One of the cornerstones of consumerism is the development of desires. Insofar that marketing and product developers can not think of novel products a good strategy to keep consumers buying is to engage them in a cycle of upgrading.

Upgrading can be a competition both with others but I think it works more effectively when compared to oneself.

Ideally one would choose to buy a product that is accurately and deliberate chosen to just satisfy one’s needs (see graph), no more, no less.

However, it can be hard to ignore one’s wants, especially given the brochures and advertising about all the shiny new features of the next model.

The best way to step out of this cycle is to avoid taking turns incrementally buying the next level up for all one’s consumer categories.

Instead consider piling all that money into the one superior product.

In other words, buy the best of the best.

This has two effects

  • It allows one to funnel one’s consumerism into product research. Consumer research is ceteris paribus a better way of dealing with consumerism than spontaneous consumption.
  • Once one owns the best product, it makes very little sense to buy something worse.

Now buying the best of the best is an expensive proposition when it comes to large scale items. Start with small items.

In particular, start with items which are in semi constant use: small consumer durables, like kitchen utensils and appliances, sun glasses, tools, …

Note that this is not the hard core cold turkey way of getting out of consumerism but it will work quite well as a soft way, particularly because it steers consumerism in a slightly different direction, namely durable luxury goods, which eventually makes the disposable consumption lifestyle obsolete.

Personally I am reaching a state where I got several items in constant use which are between 10 and 15 years old. I expect this is strictly a function of when I acquired them and I see no reason why I wouldn’t be using them when they are 25 years old a decade from now.

Don’t forget to combine this second step with the first step out of consumerism. You can read the story of how I got out of consumerism and how it is possible to spend very little and be happy.

Originally posted 2010-05-12 00:07:12.