Here’s a fact that I haven’t discussed much here: I used to work in market research and marketing. My old bosses would loathe the types of articles I write on Frugal Confessions and surely lay me off again if they had the chance! After all, I am the worst kind of consumer: I have little brand loyalty, a low price point, and refuse to pay retail. I probably should not be in the business of telling Fortune 500 companies how to sell to their target consumers…but that is what I used to do.
My short stint in the marketing industry taught me a lot about how consumers are targeted. However, my lifelong passion with being frugal and saving money has taught me much more, such as how to deflect even the best marketing attempts. Going to stores robs us of our time and energy, both of which most Americans are feeling crunched on. Why use your precious time driving to the store, walking up and down aisles, waiting in line, and then driving home? I haven’t even cracked open most of my Christmas gifts from last year and we’ve passed the mid-year mark. Why continue to purchase new things at the store that takes time away from me using my other gifts, and that I probably won’t find time for over the next year?
If you find yourself spending more money than you would like, or getting sucked into all of the “sales” out there, think about wrapping an orb of energy around yourself that allows you to deflect consumerism by not allowing it into your life. We’re talking a deflection shield for advertisements, marketing, impulse products, stores, etc.
Become the Minimalist Consumer and Save More Money
Pay at the Pump: Swipe a credit card or debit card at the pump instead of going inside the store and you won’t be tempted to buy snacks, cigarettes, drinks, lottery tickets, etc.
Unsubscribe to Everything: Emails have become another way for companies to get their products in front of your face. When I sign up for something that I know will continue to send me newsletters and promotions even after I receive the coupon or discount, I sign up with an email I have setup specifically to ignore these types of correspondences. Then, I ignore this email account; I haven’t even signed into this account for about six months. Even so, many of these types of things end up in my regular email account as well. I make a point of combating this by going through and unsubscribing to various things every six months or so (usually when I get sick of the number of emails I delete without reading). The unsubscribe button within newsletters and update emails is small, but is generally located either directly above or directly below the email’s main image.
Recognize Environmental Cues and Fight Them: A dopamine-rich part of the brain named the striatum memorizes rituals and routines that are linked to getting a particular reward, explains National Institute on Drug Abuse's Dr. Nora Volkow. Eventually, those environmental cues trigger the striatum to make some behaviors almost automatic. For some, this is purchasing popcorn in a movie theater even though you don’t normally like popcorn, a hot dog at the baseball game, or going shopping when you feel in the dumps. When you find yourself at these places, don’t just purchase a product out of routine. Realize that you may be wired to purchase something, even if you don’t really want it or need it. This is especially true if advertising has convinced you that certain things just go together like jewelry and kissing (i.e. Every Kiss Begins with Kay…Jewelers). These sorts of messages just work to increase the retailer’s bottom line, not your satisfaction.
Filter Ads Online: The internet has several forms of advertising, including pictures, animations, text, or pop-up windows. There are ways to get around these ads, though you won’t be able to get around all of them because they are responsible for the free content everyone enjoys. Almost every modern web browser has some sort of software included that attacks pop up ads. Content filtering, which prevents external files from loading, is all ready included in Internet Explorer 8, and Adblock Plus can add content filtering onto Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. I was also able to find a company that offers a free email account with no advertisements (I have no experience with this company—if anyone uses them, please let us know how it works out!).
Go Grocery Shopping Only Twice a Month: Some people grocery shop every week, others find themselves in the grocery store several times a week to pick up extraneous ingredients for a recipe, milk, and/or bread. By grocery shopping every other week, you are cutting down the amount of exposure to marketing, advertising, and products.
Keep Busy: I go entire weeks without hitting a store (except for the gas station). One thing I have noticed is that when I put my energy and focus into my writing and work, I don’t even have the desire to go to the store. With idle time, going to the store or mall can seem like a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. When you only have a few hours of idle time per day, cooking a new recipe, watching a favorite television show, reading a book, etc. seem like much better ways to spend your time.
Get Rid of Junk Mail: Don’t you hate it when you order something from a store and then receive their catalogue for years afterwards? Honestly, I always think that the store loses money on a customer like me because I receive their pricey, color ads long enough that it’s a complete wash from the original product that I purchased. If catalogues tempt you and also if you want to cut down on waste, call the companies or take other steps to get taken off of mailing lists.
DVR Television Shows: We have AT&T Uverse and it comes with a DVR. Being completely un-tech savvy and generally uninterested, it took me months to realize the potential of this device. Not only can you tape things to watch at your convenience, but you can then fast forward through commercials. You can virtually eliminate commercials from coming into your home!
Light pollution takes away from the view of the magnificent stars at night. The stars are still there, but because of the glare of manmade cities and lights you just cannot see them as well or clearly. Think about the glare that advertisements have over your life. If you were to cut out these distractions, what might your mind have time to do? Where might your focus and efforts go instead?