Simple Living

Questions to Consider as you Become a More Conscious Consumer

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a conscious consumer. In our recent Climate Change Collective post, I shared about how our shopping habits impact the planet and I’d like to think I’ve made some progress towards that conscious consumer goal. There’s always room to grow, though, so I thought I’d share some of my thought process as I work through this big topic.

Thinking About Being a Conscious Consumer

Like our friend Michelle mentions in her post about consumerism, the economy would likely collapse if we all stopped shopping completely. And the reality is, we all do need to shop sometimes. So how do we find that balance of being a responsible shopper?

These are some of the things I’m thinking about and asking myself as I work towards being a more conscious consumer.

Billboard advertising--one of the influences to consider to becoming a conscious consumer
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Thinking About our Influences for a Purchase

As much as I want to think all of my decisions are solely based on my own will, I know that I’m constantly being influenced by the world around me. This could come in the form of pressure from friends and family, pressure from society in general, influences from targeted advertising, or any number of media that is endlessly making its way into my life.

In addition to outside pressures, there are internal ones such as desires to “keep up with the Joneses” or maintain a certain image or even to calm a need to feel better via retail therapy.

While a purchase may very well be legitimate and needed, being a conscious consumer means understanding what is driving our desires for the items we buy.

Reflecting on our influences

These are some questions to consider as you check in to see if your desire for a purchase is being influenced by an outside source. It doesn’t mean a purchase is bad or that you have to avoid buying the item, it is simply a way to be more conscious about what is brought into your life.

  • Why am I buying this?
  • What societal pressures are leading me to this purchase? Am I trying to fit in? Keep up appearances? Maintain family traditions or relieve pressures?
  • Will this purchase be a benefit to my mental health? (Bring joy or ease of life)
  • Will this purchase be a detriment to my mental health? (Bring clutter or financial strain)
  • Am I buying this to fill an emotional need?

Readings to check out

7 Things That Shouldn’t Impress Us Anymore – Becoming Minimalist
The Science of Persuasion: How to Influence Consumer Choice – Business News Daily

Woman thinking about becoming a conscious consumer
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Thinking About our Need for a Purchase

Often when I have a desire to buy something and I stop to ask myself if I truly need the item, I can reason with myself about the purchase. In December I went to see The Nutcracker at the ballet and definitely had the desire to buy a new outfit for the fun occasion. Did I truly need a new dress? Definitely not. (Krista actually saved me from having to make that choice when she cleaned our her closet and gifted me a perfect dress for the ballet. Second hand item for the win!)

Clothes are an easy one for me to talk myself out of because financially it never really makes sense to buy a new outfit. Last month, though, my electric kettle broke after its impressive 20 year run. My first instinct was to head to the store to replace the kettle with a new electric one, but never got around to it. I then started simply boiling water in a pot and realized that I use a lot less water using this method. While I miss the automatic shut off of my electric kettle, there is no true pressing need for me to make that purchase.

Reflecting on our needs

As you consider whether you need to make a purchase or not, here are some questions to think about.

  • Do I really need this item?
  • Is this a need or a want?
  • Can I live without this item?
  • What alternatives are there other than buying? (Renting, borrowing, using a different item entirely.)
  • Will the benefits from this purchase bring needed ease and/or joy to my life?
  • Will the detriments from this purchase bring stress and/or clutter to my life?

Readings to check out

How Our Need to Shop is Ruining Our Planet – A Sustainably Simple Life
An Inspiring Journey Towards Minimalism – Guest Post by Fran Cresswell-Ghose

Sustainable products for becoming a conscious consumer
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Thinking About our Options for a Purchase

When making a purchase, thinking about the alternatives to buying the item is an option, but it’s not always feasible. That doesn’t mean we have to feel bad about buying something. If we’re trying to be conscious consumers, what it means is thinking about our options before jumping to buy.

Buying second hand items is not only sustainable, but also budget friendly. It’s also an option to consider local, small businesses to benefit your local community or search for a sustainable product and company.

Reflecting on our options

As you start to look at your options for making a purchase, here are some questions to consider that will hopefully prompt ideas.

  • Is this an item I am comfortable buying second hand?
  • Where can I purchase or find this item in good used condition?
  • Is this something I can buy in bulk with my own container?
  • What sustainable companies offer this product?
  • Is there a local, small business I can support?

Readings to check out

About the Buy Nothing Project –
How To Make Sure Our Consumerism Is Sustainable – Transatlantic Notes
6 Reasons Why to Support Small and Local Businesses – A Sustainably Simple Life

Becoming a Conscious Consumer

I’m finding becoming a more conscious consumer to be a process. Sometimes I make great choices and sometimes I really just don’t. It’s important to remember that aiming for perfection is just going to set us up for failure. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way because life is a process. I hope these questions and things to ponder help along your journey too.

What questions would you add to the list?

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What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!