Everywhere we go, we are exposed to ads. It’s almost unavoidable, we see them on TV and online, we hear them on the radio or while streaming music and even people are sometimes living, walking ads with brand names on their shirts. We recognize hundreds of companies just by looking at their logos and can even remember their slogans.

As you have likely guessed, companies want us to pay attention to their ads and recognize their logos because we are potential buyers. College students are usually a target consumer base for multiple companies because our age group usually has no family to support and is more likely to make unnecessary purchases.

Buying things isn’t a problem. It’s fun to unwind after a stressful day and shop for something we are interested in, but the problem begins to develop when we don’t limit our purchases, and we lose count of how much we are buying. We live in a time where we can purchase things instantly, sometimes without even putting too much thought into it.

Today, we have so much more clothes in our closet than our grandparents. Constant sales and discounts are very tempting and we often end up making purchases that we were likely better off without. Say you go to the mall for a new pair of shoes, but while you are there you see a shirt that is on sale; you don’t put much thought into it and buy the shirt.

Would you have bought it if it was full-priced? If the answer is no, then you were probably better off not buying the shirt. Many of us have been in this same situation. We plan on buying only one thing, but soon end up with more than we planned and we spend more money than we should.

The point here is, as college students, most of us have incomes that realistically, don’t have much room for many of our expenses. Of course, this doesn’t mean spending money on fun things is bad, it simply means that many of us would be better off reducing our budget for things such as clothes or eating out excessively.

If you look at many ads from fashion or beauty companies, you’ll notice a pattern. Many companies promote their products by using key words such as “new” or “essential.” We may not notice it, but many ads operate on the knowledge that we tend to associate new things as being better than what we currently own. The word “essential” pops up very often in advertising aimed at women.

Think of many commercials advertising their “Spring Essentials,” which are likely clothes or beauty products. Essential means something that is absolutely necessary, do we really think that some new spring themed nail polishes are absolutely necessary in our lives? Of course, many of us answer no, but we don’t realize we are subconsciously paying attention to these messages and acting on them.

However, when we act on them excessively, we begin to lose control of the things we are buying. Is it likely that you’ll find numerous items of clothes you rarely use in your closet? Or maybe you have many items piling up in your apartment that you bought without much thought, but you never use? If asked about our level of consumerism, most of us would answer we don’t think we place very high, but this is because we often don’t realize just how much we are buying.

Many of us operate on the idea that things bring us joy–and they can. But when we start associating our joy only with material things, this can be worrying; we start to think if we want more joy we need more things, which means we need to spend more money. This is money we could be saving, or money that we could use on an experience.

Maybe if during one week, we avoided buying things we don’t need, we could use the money for a trip, or for going to a concert. The point is to make memories instead of accumulating clothes, shoes, decorations, or other material things.

This doesn’t mean that you must stop buying these things altogether, but that instead you should ask yourself if first, it will bring you happiness and second, if you will use it.

Shopping is fun! But it isn’t fun to have a closet that is jam-packed with clothes–many of which you may use once or never use, or to look around your room and see it cluttered with your previous purchases.

You don’t need to get rid of all your possessions or drastically alter the way you spend, but next time you’re shopping, put a lot of thought into what you buy and why you buy it. Do you need it? The answer is up to you.


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