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We live in a world filled with countless empty, consumeristic promises. Sometimes it feels like our entire economy is fueled by manufactured discontent:
- To get the girl, buy this cologne.
- To be the life of the party, get this television.
- To impress your friends, buy this watch.
- To turn heads, drive this car.
- To make a difference in the world, buy this computer.
- To raise a better family, buy this bigger house.
These promises bombard our senses incessantly—at our schools, our bus stops, and in our mailboxes. Even within the comforts of our own home we are convinced to want more through our televisions, social media feeds, and email inboxes.
Unfortunately, more than we realize, these messages begin to shape our thoughts and desires.
As a result, we buy stuff we don’t need. Our closets become crowded, our drawers overfill, our garages can’t fit our cars, and our homes fill with countless products we thought were a good idea at the time; but in reality, rarely get used.
Meanwhile, our credit card balances increase and our savings decrease.
Our lives soon become buried under everything we own.
To counter these empty promises, there is one crucial question we must ask before every purchase.
What if I don’t?
Whenever you feel the pull of consumerism, simply ask yourself the shortened version of this thought, “What might I be able to do if I didn’t make this purchase?”
Every purchase contains an opportunity cost. The question, “What if I don’t?”, forces us to recognize and articulate it.
If you don’t buy that large screen television, how much debt could you pay off?
If you don’t buy the bigger house, how much more money would you have to travel?
If you don’t go clothes-shopping today, how could you build up an emergency fund?
If you don’t make this purchase on Amazon, what good could you accomplish in the world with the money instead?
You know what you’ve been promised if you buy… but what if you don’t? How would your life improve if you said ‘no?’
With every purchase we make, we sacrifice a small amount of freedom. This one crucial question helps us recognize exactly what it is.