Consumer fads and trends come and go—this will never change.
What can change is how we interact with them.
A fad, as defined by industry, is “a style, activity, or interest that is very popular for a short period of time.” Think: fidget spinners, rainbow looms, Beanie Babies, or those women’s shirts with the shoulders cut out.
A trend, on the other hand, is “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving.” Trends are not inherently negative—they may be positive or negative. They just last longer than fads. Americans deciding to eat healthier could be considered a trend. Likewise, so is the increase in energy drink consumption.
Contrary to a positive trend, buying into a fad has virtually no long-term benefit. Fads steal our money and time and attention (I can remember as a child hearing about adults driving all over town to find the last Cabbage Patch kid to buy for Christmas).
At the end of the day (which is sometimes how long they last), fads result in clutter and guilt. We’ve got junk in our closet that nobody wants anymore, and we just wasted a portion of our life and resources to get it.
We thought it would be worth money in the future, that it would result in the most perfect Christmas memory, or that it would immediately elevate our image among our friends and neighbors, but fads offer none of that in the long run. The store took our money, and we’re left holding the bag.
Fads come and go in all areas of life: toys, fashion, accessories, technology, home décor, holiday gifts, even cars, websites, and games.
And the more we learn to reject fads and senseless trends, the more life we retain for things that matter.
But how? Especially given their prevalence and cyclical nature.
Nine ways to avoid spending on fads:
1. Know who starts them.
I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first discovered the Pantone Fashion Color Trend Report. A report dedicated entirely to telling us what colors of clothing we need to be buying for the next season.
A report, created by the fashion industry, designed to convince us to buy more and different clothes, every season, than all the clothing already hanging in our closet.
Fads (and most trends) are created by manufacturers, retailers, marketers, and distributors for the sole purpose of getting you to spend money on their stuff. Remember who starts fads… and that they rarely have your best interest in mind.
2. Recount where you first heard about the fad.
One helpful way to avoid wasting money on fads is to trace back where you first heard about the new style, trend, or fad. Did you see it on your local news? Read about it on a pop culture website? Notice it on Tik-Tok? Or see it on the front shelves at Target?
If you can trace back to the beginning where you were first introduced to the newest phenomenon that everyone is trying to be a part of, you’ll be in a better position to discern if it’s a passing fad or something timeless.
Was it a source that is typically swayed by the cultural obsession of the day? Or was it a source that has provided wise and stable wisdom over the years?
3. Stay out of stores.
As mentioned above, it’s important to remember that retail stores seek to profit off of fads. It doesn’t matter to them how helpful an item is to you and your family in the long run. If there is money to be made in pet rocks, they are going to stock pet rocks on their shelves.
Remove the temptation to waste money on passing fads by spending less time in stores designed to get you to buy. Equally important, remove yourself from email newsletters and special sales days (Prime Day) created to hype fads, trends, and things you don’t need.
4. Learn from past mistakes.
It’s hard to admit mistakes so it can be easy to make excuses why buying into unnecessary fad products was actually a good idea at the time. We rationalize away our reckless purchase by reminding ourselves that everyone was buying that same style of shirt or how every parent was trying to get their hands on Princess Unicorn for their daughter.
It’s easy to think we don’t have a problem of overconsumerism… until we stare at a home full of possessions that need to be decluttered and removed. Then we feel guilt.
Learn from your past mistakes instead. If you have fallen prey to fads in the past (clothing, toys, technology, etc.), notice what motivation prompted that purchase. And then work to overcome it so you don’t repeat your mistake in the future.
5. Commit to owning and buying less.
The most effective way to overcome the pull of trendy consumerism, in every capacity, is to own less.
When you own fewer possessions, you discover more money, time, and energy for things that matter. You shift the focus of your life from the pursuit of material possessions toward a more intentional life instead.
So one important way to overcome fads is to experiment with owning less.
If you want to stop buying into fashion fads, try a Project 333 Experiment.
If you want to stop buying into toy fads, research how owning fewer toys benefits your child.
If you want to stop buying into tech fads, master the tools you already have.
If you want to stop buying into home decor fads, be more grateful for what you have.
6. Embrace a waiting period.
Fads come and go pretty quick… sometimes within a matter of weeks. If you’re really on the fence about a purchase and can’t quite decide if it’s a useful purchase or simply a passing fad, give yourself two weeks before buying anything.
Two weeks won’t ruin you. But it might be long enough for the fad to begin clearly running its course.
7. Be confident with your style.
Fads and trends play on our insecurities. They subtly claim that our current lives are not enough to thrive in society and that we need to buy what everyone else is buying in order to keep up with the changing times.
Those who are confident with their life choices and trajectory of their lives will be less likely to take the bait. Be sure of the life you are living. Find confidence in where you are spending your money, time, energy, and efforts.
If you’ve spent your life swayed to and fro by the whims of culture, you’ll find no confidence there. Find a firmer foundation and a more valuable pursuit with your one life.
8. Rethink the value of money.
Your money is only as valuable as what you choose to spend it on. Your dollars, after providing for your needs, can be spent on consumerist and selfish pursuits. Or it can be used to help others and solve problems in the world.
The more we begin to see the potential of our money, the less likely we are to use it on passing fads.
9. Choose your own life.
Nobody gets to decide what life you live and the attitudes you bring into this world. Nobody gets to decide what you spend your money on. Those are your choices.
Just because the news, billboards, websites, and magazines are telling you that everyone is now wearing x, buying y, or watching z, doesn’t mean you have to as well. There is only one person who decides what enters your life—you. Take that responsibility seriously.
Fads will always come and go. One just ended… and another is just starting. But fads never provide long-term benefit to those who partake in them. Live differently.