There are a few things worth considering before you go bargain-hunting on Black Friday. After listening to a podcast about "What Guides our Buying Behaviours" on Speaking of Psychology by the American Psychological Association, it became clear we need to be more aware of how we shop, if we actually want to avoid having a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear.
It's important to realise overconsumption has a negative impact not only on the environment but also on ourselves. This particular podcast features an interview with Kit Yarrow PHD, an expert on consumer behaviour and author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy (Wiley, 2014).
She says "everybody has clothes they haven't worn in their closets. A lot has to do with what I call 'faulty thinking', someone will fall in love with an item and they really want to have it, but it's too expensive. Then it goes on sale but not on their size, or in the wrong colour but they buy it anyway."
Another interesting behaviour is when people buy something based on a fantasy life they're imagining, so they can end up buying clothes too small for them thinking they're going to get thinner, or go on a cruise...
Basically, they buy clothing to match a life they don't have in the present moment. Then there's those who simply love the clothes so much they end up not wearing any of it, just waiting for the right occasion that never comes along... Yarrow recommends asking ourselves three questions before making a purchase:
Do I really want it? Can I afford it? Does it fit into my lifestyle?
Another reason is being drunk or high when you go shopping: "some of my favourite consumer stories are people who bought really outrageous things when they were high! My advice is don't buy things you can't return... That will solve a lot of problems".
Yarrow also suggests we focus on the product, carefully examining it and decide if we like it or not, before even looking at the price.
It's also important to realise easy payments give us fewer seconds to consider for instance how many hours we have to work in order to get something, or what else we could do with that amount, like putting it into a savings account to be prepared for a rainy day, or going on holiday.
"The more detached we are from the money we're using to pay for something, the easier it is for us to overspend or go into debt."
If we become much more aware of the exchange we're making for the things we buy, we would buy better and probably fewer things. It's really important to think about the impact of each purchase on our financial security.
Yarrow points out the danger to overspend is higher at checkout with tempting add-ons: "other shoppers also looked at this, or if you buy this one too you can get free shipping or free offers, if you spend this much you get a free bag... When people make a commitment to buy, then they're wide open to add-ons."
Her advice is to pull back and reevaluate every single product we are considering buying. But the best we can do is to actually make a list of what we want to buy and stay focused, without deviating from that list.
Nowadays there's also the so-called 'green washing', we may get all enthusiastic about supporting fashion sustainability and buy something because we connect with the values of a particular brand, without verifying if the brand is actually ethical or taking into account what we're actually buying, if it's the best for us or not.
There's actually a reaction to overconsumption, people who lead a minimalist lifestyle with only things they need whose goal is financial independence and retiring early - the FIRE movement.
They actually look for alternative ways of getting their needs met, from borrowing things to co-owned products and secondhand shops. This may be a bit radical, but we can all learn from it and reduce our consumption.
It always felt disturbing to see celebrity's wardrobes photographed on glossy magazines, as they look like a hight street shop, overflowing with far too much stuff.
This phenomenon is now mainstream and it has a negative impact on our psyche, so it's really worth decluttering our wardrobe to achieve a zen-inspired space. It naturally makes us feel at ease and we can spend money where is meaningful to us. Remember, less is more!