Affluenza: How Much is Too Much?

I talked to a couple of family members before heading up to visit for the holidays. We discussed the usual about how everyone was doing and the menu but we also contemplated heading out for some shopping. I usually don’t buy alot of gifts so I wasn’t pushing to hit the streets. It turns out on Black Friday I was sick. I thought whew, no pressure to buy but geez, I may have the flu bug. It brought to mind another bug that may show up this time of year… the shopping bug!

If shopping during the holidays is one of your favorite recreational activities, you’re not alone. Seventy percent of Americans visit a mall each week. ShopperTrak reported an estimated 307.67 million shopped on Black Friday alone! One would think everyone could happily find a great deal on the things they needed the most. But often, instead of coming home with what we truly need, we’re left with just more stuff to pay off months (or years) later. There’s even a new word to describe the modern-day pursuit of more stuff: affluenza — and it leads to debt, overwork, stress, anxiety, waste, and an empty, unfulfilled feeling.

Overconsumption affects people on different levels. On the extreme end, some people suffer from compulsive buying, leading to credit card debt, relationship troubles, and poor self-esteem. But more commonly, the need for abundance pulls in more subtle ways. The Sunday paper comes with more ads than news (two-thirds of the space in newspapers is filled with advertising) and it’s pretty hard to resist the great sales. So we pop over to the mall or discount store. Suddenly, our shopping baskets are full, the credit cards come out, and we think, “Wow, I just came in for one thing!”

The antidote to affluenza? Pause before each purchase. Take a moment to ask yourself: Do you really need it, and can you afford it? Do you have space to store and time to maintain it? Do you already own something similar or just as good? Recognize that the pursuit of material goods may feel good at the time, but is only a momentary fix. If you need a tangible reminder, visit www.clutterdiet.com/wallet and get a printable wallet sleeve with similar prompting questions. Either way, put away your wallet and find other worthwhile activities to fulfill your needs — you’ll be much happier in the long run.

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