Pigeon of Discontent: “I’m a Severe Under-Buyer.”

Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we’re also plagued by those small but pesky Pigeons of Discontent.

This week’s Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: “I’m a severe under-buyer.


If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

Quiz: Are you an over-buyer or an under-buyer?

9 tips to avoid over-spending.

Beware the snare of the linen cocktail napkin.

How about you? Would you describe yourself as an under-buyer or an over-buyer? Most people are somewhere in between, but if you’re clearly in one camp, you probably realize that very well about yourself.  Have you found any good strategies to deal with it? I know a married couple where one is an under-buyer and the other is an over-buyer. It’s quite funny to watch them in action.

You can post your own Pigeon of Discontent at any time; also, from time to time, I’ll make a special call for suggestions.

You can check out the archives of videos here. Crazy fact: I just realized that my YouTube channel has had more than a million views. Zoikes.

  • Anne

    At this point, I’m more of an over-buyer than I used to be. I moved to an island, where I can’t count on finding the simplest thing in the stores. So now I buy my (very ordinary brand) shampoo six bottles at a time, and have backups of everything from 12-packs of TP to bottles of laundry detergent. Because if I wait until I need something before I go looking, the store will be out for the foreseeable future.

    • gretchenrubin

      This isn’t really being an over-buyer, according to my definition…because you’re buying things you know you’ll need. Over-buyers buy things they need, but also things they predict they’ll need, or that they might need one day.

  • peninith

    Overbuyer: Cleaned my fridge and found SEVEN open containers of dijon mustard. Yikes. Now I make a list before I go out, and check the list against my fridge and pantry to see if I already have the item. I will ALWAYS have about 3 large cans of tomatoes, extra toilet paper, toothpaste, and listerine, four kinds of vinegar and four kinds of cooking oil . . . just how it is. But more order and checking first has saved me from horrors like the battalion of Dijon jars!!!!

  • Sarah

    I’d have to say I’m a mix too…I seem to overbuyer of craft supplies and
    items I think will come in handy when creating things but I am always running for the
    necessities or groceries!

    Great article, Gretchen. Loved your book and reading your blog weekly.

  • I laughed at your husband’s umbrella splurge! He needs to meet my husband, whom I’ve nicknamed “Mass-Quantity Dave” as an apt description of his buying patterns.

    Like you, I hate to shop and I’m a confirmed under-buyer. I had an insight a few years ago when I realized that for me, under-buying is a symptom of my lifelong struggle with perfectionism. When I get anxious about making a purchase (especially clothes), I give myself permission to make a mistake. Not everything I buy has to work out! It can be a matter of trial-and-error. So I buy more clothes; I return more clothes; and I’m more comfortable with the occasional mistake. As a result, I’m more prepared for those occasional clothing emergencies, such as when my husband invites me — at the last minute me — to a work event. And that little feeling of success (“I’m prepared!”) offsets my worries about making the wrong purchase.

    Who knew the way we shop reveals so much of our souls?

  • adora

    Hate shopping as well, but I consider myself an “efficient-buyer”. I’d buy enough soap, shampoo, toilet paper to last for 4-6 months. I would need toilet paper everyday for the rest of my life, might as well stock up.

    I guess I’m more focus on time-saving. Over-buying and under-buying both waste time in their own way. I dedicate only 2 hours a week on buying things. I can’t imagine having to run to stores immediately because I run out. And I can’t imagine having stuff that I don’t need lying around requiring more cleaning.

    Maybe you could try using time limit as the unit rather than quantity of stuff. You will soon learn to buy 2 or 3 of everything at a time if you set less time for shopping.

  • Helen

    Thanks for the link to the chapter in your new book – I’m already hooked! Thinking of a few friends with fall birthdays I can get it for as well. Looking forward to it!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for your kind words!

  • Rachel

    I think that for some overbuyers (not the case for everyone, of course), they overbuy because they can. That is, they live in a space large enough to accommodate storing large quantities of items at one time. Sometimes I find myself wanting to stock up on certain nonperishable items, but I don’t have room for 4 large packages of toilet paper in my bathroom (as one example).

  • Rachel

    It’s nice to now have a label for myself! It was only recently that I purchased a membership to a Wholesale Club … and I only buy those things that I absolutely know that we will use (staple breakfast and lunch items for kids).

    I have been known to walk around the store, carrying multiple hangers of clothing … and walking out with 1 thing or nothing at all. I’m pretty sure this under-buying trait was passed from my mother and her mother – as we always, always had to buy things out of necessity – never desire. Thanks for a great video!

  • i used to have this problem, and for me it was a combination of being short on funds which would then contribute to this inexplicable anxiety when i’d be in the store and faced with the actual purchase. i’d have a whole debate about whether i needed the item [even though i’d made the trip] and often talk myself out of it, saying “next time.” the problem is, these weren’t luxury items, they were necessary things, and now i was contributing to additional driving to come back and ultimately get real and deal with it. my solution was to come up with a coping technique where i’d relax and say “you’re here now, you are about to solve a problem” and connect with the relief of having it solved. being short on funds can cause a person to think they can’t afford anything, but essentials do usually find a way to get covered.