We live in a world that has become a world of purchase, and acquisition, and one-man upship. Who has the biggest, the many-est, the cutest, the most expensive, has become a symbol of status that confuses us into thinking that how people perceive us is who we are. We can sometimes believe our own hype, while remaining hollow onions deep inside.

And we can be pressured into believing that the world’s definition of success should be OUR definition. We forget that success is personal. We feel more successful about life when we really step back and see that there is an alignment between WHAT WE DO and WHO WE ARE at the core.

Pope Francis has said that our relationship with money and things should be evaluated since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. “The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!” WHO is important has become overlooked by WHAT is important.

The BeMoreWithLess blog has outlined ways we can redefine our purchase process. I think it is a good way to change our mindset about things and money as well. The way you handle money tells you a lot about yourself. And it starts with very concrete, practical habits that are easy to do:

1) Shop like you’re in a museum. When you walk through a museum you appreciate the art without owning it. The same goes for new clothing, gadgets and other things. When you desire, admire. Don’t acquire.

2) The 30 Day Rule. When you’re itching to buy something, write it down, wait 30 days, and see if it has remained necessary or appealing. Chances are, you’ll realize you really don’t want what you thought you needed 30 days before. If you want to take this a step further, set the cash aside for every purchase you don’t make. You’ll be happy (or horrified) to see how much you save.

3) Make your purchases matter. If you need to buy, then buy products you know support good causes.

4) Build a Cooperative. Build a ‘cooperative’ with family and friends. There are household tools or kitchen aids that you don’t really need every week (think electric drill, glue guns, etc.) You might talk to friends and family (those who live near your house) and consider putting a common storage for these items. If you’re OC, just put a borrower’s logbook so you can track every item. It saves you storage space and it saves you money.

5) Declare a Shopping Fast. You might want to start with 2 months, then increase it gradually. Tell people you won’t be shopping for anything besides food and essentials. I’m serious.

6) Unsubscribe. Start with email. If you’re using gmail, search for all emails with the word “unsubscribe”, and delete with impunity. Opt out of catalogs. Stop reading sales flyers. You won’t miss what you don’t know anyway.

7) Learn to Surrender Gift Items. When I was a Jesuit, I used to “surrender” my gifts to the House Minister. I would thank the person who gave me the gift, and if he’s really understanding, I would gently tell him I don’t really need the gift and I’ve surrendered it so someone who needs it more can have it. Now, what I do is if someone gives me a gift, I open it, and I think of someone who will have a better use for the gift. If nobody comes to mind, I accept the gift, but let go of an old item in my closet.

8) Have a “Charity Box”. I have a box in my laundry area where I put in items I don’t need anymore. Once it’s full, I bring it with me to the nearest church or charity.

9) Establish a year-long gift policy with friends and family members. I promise you, some people will be relieved to stop the gift exchanges. You might want to consider giving USEFUL old, but meaningful stuff this year for special occasions instead of buying new stuff. It removes the extra clutter from your house which is a good thing in itself. But even better, you give a gift that is meaningful to you. Make sure you include that in the note by telling the person why the gift is meaningful to you. You might also want to consider giving experiences instead of gifts. One of my favorites is gifting a birthday celebrator with a one-on-one conversation over coffee. I just text him/her: “Happy Birthday! When you’re free, let’s have coffee. My treat!”

10) A Buddy System. We need help. Well, some more than others. For terrible shopaholics out there, you might want to team up with a friend or family member. Every time you have the impulse to buy (and the 30 Day List doesn’t work), call this person and talk the purchase with him/her. Do you need it? Do you need it today?

In the end, I just constantly remind myself that things I buy do not have the power to change my life. Nothing I buy will make me a better person (repeat 10 times).

[by Eric Santillan]

About Eric Santillan

AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. During weekends, he does counselling for Clinica Salutare, an Integrative Health Clinic. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current, a core group member of Heroic Leadership Philippines, and a retreat giver.

2 thoughts on “Be a Better Buyer–And A Much Better Person–This New Year!

  1. eric!! where do you give your old stuff? tagal ko nang naghahanap ng matinong charity/org to donate to. (unfortunately, i tend to narrow it down with criteria like: sana for women; sana hindi mga pari (so parang ayoko ng Caritas. please tell me if that doesn’t make sense heh); sana hindi mahal ang taxi papunta 😉

    btw, happy new year! hehe.


  2. Prodigality! I give to either Payatas/Sapang Palay/Montalban. If I have time, I do it myself. Otherwise, I just drop it off Loyola House and the jesuit scholastics bring it with them. Happy New Year too!! 🙂


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