Sunday, October 04, 2009

What fuels the need to buy?

When deciding on a purchase, we can differentiate between a need and a want as a first step, but we rarely consider the consequences of our buying decision at the point of purchase. Also, we often do not recognise the factors that have created the need.

As we run a family business, time together is at a premium and we considered a family holiday away from home and business. After consideration of what each person’s expectations were of a holiday, the majority decided a skiing break would be very enjoyable. This was followed by a lot of research, places we could go to using trains instead of planes( ecological consequences), type of accommodation etc and the financial costs of such a trip. The end result was that a week skiing would set us back £ 5000 by the time we had rented equipment and acquired the appropriate wardrobe. Thinking about your purchases does take some fun out of it; it slows the process and leaves time to consider.

We then tackled the situation differently and asked the children to decide if they each had £ 1000 whether they would actually be spending it on a week skiing and the answer fascinated me. There were three resounding negatives to that equation. Each young adult could find a better way of spending that money, from newer technology that would give year round joy versus a week’’s holiday to saving the money or spending it on keeping warm this coming winter. The end result was that the need for a week’s holiday was shelved and gained a new perspective. We grew in our understanding of what motivates each family member and how easily society can offer us a fix by creating a need to buy a possible temporary solution or even an escape.

Even if the brochure tells you that the holiday will be less that £ 400 per person, such a holiday can escalate to £ 1000 per person.

Another example is the need for a new games console. If we dig a bit deeper we can understand that the need has arisen because there are arguments between brothers on sharing equipment and that games are more expensive for one type of console than another. The need can be satisfied by buying a new games console but could be managed by helping them to set boundaries as to their usage of the existing games console and by finding other free leisure pursuits. By asking the children to look at their perceived solution and its consequences we ask them to look deeper at what exactly has prompted this need that demands an instant fix to be purchased. As each buying decision is openly discussed at our dinner table, we all gain a better understanding of what drives us to buy. We can see a genuine need to stop the anxiety, frustration and unhappiness created by a lack of sharing and peer pressure.

The consequences of a haircut can mean the need to spend 10 mins each morning washing your hair, then applying a rather expensive gel but then heck I know all too well that at 14 image is very important. Just who created the need I wonder?

It is unlikely that we can stop our children buying into a consumer orientated society but if we can give them tools that give an insight into establishing whether it is their need that drives the purchase or an instilled need by society, then they can make a responsible purchase in the full knowledge of the consequences. I believe my generation lost sight of that.


Moonwaves said...

Excellent post!

Simple in France said...

Really insightful idea--asking the kids what they'd like to do with the money. I'm very focused on the kid issue just now, I guess. I love your way of handling this.