creative support for environmental organisations

Caught unintentionally shopping

In a recent writing collaboration for KALEIDO magazine, we were asked to share our top tips for a 'balanced life'. One of the five ‘tips’ we offered pertained to consumption and consumer habits. Simply put, the process through which we spend our money.

We pondered our lifestyles and consumer habits, and those we've observed of our friends and families. As it sometimes does during the process of writing, something else drew our attention. A cultural phenomenon we came to know as 'unintentional shopping'.

At the time of writing, we were in our home city of Sydney, Australia and likewise were our sample group (most) of our family and friends. Conveniently for this story, Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live (14th to be precise). A city where even on a ‘decent’ salary the thought of home or even a car ownership could make you shudder. In recent years, the property ladder has lost a few rungs, encouraging a 'play now, save later' mentality amongst our peers. There is a clear generational shift away from traditional notions of prosperity and success through asset-based wealth. Most are happy completing their somewhat unique version of 40-41 hours work per week (2016, Australian Bureau of Statistics) and using their disposable income to eat, drink and travel away from the fact that they are dubbed "generation rent"

Re-enactment of coffee-shop story filled with empty heroic claims and regret.

Re-enactment of coffee-shop story filled with empty heroic claims and regret.

Stoic stories echo around pre-work coffee-stops on Monday mornings. We love to laugh off our weekend blow-outs. These post-party narratives are an attempt to bluetac a shred of social value and self-confidence to a clear sense of economic uncertainty.

There are many formulas that seek to define our motivations as consumers. Furthermore, to explain how you spent $472 in one boozey evening with friends a few weeks back. One of those theories is called A.I.D.A. and was first presented by E. St. Elmo Lewis published in 1898.



This is a nice way of showing you how the clever marketers of the world like Apple, Levis or Jack Daniels make you feel a need for a little bit of liquid or ‘retail therapy’.

Attention/Awareness: We (the consumer) become aware of a product or service.

Interest: We begin to learn about a product or service.

Desire: We develop a favourable disposition and need for a purchase.

Action: We close the deal.

So what is the antidote to 'unintentional' consumption? Conscious and calm consideration of a purchase BEFORE you make it. 

 Here are the steps we came up with, for shopping with intention

1. Remove emotion: Immediately. Be excited after you've made a good decision.

2. Want VS need: Is your purchase desired or required? If required, proceed to Step 3.

3. Real cost: Are you prepared for the ongoing costs of maintenance, storage, accessories? Yes, proceed to Step 4.

4. Hours - Work out the actual hours of work you'll need to perform (hourly rate/cost of purchase) to offset the purchase. Prepared to grind for your find? Yes? Proceed to Step 5.

5. Removal of ego - Ask yourself: Would I be as happy with this purchase if none of my friends ever find out about it? Yes?

CONGRATULATIONS! You just made your first intentional purchase. 

Writing about balance was an interesting exercise. Not only did we realise that we had all been guilty of blind consumer funnel-falling but we had imbalances all through our lives based on perceptions of financial success. Perceptions based on outdated cultural modelling from a Post-War parental influence.

This concept of Intentional shopping is a tool for empowering a new generation of precarious professionals who don't yet appear to have a good idea what the new version of 'success' or 'security' looks like yet.

So go forth and spend, and fritter with the peace of mind that you did with intention