Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make you Happy

I recently spent more than 30 hours choosing a new laptop. That’s insane!

Besides being a book addict, I am kind of obsessed with technology – gadgets of all kinds. Who isn’t, right? In 2010 I’ve purchased my first laptop – or it was 2011, I can’t remember. After around 8 years of using it, I decided to purchase a new one. Well, it was about time. The old Lenovo B590 was getting quite slow and I needed an upgrade. So, like every modern guy, I’ve started browsing online. Tab after tab, site after site, day after day. I wanted the best laptop on the market for the budget I had set for myself – around $700. I took me about 2 weeks to chose and more than 30 hours of browsing time till I finally pushed the buy button. More than a day wasted on an object that had to make me happy. It did, initially, but the feeling didn’t last long.

We all know what buying stuff does to our brain. It releases dopamine, which is the chemical that promotes feelings of pleasure. Makings us look forward to enjoying life and various activities. Sometimes called “The Molecule of Happiness,” dopamine tends to be the scientific explanation for why we can be happy or experience satisfaction. Every time we purchase something, have sexual intercourse with someone – or with ourselves – get new like for the picture we just uploaded, thousands of signals are released towards our neuro cells making us feel happy and smile. However, as you all know, that feeling doesn’t last for long. In most of the cases, it lasts only a couple of minutes. Sometimes even seconds.

 

The Day You Purchase Something

Once I bought my new laptop, I was super excited. I’ve ordered the machine one week in advance in order to arrive on the exact date of my visit to America – I was attending WordCamp Nashville in 2017.1 I patiently waited for the gentleman on the desk to register me and my colleague once we arrived at the hotel. After the check was over, my lips spoke the words I so desperately wanted to say for a couple of days, “there is a package on my name, can you please check?” Few more minutes and the package was handed. I was time for unwrapping.

I carefully opened the cardboard box. Removed all the styrofoam, which revealed for the first time this black, slick, thin, with metal on the edges, notebook-looking-machine, which is thinner than most of the magazines you will see aligned on a kiosk. Once I examined every inch of the outer body with my eyes, I gently placed my fingers to feel the materials used: plastic, metal, aluminum. This intimate touch excited me even more. The power switch was eager to be pressed, so I did. It was amazing.

As you can see, I really hit it off with my new laptop.

 

Day two after Purchasing Something You Really Wanted

The next day, once I get up, I was immediately on my new laptop. I was configuring my new profile to fit my needs. I started to install the applications I mostly use. New folders for what I was planning to download, use and etc.

With my previous laptop, I let things slip away. I was crowded with folders and files on my desktop that I didn’t quite use. I was getting lazy. I told myself that once I get a new laptop I will arrange everything in a perfect order. So I did, and I still do.

 

Day Three After Your Purchase Stuff

I see my laptop standing on my desk and I don’t give a damn anymore. I’m now used to having it, and it no longer gives me this excitement. To be honest, I don’t mind working on my old laptop. The new machine doesn’t write or draw by itself. You still have to do all the things you want all by yourself, Not that I was expecting a miracle, or a man crawling from the inside and writing everything I wanted to write. No, I know that a laptop is just a laptop and you should operate it yourself.

Still, I was the same guy. Even though I had a new laptop, I was still doing the same old things: turning it on, installing programs, writing, watching movies. And I noticed a pattern every time a buy something. Few days (or even hours) after I purchase something, I notice these three things:

  • I’m not that happy as I thought I was going to be.
  • Still doing the same things – a guy sitting behind a laptop writing stuff in this particular case.
  • The desire for something else is slowly slipping into my brain.

It’s like a never-ending loop which only cost you money and unfortunately, also time for choosing the “best” product on the market. The buying feedback loop: Desire for something new > Excitement when you’re choosing > Getting used to the new thing

Then I figure it out. Indeed, a laptop is just a laptop. A bag is just a bag and a car is just a car. These things exist to help us do other things. They’re not supposed to turn into an obsession. But they do. We no longer want the laptop just because it helps you write better, we want it because we want to fill a void inside ourselves.

 

Buying stuff won’t make you happy

If we really believe that new things will make us happy, then, we should never go out of the store. However, even if we do drain our, or someone else’s, bank account regularly, what will be there left in the end? A pile of stuff that you will never have the time to wear/use.

Society convinced us that we should constantly desire more stuff. That that’s the only way for us to be truly happy. You see a movie star on the TV and you immediately think that one day you should be as rich as this guy. That you should wear designer clothes and be on TV. Now, this feeling is multiplied by 10 because of all the YouTube channels, social media profiles, websites and etc. You can’t move an inch without being exposed to someone famous who will smash your self-esteem to the ground and make you feel like you don’t own shit.

Getting more things does something a lot more actually. It doesn’t only make you feel good about the purchase, about the new thing, no, there is something else that is even better for most of the humans – and worse in the long run. Buying a new car will tell the neighbor, rather, send him a nonverbal message that states that you’re better, you’re richer, you have bigger balls than he does. And this my friends, is how someone becomes truly happy for a day but chained to a consumerism thinking.

In general, we’re egomaniacs who only want the attention towards ourselves.2 We rarely help others or ask them about how they feel. Our greatest desire in life is to make everyone around us die of envy, thus we buy things we don’t quite need but make us look good in the eyes of others. This master plan has one very big flaw. Followed by few smaller gaps:

  1. Your neighbor buys a better car (or something else) than the one you bought – At that point, you’re again miserable.
  2. Your neighbor doesn’t give a damn about your possessions and continues with his life.
  3. Space will start to become an issue when you have too many things.
  4. At some point, you will probably run out of money.
  5. You start to fight with your spouse because of the lack of money.

As you can see, we’re back to the basics, inside the circle of the buying feedback loop.

 

Why buying stuff won’t make you happy?

The answer to this question is simple: Material things can’t truly satisfy our emotional needs. We can all imagine a scene from a movie where the main actress is heartbroken – her boyfriend cheated. At that moment, she cries in her bed and feeds herself with chocolate like it’s the end of the world. She eats spoon after spoon, like a wild animal which has not eaten for weeks.

In another movie, we can observe the same situation but with a different outcome: The main actress is now out, shopping. She spends as much money as possible on clothes, hoping, this will fix the wound, fill the void. Of course, we all know how such movies end. In the end, all the chocolate, clothes, cars, watches, doesn’t fix anything and doesn’t actually matter. She finally meets someone, a person, who makes things better. Someone who makes her feel happy from the inside, not by bringing a trailer full of clothes.

At the end of the day, what we truly want is someone who will be by our side, listen to what we have to say, support us throughout our ventures. Even though you can now buy a gadget that will talk and will eventually help you do stuff, this toy won’t really listen to what you say.3 We’ve survived for so many years working as a group, owning fewer stuff than a 5-year old child owns nowadays, and we managed. We managed because we put relationships with other humans first. Not second or third like we do now.

why-buying-stuff-wont-make-you-happy

You can now see people who seem more interested in their stuff than the people around them. This can be seen everywhere: When you go out into the street. Go to a coffee shop. Go into the subway. Go to the gym. Places full of people, yet lacking communication. Interaction. Everybody wearing headphones and chatting on their phones, wishing they want to be somewhere else.

 

Negative Outcomes from Buying Stuff

If you’re sad, and you ask yourself this questions: “What can I buy to make me happy?” You’re already on the bad track. Here are the main negative consequences when you think that buying stuff will make you feel happy:

  • You get addicted – When you feel sad and you buy something, you’re building a habit. The next time you’re sad you will immediately go to the store or order something online, thinking, this will make you feel good like it happened the last time.
  • You get insecure – Piling up stuff is a sign of insecurities. Often we buy things because we think this will make us look good in the eyes of the other people around us. In reality, other people don’t care and will probably never notice your new watch costing $1000.
  • You get distracted – Owning a smartphone is already enough distraction. What do you think will happen if you also buy a tablet? Things will get even worse.
  • You will run out of money – Eventually, you won’t have what to eat if you continue to buy stuff without even thinking. Even worse, you may end up owning more than what you’ve spent if you’re buying on credit.
  • You will never be satisfied – There is always something new around the corner. You can’t catch em all.4 New gadgets are constantly emerging and being put on the shelves, as clothes. If you follow fashion you will never reach it, because you’re following it.

 

To Recap

It’s scientifically proven that buying things will make you happy for a certain period of time.5 However, the amount of pleasure this new gadget, shirt, skirt, watch, hat is not enough to keep us satisfied for a lasting period of time.

Insted of seeking what to buy, focus on creative work that resonates with your self, your real meaning, and distracts your mind from the corruption of the always wanting more mindset. You will be much more happier pursuing, and doing, what you really care about than constantly looking for things to buy.

Money is only a tool, not the end goal.” Randall Tiongson

 


Footnotes:

  1. I work for a hosting company and I travel a lot to the USA. If you’re a WordPress fan, or you’re looking to involve yourself in a community full of people who love building websites, visiting a WordCamp should be something on your list.
  2. Read my latest book review: Ego Is The Enemy Detailed Book Review. I’ve included some of the main takeaways about becoming more humble human being and getting rid of this ego that’s only ruining your life.
  3. Echo, powered by Alexa AI, is one of the things on the market that will talk, but won’t really listen to what you have to say. Unfortunately, we end up talking more to a machine nowadays than we’re talking to a real human being.
  4. The expression used in the famous game Pokemon. Like this dude sings in his video, you can’t catch em all and you will feel even worse.
  5. When we buy something, dopamine release in our brain which make us feel good.

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