How To Make Happy Purchases, Part II of II

By Sunday, June 8, 2014 2 0

I write this blog because I love life and human beings, but reject the hyper-materialism of mainstream culture. It hurts our finances — we spend billions annually on credit-card interest and storing our excess stuff. And it hurts our relationships, our planet and our climate.

While we do need “stuff” in order to live, the joy and juiciness of life — being rich in what matters — doesn’t stem from our possessions. It stems from our relationships, our integrity, our health and physicality, doing work we believe in, our connection to nature, community and the God of our understanding.

Just for the record, a big body of research on human happiness supports those principles.

All that said, I struggle with excess stuff, just like almost everyone in our culture. While my husband Thor and I have only one car between us, we have never been able to put that car into our two-car garage. Too much stuff in it. I pay a smart lady named Kari Myers to periodically help me get organized, cull stuff for Goodwill, etc. I highly recommend her.

Last week in Part I of How To Make Happy Purchases we looked at how our needs are always the drivers of our purchases.  We buy things because we need to be fed, entertained, clothed, sheltered, to go places, to express our identity, etc. The more aware we are of our needs, the better the choices we can make.

This week, I’m suggesting that before we go out and buy new things, let’s consider the whole range of ways that our needs can get met. Below are some strategies to meet our needs in a variety of situations.

Borrowa good strategy for items we rarely use, especially high-cost ones. In the years I owned a small pickup truck, I let friends borrow it when they were moving so they didn’t have to rent one (I often borrowed their car for the day they used my truck, so my transportation needs also got met). Probably all of us have had both good and not-good experiences with lending and borrowing. For me, the good has been far greater. Always return borrowed items in the promised time-frame, in the condition you found them — or be up-front that you expect this of the friend borrowing from you. Borrowing is . . .

  • good for high-cost items we use only occasionally, like power tools, camping equipment, lawn mowers, pickup trucks, etc.
  • good for one-time-use items, like DVD’s, books, Halloween costumes, prom dresses and other fancy clothes

Buy useda good strategy when we need

  • long-lived, costly items like beds, bicycles, furniture, wedding rings, etc.
  • items that are easy to find used. For example, Goodwill stores  are full of towels, T shirts, jeans, plates, mugs, curtains and costume jewelry. But I have never found a couch or camping tent I would care to own in a Goodwill
  • when we don’t necessarily need high quality. In cars, good to know the background, i.e. a single owner that took good care of it.
  • when our timeline is flexible (it can take time to find the desired item used, rather than new).

Barter – exchanging goods or services for other goods or services. Bartering is a good strategy . . .

  • when we have a number of nearby people interested in bartering
  • when trust levels are fairly high (i.e. that a promised service or favor will indeed happen in the future)
  • when we have skills that others need (cooking, carpentry, haircuts and gardening are some commonly needed services)
  • when our timeline is flexible (it can take time to put a good barter together)

Rent —  a good strategy for high-end items we need rarely and can’t easily borrow. Examples are party equipment, power tools, tuxedos, a truck for moving or for hauling yard debris or large items to the dump. 

Buy new. This strategy makes sense . . . 

  • when we’ll need and use it for a long time
  • when it’s so rare we’d never find it used (in my case, size 9 narrow-width shoes)
  • when we need it right now (actually, we usually just want things right now — it’s good to be honest about that :)

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  • Mike
    June 8, 2014

    This was fantastic Alison and I have been currently working on purging all of the unused and not needed “items” in the household! I love the idea of bartering…what a lost art isn’t it?? I totally am on board with buying used though I do so cautiously in inheriting an bad product. I hope that makes sense :)

    • Alison
      June 9, 2014

      Mike, first of all, welcome back. I just read your and Phoenix’s new post with a glad heart. I’ve been praying for you, as you know!

      And yes, of course it’s good to be cautious when buying used. Right now I’m wearing a dress and a denim jacket I bought in consignment shops . . . . I’m realizing that most of the items I’ve bought used have been clothes and books, which things are inherently more problem-free than items with moving parts. Thanks for pointing out that buying used often does involve some risk.