6 Ways to Be a “Horrible” Consumer

Ways To Be A “Horrible” Consumer

I was throwing around some ideas the other day with a friend. We were swapping ideas and inspiration to save more money in 2020 and cut back on expenses. Then my friend said something that was profound: “I strive to be a horrible consumer” The American economy is dependent on us being rabid insatiable consumers. Expenses in life have an insidious way of creeping up on us. It’s all the little psychological ways we fool ourselves. We say things like this:
“It’s only INSERT DOLLAR AMOUNT dollars, why not?” “It’s just a $5 cup of coffee, let’s do it!” “It’s only a $30/month subscription…” “Put it on the credit card, we will think about it later…” “I will think about that in the future…”
All these little things we tell ourselves are like stones that we pile up on our backs, one by one. Each stone on it’s own is not that heavy, but time slips through our minds and one day we are very heavy with financial burdens and stress.

Consumer Culture

I am excited as the next person about the wonders of innovation and capitalism. Capitalism, the rule of law, hard work, investments, democratic institutions have done wonders to raise the standard of living for millions if not billions of humans. But, there is a massive negative externality that at some point we will have to collectively pay for. For example, we may individually love all the little plastic trinkets and other plastic items that fill our lives. But when the ocean is literally chocking on pellets of plastic, destroying ecosystems, we will no longer be able to enjoy fresh fish or fruits of nature. At that point we have paid a great price.

Some crazy consumer stats

  • 1.6 million Amazon boxes shipped each day in the US
  • 8 million metrics tons of plastics enter the ocean each year
  • 93 million barrels of oil consumed each day worldwide
  • $13 Trillion in consumer debt

A Healthier Consumer

Is there a way to balance consumer culture with sustainable living? There are awesome innovations on the way, but can they catch up hast enough? And can we be smarter consumers? We are constantly manipulated by marketing and PR to believe this or that is what we want or need! It leads to a never ending cycle of never being satisfied, even when our standard of living is so high.

Mad Men

Does anyone remember the popular show Mad Men from the 2008-2012 timeframe? This show illustrated the lives and power of the New York city Ad Men. How they were able to manipulate the masses to buy various products XYZ through clever advertising. Imagine this practice and science now 80 years later! What kind of world are we developing for our children? Will they be equipped with the willpower and knowledge to make the best decisions for themselves?

Be A Horrible Consumer

The bottomline is that in order to build wealth, most of us will have to train ourselves to be horrible consumers. In other words, we don’t fall into the latest trends, we don’t jump at the next I-Phone, we don’t overindulge and gorge on the millions of sparkling baubles presented before our eyes. Here are some ideas to achieve this ability to be a bad consumer:

1. Limit exposure to TV/Social Media

TV used to be the king of advertising to the masses. But we all know that the landscape has shifted. We are now addicted and glued to our smartphones. And we are being sucked in by the never ending information feed from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The problem is that media is designed in part to make you feel bad about what you do not have. We can never be as rich and beautiful as those stars, etc. But if you buy XYZ product, then maybe you can come close. That is the constant message over and over again! SEE RELATED: 6 Middle Class Money Mistakes

2. Be A Skeptic

In this world it does not seem to hurt to be somewhat skeptical of things. Some people have good intentions and some do not, that is the way of the world. Some organizations have good intentions, some do not. Some may think they have good intentions but their actions do harm in other ways. In my mind, to be a “horrible” consumer, it would pay to be skeptical. Are you getting what you pay for in terms of value? Are you getting good value for your hard earned money? Or are you being scammed in some way? I notice this a lot with some gimmicky children’s toys. The packaging is big and bold and the toy may cost $20, but when you really look at what you bought, the toy is cheap and junky.

3. Be Grateful

Another way to limit rampant consumerism is to simply begrateful. How can we be more grateful for what we already have? I truly believe being grateful is the key to long termwealth. Think about and list all the things we can be grateful for right now. Our health, our home, a friend, a family member, etc.

4. Organize

We must stay somewhat organized in order to best utilize what we already own. Are you effectively organizing for success? I use many of KONMARI methods list here: Applying The Konmari To Finances

5. Exercise

In some ways exercise seems to be the “cure all” for many things we face. If we are having a hard time, get out and take a walk and move around. This habit of enhancing our health seems to pay off on many levels, and one added benefit may be impulse control when it comes to shopping. SEE RELATED: 8 Exercise Hacks For Busy Frugal People

6. Compare smartly

Why do we always compare ourselves to those that appear to “have more.” Think about the billions of people that are starving and just trying to hang on to bare survival each day. One quickly realizes we do not need to fill our homes and lives with so much consumer junk. We probably all have all we need now.


I am not saying buying things is bad. It is essential to life for all of us. But are we being mindful and thoughtful or are we being manipulated? Are we aligning our consumption with our higher values and true requirements. Hopefully this article has helped you think about this topic in a more substantive manner.

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