We buy things we don't need

The Reason We Buy Things We Don’t Need? [Durmonskis’ Study]

Before, I wanted to buy all the things. To have everything. And I know why I was constantly thinking about going shopping. I’ve adopted a way of thinking, a mindset, that was constantly telling me, feeding me with the idea that there is always something missing in my life. That I’m not good enough, or not dressed well enough. The only way to improve and feel good according to these thoughts was to acquire more things. To buy things I don’t really need. And I followed. I was helpless, lost.

Have you ever had the feeling that you don’t have anything to wear? You’re standing in front of your wardrobe. You’re going through the pile of clothes and you’re hating everything you see. Despite the obvious abundance of things to put on, you announce with annoyance: “I have nothing to wear!”

I bet you did. We’ve all been there. Standing in front of our big wardrobes full of the clothes which we have chosen ourselves and we’re still not finding anything good to wear.

You picked the clothes yourself, right? Why the heck you’re not able to find anything good to wear?

Have your standards for quality and fashion changed? Or, you simply don’t like anything now because you’ve fallen into the trap of buying things you don’t need.

First, Let’s See Why Do We Buy Things

There are two main reasons why people go to the store to spend their money:

  1. They want to feel better and move away from pain, suffering.
  2. They want to feel better and move closer to pleasure.

The basic things we need in order to exist are taken for granted: food, electricity, shelter, clothing, fresh water. You no longer have to fight predators for your food; Set traps and wait for hours; Risk your health by eating raw meat. You simply go to the grocery store and you buy the desired ingredients. Even if you’re broke, you can still relatively easily find food. Freshwater is accessible to humans in probably around 80% of the world. 1

 Shelter, especially these days, is the hardest thing to acquire. Not that there is no availability. The prices are simply going up due to the growing interest.

Generally speaking, humanity is bored to death. Each year we spend more and more money to keep ourselves entertained. Which is quite normal, there are so many cool things produced each year and we want to get our hands on pretty much every little gadget coming out of the production line.

We buy video games, big screen TV’s, expensive equipment, drones that we don’t know how to fight, smartphones packed with a gazillion of features, smart watches, smart bracelets, we even buy MP3 players that no one ever uses.

We buy medicines, expensive mattresses, even alcohol to feel better and move away from pain.

On the other hand, we buy and eat cakes, new lipstick, a new pair of sneakers, the latest iPhone, alcohol again, to move closer to pleasure.

Basically, we’re trying to solve all of our problems through the act of buying. That’s why people dream of becoming rich.

Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for us, big companies also know this.

How Companies Get You to Buy From Them?

Easy, they focus on the reasons from above. They get you to think that you can either do better or that you’re feeling pain and you need a cure.

Big marketing firms and research companies analyze thousand of data and they can quickly determine how a single product can be introduced in front of an audience for optimal conversion. The first thing they do is to decide if the product they’re are selling will help you feel good in terms of pain, or help you feel better in terms of social status.

As we all know, medicine commercial all start with a short story of a person feeling pain: a headache, back pain, menstrual pain. Then, they glamorously introduce their product and explain how it will magically cure you from all of your pains while a small script flashes through the screen with light speed telling us that there is a huge chance that the above might not happen actually. 

These commercials present the medicine like a superhero.

Let me give you another example:

Tech companies like Apple, for instance, are representing the products from the second category: products that will move you closer to pleasure. Their commercials are high-quality, focused on details, they want you to feel that when you get their product you will be a better person in a way, that you will now belong in another group of people. Much cooler group of people. In these commercials, the product is put on a pedestal.

And you know what, it works.

Every year there are thousands of people waiting for hours to get the iPhone.

Why they do it? Let’s see:

Why People Buy Things – poll

I asked my closes friends a simple question. It was personalized towards the specific person, but that’s the general question they got from me:

“I think you shop too often, why is that?”

After convincing them that my statement is true – they all objects that they shop often – this is what I got from three of my friends:2

Friend 1: “Well, probably it’s because I don’t think I’m pretty. The people around me tell me that I’m kind of beautiful, but I don’t actually think that’s true. When I go to the mall and I get something new and cool, my confidence is rejuvenated and I feel better, prettier.”

Friend 2: “Yes, I’m kind of obsessed with my visits to the mall, am I not? I’m not sure why I do it though, I simply love to spoil myself with new clothes.”

Friend 3: “I often purchase new books or courses with a desire to improve my life. When I’m not reading or watching a course, I feel like I’m lagging behind. Still, maybe I should focus more on practicing what I’ve learned, than looking for another book to buy.”

Do you recognize yourself in one of the answers from above?

Well, I do. But before I tell you why I shopped too often just a few years ago, let’s quickly analyze the answers I received:

  • Friend 1: Lack of confidence.
  • Friend 2: Egomaniac.
  • Friend 3: Lack of confidence and direction in life.

Instead of trying to gain confidence through some other type of activity, 2 of my 3 friends spend their money like crazy to feel little reassurance in their lives. Friend number 2 is simply spoiled by my understandings.

Now, let me share with you my reasons:

The main reason I spend money on things I later never used was actually exactly the same as my other two friends – lack of confidence. I gained strength through shopping. I felt good. My head was high. My confidence was boosted when I got new clothes or a new watch. I was focusing on the external things – looks – and I was neglecting other categories in my life: finances, health, direction. I thought that life is going to be a never-ending party. 

I was so wrong.

Main Reasons We Buy Things We Don’t Need

I don’t really think that anyone will go to the store with the intention to buy something that he will never going to use in the near future. At the moment of sale, the person is determined that he wants what he buys. However, doing this exercise too often naturally leaves you with a lot of possessions and you are simply forced to use only part of them.

So, the main reason we buy things we no longer use eventually it’s because we simple shop too often. Often and irresponsibly. But why is that? According to my experience and observation, there are 5 main reasons we buy things we don’t need. Here’s the quick list:

  1. Social Pressure;
  2. Discount and sales promotions;
  3. Media Influence;
  4. You’re now rich;
  5. You’re bored.

Let me give you a bit more information about each and every one from the above list. I’m sure you’ll recognize yourself in some of the text below.

I really hope this will prevent you from clicking the buy button too often.

1. Media Influence

I worked with quite a lot of marketers before and I learned a thing or two. See, large companies know that a single commercial during your favorite show won’t do the work. You will either skip the channel or you will pay zero attention to the products dancing on your screen.

That’s why, corporations put commercials of their product everywhere: every show, banners on the streets, social media and etc. Their goal is to install the product they offer in your brain and the next time you go to the store, and you search for diapers, the product that will catch your eye will be exactly the one you saw on the TV.

This is done with every product and after time, and too much TV, you might convince yourself that you need a bigger and slimmer TV, even if you don’t really need it. But that’s what happens. Whether we understand it or not, all commercials influence us.

2. Social Pressure

We’re not just influenced by clever marketers, but also from the people around us.

Think about it for a moment. Let say your best friends calls you and tells you that he bought a new car. What will be your first reaction? Joy, jealousy, happiness, the feeling of lagging behind? You will congratulate him and feel happy for him. Then, when you hung up, you will start thinking: “John bought a new expensive car, maybe I also need a new car?”

Your current vehicle is no longer relevant. You now need something better. You don’t actually need it, but your mind tells you otherwise.

3. Discounts, Sales, Promotions

I have a friend who when shops on sales, she always tells me how much money she had saved: “Durmonski, I’ve saved 80$ today. I bought 3 new blouses and a new pair of jeans and I saved big times. How cool is that?”

Of course, she never calculates how much money she had actually spend. In her mind she saved money and that’s exactly what companies want you to think on sales: That you’re saving, not spending.

That’s why we go bankrupt when the nearest mall announces a spring sale. Girls abort all other activities and head directly to the stores. Armed with credit cards and desire to “save some cash,” they eventually own more money and have more stuff crowding their wardrobes.

4. Lack of Control

“It’s like I can’t control myself. When I enter the mall I want to buy everything.”

Many impulse purchases involve the so-called hedonic products, things that give us immediate pleasure or enjoyment.3 Examples include candy, alcohol, going to the movies, visiting a restaurant. Also includes jewellery and fancy things. We, humans, are kind of attracted towards shiny objects and once we see them we immediately want them.

If you can’t control your actions you need to take drastic measures. Your main objective here will be to restrain yourself from visiting stores and reevaluate your habits.

5. You’re Now Rich

Or, let’s say you have more money than you had before. This is also one of the reasons I, myself, bought stuff before.

I was raised in an average family in terms of income and once I got a fancy job, I loosen up my wallet. I was far from rich but I have more money at my disposal, which turned out to become a nasty habit.

This type of behaviour is quite normal and resonates with reason two from above: “People want to feel better and move closer to pleasure.” Having more money equals buying more expensive things.

Not that it’s bad to have nice things. Actually, I still spent more money on things when they are worth it. My personal understanding is that cheaper things eventually cost you more. I simply lowered my volume of purchases and I buy things when I absolutely need to.

6. You’re Bored

The most common reasons for you buying things you don’t need is because you’re fucking bored. You don’t have anything better to do and you decide, that on this sunny day, it’s good to spend some cash till there is something better to do.

Bored people are usually people who were raised with a silver spoon. Since they were able to afford expensive things and exotic vacations from a younger age, they no longer feel joy from many of the surrounding things. That’s why both their toys and their wardrobes get bigger. Filled with stuff which they will never use again.

Some Closing Thoughts

If you want to spend less money and have fewer things but such that you’re actually going to use, you need to become uber intentional in your purchases.

Take your time and really think about why you want more stuff: Do you really need a new car? Do you really need a new phone? Do you really need a new pair of shoes? Chances are, you don’t actually need any of those things.

My current smartphone is 4 years old. It’s loads a bit slow, there are some scratches here and there but it still works. I can still do everything I want with it. I will definitely buy a new phone eventually, but not now. And I don’t quite care that everybody around me is walking around with an iPhone X.

Let me ask you something: Do you have a friend who spends his salary each month buying more clothes, more gadgets that later turn out to be unused? You do. You should probably send this article to her/him.

Now, feel free to share your personal reasons on “why you buy things.” Don’t be shy. I will love to help if I can.


  1. According to Google, there are mainly 5 countries that are threatened by water shortages: Libya, Western Sahara, Yemen, Djibouti, Jordan.
  2. I was tempted to share their names but I promised I won’t do it :)
  3. Hedonic motivations basically are the expression of what I described before. We are doing everything possible to move towards a something good or away from a threat. This is linked to the classic motivational principle that people approach pleasure and avoid pain.
  1. We recommend checking out the book Influence – it really helped show the mental models used by big companies to market their items, and once you learn them you can so easily identify the fakeness, that you lose the desires to always buy it!

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