Video: Are You an Over-Buyer or an Under-Buyer? (I’m an Under-Buyer.)

For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — this month’s focus is Money. The relationship between money and happiness is one of the most complicated and emotionally charged subjects within the larger issue of happiness. I really can’t do justice to its complexities in such a short video. (For a more nuanced discussion, read Chapter Seven in the book!)

Last week’s resolution was to Beware the gym-membership effect. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week, instead of proposing a resolution, I’m posing a question: Are you an under-buyer or an over-buyer? Me, I’m an under-buyer. It’s not particularly productive to be in too deep in either category; both offer certain advantages but also some definite drawbacks.

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…
Quiz: Are you an over-buyer or an under-buyer?
Buy needful things.
Even though it’s sometimes stressful to give gifts, turns out it’s important to happiness.

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman’s Day.

* A journalist whom I talked to a few years ago, and who recently read The Happiness Project, kindly sent me the link to her blog, A Walker in the Suburbs — “‘When everything else has gone from my brain…what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that’ — Annie Dillard.” Great stuff.

* Yesterday, I posted about my new ad that’s running on TV! Check it out here! Crazy. If you do have a chance to watch the ad, and you like it, it would be a great help if you’d press the “like” button on YouTube (it’s the thumbs-up icon near the video’s bottom left corner). Positive ratings gives a video extra oomph on YouTube.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Are you familiar with Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution”?

  • CreateBeautyDaily

    Oh, I’m both! I overbuy things that I love like bath bubbles, lotions, etc, when I get a great deal on them. I’ve actually put myself on a buying moratorium for them because I have SO MUCH that who knows if I’ll ever use it all! I also overbuy great deals on things I can use as gifts, but then I rarely actually give those things as gifts because I feel they’re not personal enough. I’m getting better on that, though! 🙂

    But I underbuy on clothes for myself, shoes, etc. I very often am upset that I don’t have anything nice to wear when I’m going out to meet girlfriends for lunch, etc. I work at home and HATE clothes shopping. I’m working on that, too! 🙂

    • Beauty products can be so addictive!
      I love them too!

      When I need a treat, perfumed body lotions (vanilla, anyone?) are the first on the list!

      My local shop, where I buy most of my cosmetics, always run giveaways and special sales that are really convenient.
      I had to put a stop on myself or I woud end covered in bath bubbles and lotions 😉

      • 423

        More body products, yes, please.

        “Free” Samples or bonus gifts from Sephora, yes, please.

        New underwear, no thanks, I’ll pass.

        • Lol! I’ll take the new underwear too!
          I had a bad over-spending habit on underwear some years ago.
          Then I stopped and started using the tons of underwear I got!

  • menopausalentrepreneur

    I used to be an over-buyer of clothes that I found on sale. Oh what a rush to find a $10 pair of pants or a great sweater for $15! But I found myself with too much stuff that I didn’t really love. So I’ve decluttered the closet and am now an under-buyer (being a starving writer helps too!).

  • HelenMacfarlane

    I very much agree with CreateBeautyDaily. I overbuy on things that don’t matter much and underbuy on things that do. Then can’t figure out why I’m unhappy. Silly.

    • CreateBeautyDaily

      So glad I’m not the only one! 🙂 I’m working on it, too. 🙂

  • Guest

    Overbuyers and underbuyers may at the surface appear to be two entirely different groups of people, but to me they both seem to have the same problem: they’re scared.

    Underbuyers are scared that they’re going to lose money, while overbuyers are scared they’re going to wind up without something. Honestly, I would advise the same remedy to both groups’ afflictions: think realistically about the worst possible scenario. The buying stress and paralysis mentioned here often ends up costing the consumer much more than the product would have, or that the excess products did.

  • Your video is fab and so is the add…I passed it on for you. This chapter in the book made me chuckle more than once as I am the opposite of you. I hate running out of something. The house we built last year isn’t huge but it’s huge on storage…stuff we need only though. I do big shops as I hate having to go in a pinch. Always get the huge thing of eco-toilet paper when it’s on sale. I always have a small tote of things the kids might need when they are sick etc. Sometimes I think how much brain space and time I waste keeping track of my stocks but I am a good shopper and little things like having a new thing of laundry detergent waiting and ready to go as I finish the last bits of the old one make me happy. It’s something I can control amoungst the chaos of life right now that’s often completely out of my hands.

  • This was really interesting to me, as I originally thought that I was definitely an over-buyer, but upon reading your quiz questions in the linkback I realized I was an under-buyer who then panics and makes bad purchasing decisions.

    I also find myself constantly unhappy with my lack of required materials for accomplishing projects I would like to do, but feel terrible at the thought of investing in things that may not get much use in the long run.

    Food for thought….

  • mausumi

    I think I’m an under buyer when it comes to necessities (like soap and toilet paper and food) , but a notorious over buyer when it comes to clothes and things (and stuff like office supply, accessories, household decoration items etc. )

    It’s really helpful to be aware of this, since my over buying is a source of both financial and emotional stress! It needs to go!

    I finished reading your book yesterday, and it really inspired me!

    Just one question: Are your weekly resolutions all from your book or do you add new ones too?

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m glad the post was useful to you.

      The weekly resolutions…the videos or the Friday resolutions? The videos
      are often from my book, but not always; the Friday resolutions are usually
      not from the book, because I’ve already posted about those.

  • I’m none!

    That is great, because after I took your “Mindfullness” test scoring “Yes” to all – I say, ALL – the questions, I was a bit worried 😉

    I try to buy what I need and to keep a little extra, like an extra tube of toothpaste or some extra toothbrushes, but not too much.
    I buy shampoo or soap or whatever when I have 1/4 left, more or less.

    My husband and I tend to buy clothes and shoes to replace old ones, but at the right time of the year!
    I hate clutter so I try to keep a balance.

    I also love making personalized gifts, most of them through Etsy, and I enjoy the process of choosing, deciding and ordering a lot.

    I definitely was an over-buyer on art supplies, but keeping in mind the precious “gym-membership” effect, I stopped that.
    I have tons of art supplies if I need some!
    It felt so liberating to stop buying extra supplies and then feeling guilty because I wasn’t using them.

    Yesterday I indulged in buying a couple of books and one of my favorite Moleskine sketching journals, and it felt like a real treat!
    I have it on my kitchen counter, still wrapped in its plastic foil, and I can’t wait to open it.

    A little pleasure can go a long way 😉

    • 423

      Etsy and its bath/body offerings is becoming a dangerous neighborhood for me! It now ranks up there with Target and Sephora!
      Since reading Happiness Project AND getting laid off I am becoming better of necessity.

  • dawn521

    Before I read your book I had never even thought about this, but I am an underbuyer about most things. I don’t wear much makeup on an everyday basis (eyeshadow, mascara, blush) and right now I’m on the last little bit of eyeshadow & blush. I try to hold out until the last possible second before I buy replacements.

    Whether it’s my favorite pair of black boots (that I wear most days in the fall & winter) or my comfy pair of UA sweatpants that I wear when I’m home…I always seem to put off buying new ones. My hubby on the other hand, is an overbuyer! I guess maybe opposites really do attract 🙂

  • Michael Yanakiev

    This is a very useful and full of earthly wisdom post! I personally find it very useful. If I understand you correctly, it is a wise policy to in buying to stick
    to purchasing goods for domestic purposes mainly ? How often is it reasonable to purchase a luxury item knowing that one can live perfectly well without it, yet the temptation is strong ? When can temptation be associated with fear and if one is lured into it, turn into misery or horror?

  • Michael Yanakiev

    Gretchen…..A very interesting and instructive post! If I understood you correctly, it is a wise policy to buy mainly for domestic needs and purchase
    only if necessary anything else ? How often is it reasonable to buy a luxury
    item no matter that we know that fully live without it,yet we are tempted to do so ? And if temptation is associated with a fear from doing so,after we have done it can it be associated with disaster/horror ?

  • I realized I’m an under-buyer when it comes to car fuel.
    I usually put the minimum and then I’m always worried I don’t have enough gas!

    I’ve been in constant worry these last days, feeling that “I have to make fuel” because I usually need to do it often.
    But last time it was my husband to fuel the car and he filled the fuel tank full!
    So now I have plenty of gas. What a relief!

    • gretchenrubin


      I live in NYC so now never drive a car, which I love.

      But when I was driving a lot, I did this ALL THE TIME. That’s one of the
      strange things about under-buying. You hate to shop, hate to stop to pay for
      things, yet because you buy so little, you actually end up spending MORE
      TIME doing it. Instead of filling up the gas tank once, you have to do it
      multiple times because you don’t buy enough gas. It makes no sense! And yet
      I followed the same pattern for years. Plus I was always anxious about
      running out of gas, just like you.

      That’s why I think it helps to recognize these patterns in yourself. Once
      you SEE what you’re doing, you can decide to act differently. But when you
      aren’t really aware of the pattern (as I wasn’t, with the gas — I didn’t
      realize I was an under-buyer until very recently), you can’t see how
      different choice might make you happier in the long run.

      • Gretchen, I’m so thankful you pointed this problem out in the blog!
        It helped me focus on this behaviour, that really makes no sense.

        Two years ago I moved from Rome to a little town near Rome, so I had to buy a car.
        I often drive at night because I teach evening classes in Rome.

        One night I remember feeling so anxious because I didn’t have enough gas to reach home and there weren’t any gas stations open!
        How silly! And dangerous too, I could end without gas in the middle of nowhere.

        I will remember it and make my fuel accordingly 😉

  • MissDuden

    All these posts sound very familiar to me… I also read the post on different shopping strategies (maximizer vs. satisficer) and realized I am a maximizer but also an under-buyer – except for shower gel, oddly. There is no such thing as too much shower gel bottles in the bathroom 🙂

  • I think I’m a tad bit on the over buying side. I think a great deal of people have a tendency to live beyond their means and I’m one of them. This really makes me think on considering my finances more carefully. Thanks for sharing, Gretchen!!

  • I would say I’m both too! I have periods of overbuying and underbuying but its definitely been a long period of underbuying for a while now with minimalism and Stoicism mixed in.

  • Chedgcorth

    I agree that money is important to happiness, but you dont have to be a millionaire to be happy. For me, I am much happier and free of stress when I have the things I need and know that I have money put back if something comes up. I also think it’s important to have money to be able to buy a “want” every now and then as well because lets face it, if we only spend money on things we need, life would get pretty boring.

    Being able to afford what you need and still having enough money to go out for dinner or a movie, or occasionally buying that expensive item like a new plasma tv, will certainly make people feel happier than those who are worrying if they will have the money to cover rent next month.You can visit for information on getting yourself into a position to feel happy about your financial situation.