Part of the challenge to be a mindful consumer is to buy fewer things. This is no small challenge as I'm sure you all know how difficult it is to resist purchasing stuff, no matter what your budget is.
1. Am I buying with purpose?
- Do I need it?
- Do I need it now?
To answer these questions, I consider whether the new item will be replacing something on its way out. If the answer is no, I don't buy it. No, it's not easy to make this decision but you have to be ruthless otherwise it defeats the purpose.
If the answer is yes, I move on to the next set of questions.
2. Am I buying a versatile* item?
- How will the item work with other items in my wardrobe?
- How many outfits can I create mixing this new item with what I already have?
Versatile items offer many restyling possibilities. If I am highly motivated to buy an item, asking these questions forces me to be mindful about my wardrobe and think creatively about my styling options.
Doing this before I even have the item saves me time and money. This is true even if the answers are yes – if we can mix and match the items in our wardrobes, we’ll be less likely to need to buy something new in the future.
*By versatile I mean adaptable to my own wardrobe, not just pieces that would fit everyone’s wardrobe.
3. Am I buying quality?
Of course, all that I mention above means very little if the item is of poor quality. No matter how much I needed it or how well it fit in my wardrobe, it won’t last. Soon enough, I’m forced to buy a new item.
Asking this question forces me to pay more attention to the composition of an item, learn more about the durability of different materials and how to look after them.
This is something I am still learning to do. It’s not easy for me to pay attention to quality when I've already ticked off the other two criteria. But mistakes have been made and I am starting to understand that this is an essential part of the process to become a more mindful consumer.
What about price, you may ask?
Let's assume first that we're talking about an item within our own personal budgets. Price should not come into the conversation until those 3 sets of questions are answered. I have learned this the hard way.
I often make the mistake that I am sure many of you can relate. I see something I need, it fits perfectly with my style, it's cheap - I buy it. Did I think of quality? Not until a couple of months later when it looks so worn out it's as if I wore it every day for the past 10 years - true story.
More often than not, a cheaper price-tag does not represent the best economic option. We think we're saving money but if we consider price-per-wear, we realise that a €12 shirt that only lasts 2 months ends up costing more than a £30 shirt that still looks great after 3 years.
It's not easy to be a mindful consumer, particularly when it comes to saying no to yourself. Going through the process of asking those questions forces me to think before I buy and keep those impulses in check.
How do you curb your consumer enthusiasm?