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The Good Consumer
By Indy Media / filmsforaction.org
Dec 11, 2008


From BonfireTheBrands.com:

Take the one week Debrand your life challenge


If you have a problem with shopping, you’re obsessed by brands, or you just want to make life cheaper and easier, try following these tips for a less branded lifestyle.

1. Avoid advertising
Have you ever started reading a glossy magazine feeling good about yourself, only to finish the thing feeling fat, unfashionable and poor? Advertising images are specifically designed to present idealized images of people with new products. It’s a fact that the more ads you see, the more dissatisfied you become with your own life. Studies prove that less you look, the stronger your self-esteem will be. Watch less TV. Stop buying glossy magazines. Block pop-up ads on your computer. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel, and you’ll be less inclined to go shopping to cheer yourself up.

2. Separate wants from needs
In many ways, branding is used to manufacture need when there is none. It’s easy to get stuck on the shopping treadmill by mistaking the things you want for the things that you need. Try working out what you actually need to survive comfortably and you’ll see how much money we waste on non-essential items. Do you really need a new pair of trainers, a new bag, a new phone?
Every time you’re waiting in line at the till, ask yourself do I really need this stuff? If the answer is no, put it back on the shelf. Life goes on.

3. Shop around
Brands often tell us that the more money we spend, the better quality we’ll get, but that’s often just a myth to get us paying more. It’s easy to find cheaper versions of expensive brands online, in markets or second hand, be it clothes or gadgets or even food. And they’re often just as good quality. It takes a bit more effort, but once you get used to paying £5 for a t-shirt, you’ll never go back to spending £50. See the links page for a list of non-branded suppliers.

3. Plan ahead
Brands rely on us being too busy or too lazy to plan ahead. Most of the stuff we buy each day is due to lack of planning, like bottled water for instance.
Try to plan before you leave the house each day and you’ll rely less on impulse buying. Try to buy your weekly essentials in one go, or better still get it delivered - you’ll need to visit fewer shops and be less tempted to splurge.

4. Have a clear out
Rummage through the back of your closets and you’re bound to find stuff that you’ll never use again. How long before the stuff you bought last week becomes redundant too? Clearing out your junk is a useful reminder that the things we ‘invest in’ rarely turn out to be as useful as we once thought.

5. Stop shopping for leisure
Try finding other things to do over the weekend beyond shopping. Chances are you may not know what to do with yourself at first, and you might feel increasingly anxious and bored, but stick with it. Play sport, do art, go to the country, visit your mates… anything but shopping. I promise you, these things become more interesting and more rewarding as time goes on.

6. Cut up your credit cards
Living within the means of your pay packet as opposed to your overdraft turns non-essential purchasing into a luxury rather than a habit. Just like Mother used to say, you’ll value things more when you’ve saved up for them.

7. Live simple
Brands complicate everything in life. Even the simplest purchases - which coffee, which underwear, which toaster? - can be racked with status anxiety.
Once you stop worrying what your brands say and mean, life gets so much simpler. Keeping your life clutter-free can become just as addictive and shopping, but it is so much more rewarding.

8. Forget about glamour
None of the above points sound very glamorous. But then glamour is really just another myth perpetuated by brands. It’s important to remember this when you’re barraged with aspirational ads day in, day out. Will you really become more glamorous with Beyonce’s brand of hair dye? In any case, the people who appear to have achieved real glamour - Posh & Paris - are miserable wretches themselves. And they don’t use home hair dye kits anyway.

9. Understand the triggers
This is the tough one. If you’re habitually buying into brands, it’s probably to medicate another issue that’s rumbling on in your life. Most psychologists agree that conspicuous consumption, habitual shopping and constant striving for wealth are symptoms of deeper emotional issues. Perhaps this is a time for self-reflection? Psychologists often joke that the best thing a lottery winner could buy is therapy.

10. Be realistic
Trying to live brand free is like keeping to a low fat diet - a little bit of chocolate cake once in a while isn’t going to kill you as long as the bulk of your diet is healthy. Buying branded when you really need to isn’t the end of the world, just don’t expect that purchase to change your life. And be careful not to slip back into the old routines!


Did you take the challenge? Tell us what you thought of your experience.

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