Why Do We Buy So Much Stuff + My Intentional Spending Year Progress

For those of you new to my blog, last year in 2019, I did a No Spend Year. This included home decor, clothing, shoes, and accessories. I definitely learned a lot throughout that year. {{You can read about it in my No Spend Year Reflections, which I documented each month – check it out on my main page under No Spend Year!}} I did decide after that year to be more intentional with my spending moving forward. I have done one blog post discussing how I have been doing in 2020, My Intentional Spending Year, back in the spring. As I continue to move through 2020 I see that shopping is such a slippery slope, and even with some “rules” in place, it’s easy to get out of control. I’m considering re-evaluating my rules and implementing more or more well-defined rules for myself.

All of this got me thinking about how deep-seated my spending habits had become, and just like an addict going back to the thing they are addicted to, it got out of control fast. I really dislike using that word “addict,” but the truth is there really isn’t another way to explain it. Shopping can cause the brain to release dopamine just like any other “drug” of choice – drugs, alcohol, or even food! 

In an article found on Psychology Today, it stated, “Many people think that dopamine is released when the brain receives a reward, but dopamine is actually released in anticipation of a reward.” There was a study where monkeys were given a reward after they pushed a button 10 times, and it was found they released dopamine while pressing the button and not when they actually received the reward. Our brains are wired to release dopamine when we are in the process of looking for that perfect item, not just acquiring it!

In this time we are living in (I’m writing this in summer of 2020 during the Coronavirus pandemic), now more than ever people are looking for ways to experience that dopamine surge. Perhaps some things that used to give us this feeling, we can no longer do.

Not only does shopping give you a dopamine surge, you believe this next item will make you happy. The truth is, it works opposite of that. Every time you give into your temptation to get something new, it just makes it easier to give in the next time, and you are never really satisfied.

I am learning through this year, after doing a no spend year, that I definitely had an addiction to shopping. That is why it is so important for me to focus on being intentional with my spending in 2020. I still don’t feel like I have it “figured out.” I do feel like I continue to buy things because I believe in that idea that “this one last thing will make me happy” even if it is subconscious. Also, I’m learning to balance my love for making things beautiful with being very intentional with what comes into my home. Especially in this time when I am stuck at home so much, I see all kinds of things I want to make more beautiful throughout my home!

The positive thing in all of this is that I am aware. I think in the past I was not even aware of my behavior, or the psychological reasons behind spending/accumulating. Knowing is always the biggest step, because if you know then you can make changes! I’m already thinking about what I can do in 2021 to continue to make changes to my behavior. I’m pondering creative ways to put parameters on myself – which I find helpful for me specifically.

Here is the video I made for my YouTube channel in conjunction with this blog post.