I strive to be grateful for my material possessions and not fall into the trap of consistent consumption. For the last several years I limit my purchases to consumables and replacing items that wore out for most of the year. Think of this as intermittent fasting applied to purchasing.
When I break from my shopping diet every 6 months or so, I normally review items that have accumulated on my “wishlist”. Typically 70% of the items that made it on to my list get dropped, they just don’t feel compelling after the “cooling off period”, 20% stay on the list, they seem relevant but aren’t compelling. 10% of the items on the list I decide to purchase. Then I take some time to reflect on my spending patterns to see what I can learn. This year my lessons were:
- Mindset has an huge impact on behavior
- I can be lured into “retail therapy” just like everyone else.
- Retail therapy give a small boast to a sense of control, this is fleeting
- Pausing the shopping diet only needs to be for a week to process wishlist
- During the break only purchase items that are already on my wishlist. New items should go on to my wishlist to be reviewed in my next break after a cooling off period.
Mostly Compliant “Before”
I was doing pretty well on my shopping diet for the first part of 2020… then it started to fall apart around two months into shelter in place. More on this later. Until May I avoided falling into a shopping mindset, successful resisted calls to “check out great deals” or spend a lot of time researching products I would ultimately conclude I didn’t need. There were some purchases made that weren’t consumables:
- Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 4 Sneakers (2 pairs), and Hoka Trail Runners to replace worn out runners – actually, maybe these are consumables 🙂
- Battery for 2012 MacBook Air – only ran when plugged in
- Several books selected by reading group, not available through the library
- Pixel2 for trip to Europe that was later canceled. Buying a refurbished Pixel and using Google Fi for a month would have been cheaper than Verizon roaming charges and less hassle than getting multiple local SIM cards. My iPhone SE battery is dying so the Pixel is now my primary phone.
Shelter in Place
Like most people, “shelter in place” changed my day to day life. The biggest change was in-person gatherings were replaced by Zoom calls. Using the built in speaker on my MacBook was OK when it was just me, but when Jackie and I were doing calls with groups it just didn’t seem to be working. I purchased a Jabra 510 Bluetooth speaker. It didn’t help significantly, but ended up being extremely useful when then the speaker in Jackie’s old MacBook Pro died.
During the shutdown it wasn’t possible to go to the gym. I didn’t want to lose fitness and gaining weight. For a couple of months I was running (Little Sprint Intervals) which was helping overall fitness, but I could tell I was slowly losing muscle in my upper body. I thought about doing a pure body weight exercise, but I felt overwhelmed by the countless possibilities I found on the web and in the recommended book Overcoming Gravity: Systematic Gymnastics Bodyweight. In May I decided to going with something simpler:
We also picked up a Pulse Oximeter on the theory that it would be one of the best measures of whether going into the hospital would be prudent.
Stuck at home during shelter in place and not meeting with people face to face led to more time using the computer. When I can’t DO things, I tend to research things. For example, since my favorite locations for backpacking were closed and international travel was near impossible, I look at sites about backpacking and travel. Alas, many sites which are about activities ends up having a fair amount of content about the gear one uses for the activity. I found myself reading more gear posts then I have for several years, which led me to want to buy, even though I was previously happy with the items I currently owned and I won’t be able to use the items I purchased given shelter in place. My rationalizations:
- This company might not survive, I should get this item now
- Supply chain might be disrupted, it might be a year before I could purchase this
- People are losing jobs… buying things supports companies I believe in
I also justified several purchases saying “this really needs to be replaced” when it was clear it could hang on for months or years. In reality, I was just looking for things that I could control, or that would give me that little dopamine rush of making a purchase:
- Voormi River Run Shirt
- Outlier Slim Dungarees to replace a pair that my wife tells me was worn out.
- GORE Wear R7 Goretex Shakedry Hooded Rain Jacket to replace ArcTeryx Norvan SL which I ebayed because the zipper isn’t waterproof
- GoalZero Sherpa 100AC + SUAOKI 60W folding Solar Array (sort of like people buying too much toilet paper… prepping for things going badly).
- Breville BOV800XL Toaster/Oven to replace our Krupps Toaster Oven that was still working but was having a problem with the door
- Mohu Leaf Antenna… old antenna was failing to work, but we weren’t really needing it because we rarely watch TV
- Grilling tools. Ours went missing, but could have used kitchen utensils
- Glass Storage Container to replace cracker acrylic canister
- Bucky 40 Eye Mask because old one was falling apart but still working
Shopping Month: Too Much License
For the last few years I have a month when I give myself permission to purchase items which aren’t replacement or consumables. This year there was only two items I would have purchased following my normal process:
- Sony RX100 Mk VI Camera + Batteries because I want optical zoom and better low light performance than a camera phone.
- Voormi River Run Shirt (which I purchased before the break month)
This year I was in a “shopping mindset” which started during the shelter in place. I had a hunger to buy things. There were a number of items from my wishlist that I had deferred in past years and would have continued to defer, but since I was in a shopping mindset I choice to buy:
- RunScribe to get better analytics to understand my running stride.
- Second Patagonia Thermal Weight Hoody
- Dreem2 to improve sleep
- Obihai Obi200 VoIP Adaptor: lets me send and receive faxes over Google Voice
- Buddha Board
Worse, I found myself looking at “deals” posted on social media and doing all sorts of product research which led me to make a surprising number of impulse purchases. When I started my retro I realized what was happening, and was able to return several of my purchases which I really didn’t need. Here is what I purchased:
- Tom Bihn Synik-30 for extra room on trips that the Synapse was just a smidge too small and the ease of the full zip opening would be nice. I could also get down to a single bag.
- Peak Designs Traveler 45L Bag… returned. Liked the Synik-30 more.
- Sharge Portable USB Charger to consolidate my on the go charging needs into single device
- USB-C Battery Pack since I have a number of devices that are USB-C now.
- Used Google Chromebook ($150 dollar experiment) to see if I could live on just a Chromebook… getting tired of Apple’s prices and my 2012 Air is really feeling slow.
- Ventilated Back Panel for GG Gorilla
- Water Bottle Fanny Pack because my wife really wanted me to retire my Patagonia 15L Ultralight Courier Bag… she said it made me look like a homeless person.
- Replacement Milwaukee battery… old ones weren’t holding charge as well as they used to
- Drop 40L Backpack… returned. My 2009 Gossamer Gear Gorilla is fine.
- Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape & NetTent… returned. My 2010 Zpacks Hexamid still gets the job done.
- Titanium Double Walled Water Bottle… returned. No better than my 2013 Zojirushi.