This Wednesday: 11 tips cutting down the number of things you buy.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 11 tips for cutting down the number of things you buy.

Some people buy too much, some people buy too little. That’s the overbuyer / underbuyer split.

Overbuyers are often anxious about all the money they’ve spent and the stuff they’ve accumulated, so they can use some tips on cutting down on the number of things they buy.

But as an underbuyer myself, I can say that we underbuyers, paradoxically, also sometimes buy too much. Because we hate to shop, once we’re in a store and forced to make a purchase, we have the urge to try to do as much as possible at one time, to avoid having to make another trip. Items start flying through the air into the cart. As one friend said of me, “You turn into a drive-buy shopper, once you get going!”

These tips should help both overbuyers and underbuyers to buy only what they need.

1. Pay cash.

2. Buy small items first. When you buy an expensive item, it’s easy to toss in unthinkingly a lot of smaller items alongside it – items that you might have otherwise have spent a lot of time considering, and which add up to a lot of $$$. So pick out smaller items first, then the larger item. Buy the software, the mouse, the mousepad, and the other bits and bobs, then choose the computer.

3. Don’t buy too much at one time. If you’re buying too many things, you stop paying attention to what you’re getting.

4. Don’t buy anything at a bargain store that you haven’t bought before at full price.

5. Before paying, review each of your purchases with a skeptical eye. Don’t buy anything you’re not sure you want and can use – this is particularly important with clothes.

6. Don’t tell yourself, “I can always return it”; remind yourself, “I can come back if I decide I need it.”

7. Make a list and stick to it.

8. Don’t buy anything that needs to be a specific size unless you KNOW the measurements you need.

9. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.

10. Be very skeptical of anything that’s on sale.

11. If you don’t shop, you don’t buy. Stay out of stores.

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I got a big kick out of the blog Indexed, which uses Venn diagrams to look at life. Very amusing.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

Happiness: Should you have GOALS or RESOLUTIONS?

For my Happiness Project, I always talk in terms of my “resolutions” – my resolution to “Quit nagging” or “Sing in the morning” or “Make time for projects.”

I’d noticed idly that a lot of people talk instead in terms of “goals.” I’d never thought much about this distinction, but yesterday, it struck me that this difference was, in fact, significant.

You hit a goal, you achieve a goal. You keep a resolution.

I think that some objectives are better characterized as resolutions, others, as goals.

“Run in a marathon” or “Become fluent in Spanish” is a good goal. It’s specific. It’s easy to tell when it has been achieved. Once you’ve done it, you’ve done it!

“Eat more vegetables” or “Stop gossiping,” or “Exercise” is better cast as a resolution. You won’t wake up one morning and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do, every day, forever. You’ll never be done with it.

Having goals is terrific for happiness. The First Splendid Truth says that to think about happiness, we need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. Striving toward a goal gives a tremendous sense of growth.

But it can be easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to hit a goal. What if it takes longer than you expected? What if it’s harder than you expected? And what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now – do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal?

With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day, I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.

For example, one of my recent resolutions was “No more fake food.” Have I achieved this goal? Well, maybe — I haven’t had any fake food since I made that resolution. But practically not a day goes by when I don’t fight the temptation. How many times has my hand hovered above a Glenny’s 100-Calorie Brownie? “No more fake food” is a resolution, not a goal.

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One thing I have NOT done in my Happiness Project is to start practicing meditation — even though a chorus of practitioners and scientists laud it. For example, Gimundo had a very interesting post about how meditation can increase compassion.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

This Saturday: a happiness quotation from Oscar Wilde.

“Nature, which makes nothing durable, always repeats itself so that nothing which it makes may be lost.” Oscar Wilde

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A good place to do a lot of fascinating reading is on the Psychology Today blogs. There are a bunch of bloggers covering different subjects, so there’s always something I want to take a look at.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Jump.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

The other day, I was waiting to pick up my three-year-old from nursery school with a scrum of other mothers and babysitters. I noticed that one of the mothers, while walking down the hallway to the classroom, gave a little skip-jump as she walked.

I was absolutely struck by that. This one little action made her seem so vital, so energetic, so…joyful.

Along the same lines, I’ve noticed that I get a charge of energy when I run down stairs instead of walking down them. There’s something invigorating about having your two feet leave the ground, in a jump or a run.

Wasn’t there a photographer who was famous for taking portraits of famous people, jumping?

Children run and jump constantly, but as we get older, our feet leave the ground less often. Unless you run for exercise, you might go a very long time without lifting off the ground.

But after I saw that mother do her jump step, I started cultivating the opportunity to jump around more. It’s harder than you might think. I run down stairs. How else, though, to work it into an average day? Mostly I goof around with my kids or do a little hop-skip as I’m walking down the sidewalk.

One of my most important Happiness-Project resolutions—and also my Third Commandment—is to Act the way I want to feel. We think that we act because of the way we feel, but many times, we feel because of the way we act.

By acting energetic and cheery, I make myself feel energetic and cheery. And a great way to act energetic and cheery is to JUMP.

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I always like checking out Marginal Revolution, and this post tempted me to add two books to my to-read list.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.

A short, brilliantly fun book about how to be happy and successful at work.

I just finished Daniel Pink’s new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. It’s a career guide written in the form of a comic book.

It’s brilliant.

Ever since I read Scott McCloud’s mind-blowing book, Understanding Comics, I’ve been intrigued with comics as an approach to convey lots of complex information in an elegant, accessible way. I never read comics myself, but McCloud convinced me that this format had extraordinary possibilities.

I’ve always been interested in how people process information. Each of my books – Power Money Fame Sex, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, and the others — has used unconventional ways to make my arguments. But I never thought to try using comics, even after reading McCloud.

Well, Daniel Pink’s book does this, and with huge success. In a short, fun read, he sets forth his guide to how to be happy and successful at work. Writing the book in a more conventional style would have taken far more words, been less interesting, and less memorable.

Reading this career guide in comic-book form made it ridiculously easy to remember the main points:

1. There is no plan.
2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
3. It’s not about you.
4. Persistence trumps talent.
5. Make excellent mistakes.
6. Leave an imprint.

This is great advice for life in general, not just making career choices. In fact, several of Pink’s points play a big part in my Happiness Project — “Enjoy the fun of failure,” “Be Gretchen,” why I left law for writing, etc.

Even if – like me – you don’t read comics, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a terrific book. And apart from the sound advice it offers, it’s fascinating to see comics used as a teaching device.

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I love getting the chance to meet people from blogland in person. Yes, they really exist! In human form! Yesterday I had coffee with Jonathan Fields, who has the great blog, Awake at the Wheel. I was keeping my resolution to “Show up,” and as always, I was glad I did.

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New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.
If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.