Stop Paying to Be a Better Person

03.07.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course Consumer behavior: Becoming an empowered consumer by Maureen McGuinness


In Lesson 3: Speed and Solution, we learned that companies create an “urgent” problem (that we were or were not aware of previously) and sell a product to us that can solve that problem quickly.

What have most people struggled with at some point in their lives?

Why are teenagers (and some adults) image-conscious?


More specifically, low self-esteem. Since most of us have felt that we’re not good enough, companies have the opportunity to take advantage of our need to feel better about ourselves by pitching products and services to us that will make us “look” and “feel” better. In the US, the beauty sector is predicted to be worth $90 billion by 2020. We enjoy purchasing products that make us feel more attractive, but what we’re really doing is paying to appear more attractive—our feelings of inadequacy are not being addressed directly.


Beware of January

It’s the time of year when the majority of people think about where they are now versus where they’d like to be. If they’re overweight, they want to lose weight. If they’re very skinny, they want to build muscle. It’s no wonder that gym memberships spike in January. The good intentions in January don’t last very long, though. By March, only a fraction of people are still using the gym. The gym industry relies on the spike in January to sign people up to year-long contracts. If we’ve not been to a gym for the 12 months prior to signing up, then what makes us sign up for a 12-month contract? Projection bias. Projection bias describes how we assume that our preferences in the future will be fairly similar to what they are now.


Start Being a Better a Person

Paying for something is an easy way to believe that you’re taking action. It may be true in some instances that putting money toward your goal is a good way of committing to action, e.g., a gym membership, but in the majority of situations, we spend money without any follow-up. Paying for something doesn’t guarantee that we will change our behavior. The only sure way to change our behavior is to start practicing our new behavior today without involving money.

Another benefit of not involving money is that you can’t use “not having money” as an excuse for delaying or not following through with your change in lifestyle. Money is one of our renewable resources, but in order to earn more of it, we give up our non-renewable sources: time and attention. What happens when we don’t use fewer resources today than we did yesterday? Are we still able to achieve our aims? Some argue that the fewer resources we have, the more creative we become.

Take Project 333: Be More With Less as an example. Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333, was tired of being stressed out every morning trying to find an outfit for work. She created a minimalist fashion challenge: dress with 33 items or less for three months. In the past, she dreamt about a big, beautiful walk-in closet to hold more stuff. Today, she could easily store her clothing and accessories without a closet and is much happier as a result. She’s created a global community who are working on being more with less instead of spending more.

Spending no money is not the goal, but there are ways to spend money that have longer-lasting impacts on your happiness. Tomorrow, we kick off Section 3: Putting It All Together. In the first lesson of this section, you’ll learn how to spend money to be content.


Recommended book

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom


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