Today, I’m going to interrupt your daily consumerism with a simple truth that will change the way you think about the products you buy and the habits you build.
There are plenty of great products out there and there is plenty of junk. But here’s the thing: the product doesn’t always matter.
New products can be a great motivation for starting new habits, but financially, the product is not always necessary.
Consumerism and Consumables
We’re constantly bombarded with advertising. We see a lot of products—all kinds of different products that offer different benefits—but a lot of products.
New products are being created every day by the thousands. You see it on your news feed as new companies try to catch you with their fancy videos. It’s increased now, but even back in 2014, people were sharing 2.5 million pieces of content every minute… on Facebook alone.1
People and companies are trying to get you to buy a new product every chance they get.
Consumerism is getting out of control. We’re spending more than we ever have. And we’re often buying more and more products we don’t need.
Think about all the things around your house you don’t use. When you bought it, you had great intentions and of course you planned on using it, but that time faded.
Junk advertising is out of control. It used to all be limited to billboards and infomercials, but now the ads are everywhere an ad can possibly be.
Sometimes these products work… or they seem to work. But most of the time, it’s not the product at all.
It’s Probably Not the Product
Advertising and the consumerism plague would have you believe these products are changing your life, and when you see results from a product, it may feel like it has changed your life. This often applies to the direct-selling and MLM products your closest friends and family are trying to get you to buy.
I know there are a few products that are superior to everything else in their realm, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Here’s how it usually plays out:
- You buy some fancy product
- You start using the product, as recommended… habitually
- You do the other things it requires (e.g., exercise, diet, etc.)
- You experience success… mostly because of the habits you’ve built
- You praise the product, leave a good review, and often sell it if it works that way
Products lead to habit change. There are almost always recommendations on the things you must do while you use the product.
It’s Probably the Habit
There are plenty of examples to show how the habits you build is what works, and how the products may not be doing much at all.
You may already have some in your head, but here are the most popular examples:
- Diet Plans – It’s not this new amazing diet plan that’s working for you. It’s the fact that you’re consuming less and likely working out, because the program recommends working out while you’re on it. Some specific diets can be great, but it almost always comes down to simply eating less junk and exercising more.
- Exercise Gear – It’s not the pushup device or the exercise machine you just bought that’s somehow radiating your amazing results, it’s the fact that you’re doing pushups now and/or using an exercise machine consistently. The ground is also a great exercise machine and it’s free. Try sticking to an exercise habit that doesn’t require equipment for six months. Once you’ve done that, then go get the machine.
- Skin Creams – There are some great formulas out there, I’m sure. But the skin cream you just paid $100 for (for a one-month supply) may not be everything you think it is. It’s more likely that moisturizing your skin daily is what’s producing results. That’s the trick of the vast majority of “anti-aging” creams. Try lotion, coconut oil, or cocoa butter for a few months and see how different your results are from the $100 product.
I’m not saying these products are evil. I’m all for whatever it takes to motivate you to build better habits, but you can build the habit without spending the money and without using the fancy product.
Here’s the main takeaway: Don’t buy a product that requires you to do something you’re not already doing, until you start doing that thing first (either without the product or with a cheaper version). That’s the most important sentence in this article. If you see a new diet pill, try doing the eating right and exercising portion first. If you can stick to that for a few months, try the product. If you can’t, you would’ve wasted that money buying a product that won’t do much of anything on its own.
Build the habit first and then experiment with products if you still think you need them. But if you can’t build the habit, you’ll never use the product or equipment. Save yourself the time and money by building the habit first and you may find that you don’t even need the product.
Focus on the habit, not the product. Don’t go buy a product. Start a new habit. If you think it’s difficult to start a new habit, try starting a tiny habit.
Further Book Reading
- Dollars and Sense by Ariely & Kreisler
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
- Payoff by Dan Ariely
* Yes, Dan Ariely wrote 3 of these books, because he’s one of the best writers on why we spend what we spend.
- How to Teach Kids the Dangers of Debt (And My Debt-Freedom Story)
- How to Travel Light With Kids (A Comprehensive Guide)
- 10 Practical Steps to Start Practical Minimalism
- Alarming Studies That Show How Advertising Affects Your Kids (And How to Protect Them)
- Don’t Just Teach Your Kids to Set Goals, Teach Them to Do This
- Budgeting for Kids: How to Teach Budgeting From Age 3 to 18
- S, Gunelius. (2014, July 12). The Data Explosion in 2014 – Minute by Minute. ACI.