consider the unseen blessings of life. Emotions such as love, hope, and peace bring us lasting joy and happiness. Unfortunately, we live in world that is ruled by rational thinking, bottom-lines, and physical production. Finding time in our busy schedules to reflect upon the good things we already possess can be difficult. But if we can find consistent time each day to meditate on the joy found in the invisible blessings of life, it just may change the way we view the physical things.
To be clear, I am not arguing against behavior-based solutions to overspending. My family has used budgets, waiting-periods, and cash-envelopes in the past to limit our overspending. But if advertisers are working overtime to connect with our deepest emotions and thought-patterns, we would be wise to do the same.