I shouldn’t go into stationery stores.
I love stationery, and I think a lot of us do.
There is something about the colour and the variety, that means I buy things I don’t need.
At least they are useful things; however, I don’t need them.
I remember with great fondness, the first page of the new exercise book at school: the smell and the perfect look of that fresh, untainted page. And the feeling of the pure, first mark of the pencil creating whatever was in my head, bringing it to life.
The second and subsequent pages were never quite the same as that first, virgin whiteness.
On my desk are two packets of colourful, foldback clips and a lovely, vibrant pink hole punch. They are still in their packaging, which would indicate quite strongly that the need was not there.
They make me smile, though.
Life is a continuing balancing of feeding needs vs wants and I think at mid-life I have earned the right to feed some wants.
What is the difference I hear you say?
Well, when we are brutal about it, a need is anything required to survive – shelter, clothing, warmth, food, love, a sense of being valued and contributing, hope, companionship. (so many of them do not require monetary exchange).
A big part of Ageing Strong is the realisation that the things we don’t pay for are the things that count. They are the things that cannot be replaced and are created through contribution, connection and courage.
Wants are things we do not need; however, we desire, and that list can be endless.
The importance is in the differentiation.
The thing is we live in a world of temptation.
The advertising industry is one of the most powerful and influential industries there is.
That is their job – to influence you, so you buy.
It is pointless making the industry evil and, to be fair, many of us need the power of advertising, marketing, and influencing to remain in business.
Surely it is about individual choice?
If we believe something to be a need, the boundaries are dropped; resistance is thrown aside, and things are purchased.
As I mentioned earlier in the blog, as a Middlicious mid-lifer, I want to be able to feed some wants; however, I am also aware that accumulating a retirement fund must be of high importance. Financial freedom is something I find very seductive, and it is not usually obtained by purchasing the latest and greatest thing.
There are several tools I use, and I am hoping at least one of them will work for you.
- The 24-hour rule – when I see something, I want, however, know I don’t need, I sit on it for 24 hours. If it is in a shop, I will walk away, and if it is online, I will save it and go back 24 hours later. I have found that 95% of the time I do not go on and purchase, and when I do, it feels a lot more thought out and a lot less impulsive. This also allows me to ask the question ‘is this where I want to put money right now?’
- Get rid of your credit card – yes, I mean it. I no longer have one, and it is so freeing. If you are the type of person that pays it off every month, fantastic, however, it is essential to be honest. For me, after spending years paying interest on a credit card, I was finally honest about it and just got rid of it. I have not missed it at all.
- Stay away from the shops – both physical shops and online. I am fortunate that I hate shopping. Malls leave me wanting to escape, and the thought of going somewhere to go shopping sends me into shudders of displeasure. As I have entered into midlife, I find I want a lot less clutter around me and so much of what we purchase becomes clutter. (or landfill however that is for another blog)
- Ask yourself what the need is you are trying to fill? Unconscious, emotion-based purchasing is very common. I know that when I feel under real pressure, that is when I am at risk of purchasing. I ask myself the question, what is it you need right now and wait for the answer. (Although I do have to say chocolate while being the most common answer is possibly not the best option)
- If you are inclined to say ‘I deserve this’ maybe also ask yourself why you do? I am always slightly bewildered by that justification. Why do we deserve anything more than anybody else? It is a fine line between rewarding ourselves because there is something that genuinely deserves a reward and just plain entitlement.
I do know through my own experience and working with many people, when we have somewhere clear we want to go and something incredible we wish to create, it all becomes a little easier.
At midlife we need to be careful as it is a time when we can either quit on our dream because we do not believe it will ever happen or rest on our laurels and spend unconsciously.
My recent podcast guest Lisa Dudson, a financial advisor, gives several examples of people who have spent vast sums of money they thought they would have forever.
If I can ask myself daily, is this going to help me create what it is I want to create, I can be far more pragmatic about my purchases.
For me, it is the thought of actually having freedom during my freedom years, that drives my decisions.
And freedom has no price on it.