Escaping American Consumerism

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

I realized I needed to get a hold on my life financially. I wasn't spending beyond my means, but I was buying so many useless things. Why did I buy a shirt two months ago that I don't even like now? Why did I buy this pair of brown sandals that looks exactly like the ones I already own? I really did not know why I felt the need to spend so much money all the time. But of course, back to my marketing degree, I have learned in school that companies WANT us to feel like we need to spend money. They want us to feel behind on latest trends. They want us to feel like the answer to our problems is through consumerism. If you haven't seen the short video The Story of Stuff, stop reading this post and watch that instead. This video is what changed my entire perspective on what it means to buy and own stuff. This video was the moment where I realized the trap that consumerism had me and many others in. Amy Leonard is not a marketer, she's an environmentalist. She talks about how consumerism is destroying our happiness while simultaneously destroying the planet.

So, enough was enough. It was time to spend my money on things I actually care about instead of letting it mindlessly waste away on unwanted blouses and lipstick. These are the simple things I did to rid of unwanted purchases in my life.

I checked my bank statements

What was I spending my money on? Where was all of this money going? It turns out it was going to Urban Outfitters, Target, Madewell, and Free People. So basically- all clothes. But it was confusing- I didn't even like the clothes I owned. So through this realization, I knew it was time to truly learn to want less.

I watched Minimalism on Netflix

I know this sounds like a weird first step, but this film is so amazing and helped put things in perspective for me. I know the word "minimalism" puts a bad taste in people's mouth, but give this film a shot. Me and my friends have watched it several times because of how truly inspiring it is. It's not a film about how to get rid of all your belongings, it's a film about finding your true passions in life and escaping the consumerist society businesses put on us.

credit: pinterest

I unfollowed big businesses on Instagram

This took hours, but made a difference in my day to day life. I use to always see when Urban Outfitters and Madewell got new arrivals, had big sales, or had free shipping which only made me buy impulsively. Getting useless advertisements out of my feed helped me realize that I was buying just to buy instead of buying things I truly want.

I followed accounts that inspire me instead

I followed accounts that post beautiful landscapes around the world, I followed professional underwater photographers, and I followed people whose posts are beautiful, but don't make me feel the need to buy things (like For my husband, his feed is guitar videos and meme accounts, so I guess it's just whatever makes you happy.

I unsubscribed to advertisement emails

These emails are annoying and are influencing me to spend more money. I took the time to unsubscribe to clear my inbox and to decrease the amount of advertisements in my day.

I stopped mindlessly shopping

I use to go into Target for "fun" when I had nothing better to do. This led to buying shoes, tops, decor, and anything else I felt like buying in the moment. This tiny habit is a way I have spent an insane amount of money and ended up owning a lot of stuff that I don't even want weeks later. When friends ask me to shop, I still love to go! But if I'm by myself, I don't shop just to shop.

I deleted shopping apps off of my phone

I use to look at shopping apps before I went to bed. I can't tell you how many purchases I've made from Free People, Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie just because I'm scrolling through their app out of boredom. Deleting these apps was one of the easier steps I've made and led to me saving a ton of money.

The time I spent shopping, I filled with something else more valuable

Since a lot of my shopping was online, through Instagram, and through the shopping apps on my phone, I realized most of my shopping was done at night. So this meant it was time for a new hobby. I don't know why I decided to pick up a book, but I did- and I've been reading ever since. Reading is now one of my favorite hobbies, and to think I use to fill that valuable time with scrolling through shopping apps.

I spend my money where my values are

Like I said earlier, my money was spent almost exclusively on clothes. I kept buying and buying hoping one day, I would feel satisfied with my wardrobe. After paring down my wardrobe to only the items I absolutely love, it was easy to clear my head and think of the things I want to spend my money on which is traveling, wildlife conservation, and some clothes every now and then. Realizing what I actually want to own made it easier to go and spend my money. I donate to multiple organizations for ocean recovery, I have a budget for traveling, and I have a budget for clothing.

I check my bank statements regularly

After switching to a minimalist wardrobe I realized that after a couple of months, I don't even like my target clothes anymore. So why was I spending so much money there? I don't really know. I think I was in the flow of consuming like so many Americans, so wasting away my money almost felt natural. Checking my statements has helped me find bad consuming habits that I have-like buying clothes at target and buying yet another shade of lipstick. Checking my statements helps me make sure that my money is going to things I find value in, not to random items that I'm buying for fun. I check my account a couple of times a month.

To have a reality check, I watched The True Cost

This documentary changed my life. It's easy to blow off the fact that consuming makes us unhappy, but it is disturbing to see the impacts our buying habits have on the lives of others. This film helped me stop consuming so much for the sake of the workers across the world. If I act like I love the world and the people on it, then it is time to start aligning my purchases with my values.


Now, spending money is not something I struggle with. Do I still buy new items? Of course! But now, I'm not mindlessly consuming like marketers want me to. Advertisements are a lot more rare in my day to day, I like to buy used, me and my friends have clothing swaps, I save for quality items that will last a long time, and so on. I realized the impact that consuming has on me, my finances, the planet, and the people on it are too degrading to keep living this way. There are a million ways to escape American consumerism, and getting myself out of the unending stream of consumption has lifted a heavy burden off of my shoulders.

If you are unhappy with your clothes, your house, your car, etc, the problem is not you. The problem is advertisers are doing their job- to make you feel unsatisfied. Learn to love what you own and learn to desire less. It changed my life, and I promise it can change yours too.

Thanks for reading


Impact for Good


Impact For Good