Fight consumerism with the 24 hour rule

Need vs. Want

When purchasing a new item, how can we clearly identify need vs want?

We’ve all done it before; a quick stop in a store for one thing can result in picking up an extra 10 items. We pick things up because they’re on sale. Or because we like something. Perhaps because we might need it someday soon. There’s a new version, or the latest and greatest… the list goes on.


The truth is that we live in a consumerist society. It can easily become habit to buy things that we might not actually need. Advertising tries to convince us we need more things to be happy. Advertising can convince us that we’re somehow missing out and that happiness is just around the corner. So much is readily available in stores and online, or sales can make us feel pressured to buy something now so we don’t miss out on a good deal. Even worse, because it eats away at our hearts and happiness: we compare ourselves to others and want what they have.

24 Hour Rule

At one point when my husband and I were engaged, we started following a ’24 Hour Rule’ for purchases. For large purchases we would wait 24 hours before buying something. (If you want, you can set a price limit for when you should bring up this rule: perhaps purchases over $50 or $200 or even $20. Set a limit that works for you. Perhaps the larger the price, the more time you could allow to think about it.)

In practice, these 24 hours allows time to leave the store, or log off a website, or walk away from a sales person. It encourages you to think about why you ‘need’ to purchase something: Do we already own a similar item? Is it available for a cheaper price, or secondhand elsewhere? Or is there a better quality item that I could wait for and invest in? And most importantly, do I really need this? Especially if you share finances with someone else, it also allows time to talk together about the purchases we want to make, rather than spending on the spot.

Become An Intentional Consumer

This may seem strict or tough at first, but after some practice the 24 Hour Rule can become a new habitSometimes after the 24 hours, my husband or I have continued with the purchase or gone back to the store. However, I think we can agree that there have been many times when this rule has saved us from making impulse purchases. As for the argument that ‘something is on sale!’, we have often found that this is advertising pressure to purchase NOW. The item is often on sale again soon or elsewhere! 

It’s also okay to buy things that we really want or like. But having full knowledge that something is a want and not a dire need leads to the freedom of knowing that we would be okay without it too. It’s not that things are bad. It only becomes dangerous when we’re too attached to material things and begin to think that our happiness depends on them.

Read the post linked here and discover 6 steps to change shopping habits. Become more intentional about your purchases and work towards having less stuff and more life.

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