Consumed by Consumerism


“Melisa, OMG…….Michael Kors have a sale on watches….I can’t deal…….I am so freaking excited. I definitely need to get one ASAP. I will have to sacrifice something to get this watch because my budget fixed. I waited too long and cannot afford to miss out. I need to have this like NOW!”

Sounds familiar? This is how many of us behave whenever our favorite stores and/or online sites have a sale. We get frantic and all ecstatic and find the financial means to take advantage of the sale. Guess what, we spend our security savings on things that do not matter. We devote time and energy to materialistic things and forget what truly matters in life.  We are consumed by rampant consumerism.

We live in a world that keeps telling us to “buy this, buy that” and you will be happy. We are pressured to blend in and succumb to “necessities” or what most consider “living the life.” We ought to have the latest model vehicle or in the case of Dominica “a vehicle.” I’ve had people tell me “how come you do not own a vehicle, you are working for so long, you don’t have children.” To survive this dilemma called the society that is constantly pushing materialism on us, you have to be strong-minded. Do not get me wrong, these things are great but can be acquired through adequate planning, and when it can be afforded, not simply due to subtle comments and questions from people whose measure of success is different from mine. It’s okay to take it slow… I guarantee you will feel better.

Our culture exhorts/urges us to want more – to be accepted and deemed normal, we need to own the latest gadgets, buy the luxury brands, attend the hype events, eat at fancy restaurants and take the most expensive vacations. We have an innate desire for instant gratification. Whilst this might be conveniently based on our individual/personal lifestyle, others acquire it as a statement of status. We fail to realize that as we try to live up to the status quo, we are drowning in debt and more debt. Consumerism is the ultimate drug that gives us a daily dosage for life but a consumed life is an unsatisfied life. This life is not for everyone. The worst thing one can do is compare himself or herself to others by applying material accumulation as the criteria. The means of earning is not the same for all and I bet the lending institutions are smiling at us….. I say this because we take loans to keep up with our expensive lifestyles – Loans where the interest rates are not pretty (reasonable or manageable)… They play truth or dare monthly. “I dare you to not pay your loan this month… “more interest for us” Yay!… Do you get my point? It is a risk. Debt is necessary to get things once you can afford it, but not get things because you do not want to seem aberrant.

We lose ourselves and live above our means. I know people who get depressed because they have come to a point where they cannot afford food. Their salary is directed towards bills and loans taken to bask in luxury.

Like seriously? I prefer food over anything!

We expand our budget and take more consolidation plans to cover debts to re-adjust to our lifestyles. The media is guiding every decision, marketers are telling us what we need and when we need it. How can we pay less yet get more? At the end of the day, we are still drowning in an ocean of debt and cannot get out easily. Once you get used to a lifestyle, it takes discipline to break since our spending habits are standard.

Trust me, I have been there. I am slowly learning to discipline myself. Black Friday passed and I did not stalk Forever21, UrbanOutfitters, Macy’s and other online retail websites.

I’ve realized that I was obsessed with owning luxury brands to appear on fleek like the masses say nowadays. I have saved to buy a luxury brand and in the end, I still felt empty and unaccomplished. Sadly, I could not eat the item, I could not talk to it nor could it take care of my dentist bill or pay my student loan.

We channel our energy into so many things that bring neither inner peace nor happiness. The true value of life lies in that which brings out peace – the intangibles. We sometimes prefer to bask in materialism rather than help someone in need. We work hard to earn money, to enjoy things then get sick and need the things that really matter “love, care, family, good health.” Why not spend on these things?

Do we ever stop to reflect? Envisage how we are easily influenced by the status quo and are not aware of the extent of damage it is causing to us. We will always want more and more, but this insatiable desire must be controlled.

Consumerism is a plague and continues to drive society. You cannot escape it but you can learn to adapt.

8 tips to deal with consumerism

  1. Focus on the intangible. That which can connect with your inner peace. Spend on experiences instead of things. In 2015, I took a 14-day vacation to visit family and friends on three islands. It was the best vacation of my lifetime. The majority of my time was spent on the beach with close friends whom I had not seen for years. I also kicked in some time with my aunt and cousins, swam with dolphins and experienced different cultures and cuisine. This was such a euphoric experience and I budgeted for it.
  2. Give to those in need. Most people do not say they need but they live from paycheck to paycheck. Even your own friends. Dedicate a portion of your income to helping a friend who you know is living paycheck to paycheck. Help them prioritize as well.
  3. Budget and stick to it. “Easier said than done,” I know. I wanted to do a facial, pedicure, wax and massage for a while now. But I have priorities which I remind myself of all the time. The faster you can pay off a long-term debt do it. Aid Bank doesn’t play. The insurance company is on my back and I have to eat – yes I love food,  so I am trying my best to stick to my budget. My friend helped me with budgeting and I am applying it. In the end, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulder.
  4. Commit to learning something new: instead of acquiring things that can be lost in one instant, learn a skill or join a club. I recently joined a sewing class where I learned to make my first skirt, throw pillows and make bags. I cannot explain the therapeutic feeling that I am receiving from this.
  5. Recycle your outfits: No, you do not need a new outfit for each event. Neither do you need to purchase every style that is trending. When the season passes, you will end up with clothing you might not find interesting.
  6. Cook at home: Cooking your own food saves so much money. Carry your breakfast, snack, and lunch to work. It is daunting especially if you have a long commute. This means that you would have to dedicate an extra hour to cook. But not only is it a cost saver, it is a health saver. I once got an infection from eating out regularly. I am practicing to cook and bring my meals to work now (the struggle is real for me here).
  7. Plan your outings: One of the things I enjoy doing is going out to eat. But I cannot afford this all the time. Fancy restaurant food is so freaking delicious but costly. My friends and I plan at least 2 months in advance, and then we go have fun without having to feel guilty. I also do not party nor go out every weekend. If you add up the amount of money you spend by doing this, you will be startled.
  8. Carry the exact cash you need. Imagine I would hold only bus fare and this would help me. The moment I carry extra cash, I end up buying shit I do not need. One day I came home with a fluffy key ring. Like why Merlinda? I already had one but I bought a newer one. So I know the struggle. But, I am implementing these hacks to not get too consumed and save more.

Are you battling with consumerism?

What strategies are you applying to help reduce the plague? Feel free to share in the comments below.