How to combat the modern mother’s biggest financial trap: consumerism

Filed in: Podcast

Under: Money Mindset, Spend Less

In this episode we look into what consumerism is, how it can negatively affect us if we’re not ‘aware’, and what you can do to protect yourself from mindless overspending. Hint: it’s actually NOT pure frugality, or minimalism!


In this episode we’re going to switch gears a little bit.  We’ve been talking about income generation in the last couple of episodes, and how to make income that’s ‘motherhood friendly’ and flexible, and works better for you in your motherhood.  

This time we’re switching to income preservation, because there’s no point in scheming and dreaming all these ways to make motherhood friendly income, if we’re going to get rid of it just as fast, or faster than we earn it.  

Just to be clear, I’m not going to go full frugal on you, I’m not going to go super minimalist, but there’ll be flavours of it in this podcast.  Because I believe, once you become a mum – and it certainly has been like this for me – any time that you spend away from your young family, it just seems so much more of a sacrifice to make, to leave and earn money away from them.  

It becomes clearer that the money that you are earning you want to, you want to hold onto it as much as you can, or preserve what you earn or at least spend it on something that is of high value to you.  

So that’s great, we make motherhood friendly income and we spend our money wisely, that’s the end of that episode – no unfortunately not!  

This episode really is to focus on the one really big trap that I think a lot of Mums can fall into in today’s modern society.  

And this comes down to us living in a capitalist society. I went looking for a good description of the impact of what capitalism has on society, and on us, and I found a lot of nerdy things online, but not a lot that explain this to me in really basic terms: what is Capitalism?  However, I ended up finding a really good description from Teen Vogue! They’re saying ‘hey teens, you’re probably not aware of capitalism so we’re going to explain it to you really basically’. Sometimes I think we forget about capitalism, we just live in this type of society and we forget what it is.

This might be something that you know already or are familiar with already, or it might be just a little timely reminder.  

This is from about capitalism.  

“The kind of impact that capitalism has on your life depends on whether you’re a worker or a boss.  For somebody who owns a company and employs other workers, capitalism may make sense. The more profits your company brings in, the more resources you have to share with your workers which theoretically improves everyone’s standard of living.  It’s all based on the principle of supply and demand, and in capitalism consumption is king. The problem is that many capitalist bosses aren’t great at sharing the wealth which is why one of the major critiques of capitalism is that it’s a huge driver of inequality – both social and economic.”  

So what does that mean?  That if you own a company you’re in a better place than if you didn’t?  Actually, that means to me, that our capitalist society depends on consumption.  

These companies need your money, in order to make a profit, in order to stay viable.  So they need you to spend your money with them. That’s a basic driver of every company in existence.  If nobody wants what they’re selling, they’re not going to be profitable, they’re not going to be able to grow and that’s the end of that.  So that makes sense, and it’s everywhere.  

But you’ve got these companies that want your money, how are they going to get that from you when, it is so easy to find and to buy the things that you (think you) need?  

Online advertising, it’s just everywhere.  You might not even be aware that you need something and then you see a really good advert and go ‘damn, I would love one of them’.

These days there are ‘influencers’.  Anyone who is kind of semi-famous in any way online or however, is an influencer.  And you see them wearing or using something and you think ‘yeah, that’s pretty cool, I want that’.  That is another form of advertising, it’s basically everywhere.  

The purpose of this advertising is to tell you and to demonstrate to you that you need something.  You’re lacking something in your life, and your life would be better if you just had this thing.  

This kind of advertising is really emotionally driven and psychologically driven.  Advertisers are really good marketers, they play on how your brain works. For example, there’s such a thing called NLP which stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming and it’s the way you say certain things which makes your brain go ‘I better do that’.  So I think that’s kind of sneaky. But these sorts of tactics are very common in the marketing and advertising world. – because everyone wants your money!  

So, how is this one company going to make it so that you buy it off them.  It’s so easy to buy:  you can get same day delivery for some things; you can buy most things online; you can subscribe to your favourite products…  All this instant gratification going on. These advertisers need to make sure that you’re going to buy from them.  

We buy for different reasons: we buy for convenience; we buy different items to make our lives easier; we buy for status; we like to flash our Apple products around because [said facetiously] ‘I like to be known as a Mac user because I am exceptionally talented and creative.’  

So there’s the status thing.  It’s a part of your identity, the things that you purchase – they show people what you are about, what you value, who you are as a person:  by the car you drive; the area that you live in; the house you live in; and the decorations you have. We buy things to establish our identity and attract people who are similar minded.  

There’s a lot of psychological stuff going on there that makes us buy.  Unfortunately we can become a little bit susceptible to this and if you end up watching enough advertising or listening enough to the hype then you just walk around with this feeling of lack all the time.  You feel like you always need something and it’s just a really awful place to be.  

So it’s really not a nice way to be.  You’re walking around, always feeling like you need something, that you’re always lacking something, that life would be better if you just bought this one thing.  

How can you ever feel satisfied with your life, with yourself, with your achievements, when you subconsciously believe that you don’t have enough, that you need more? 

When does that end, honestly, when does that end.  

So your job, in this capitalist society, is not to deprive yourself.  We as Mums like convenience! We like things to be really easy, and sometimes that’s more important depending on what season of your life you’re in.  

I’m coming into a season in my life where I want things to be a lot easier so I can focus on the stuff that really matters to me.  It’s become more and more important to me that I do this. My values have shifted, so where I spend my time and money has shifted as well.  

But, you can’t hold on to all of your money,  (but if you’re spending more than you have then that’s a real problem and you need to dial it back and do something about it starting today!)  And you can’t do this across the board. You can’t go full frugal, you can’t go full minimalist – although as I said before I love elements of frugality and minimalism – but to change from a consumptive lifestyle to full frugal or minimalist, is not sustainable.  It’s like going from a diet where you eat anything to full keto, and not expecting some kind of backlash from your body.  In this case with reigning back your spending, you’re going to have some backlash, from your family, from you – you’re going to be miserable.  Sure, try it and see but I don’t recommend it!  

So what do you do instead?  

Here’s what I think might be a good solution to this problem we have in modern motherhood, of spending too much on the wrong stuff, when we sacrifice so damn much to earn the money that we do.  

It’s about spending more money on the things that you value, and less money on the things that don’t bring you a lot of joy.  

Here’s an example: organic food is something that I value highly, but it’s very expensive (if you compare it to inorganic food, or massed produced food).  But for me personally it’s such a high value I will spend that money.  

However, you should see my wardrobe!  It’s not that I don’t value nice clothes, I love to have nice clothes.  But shopping bores me. I guess if I had more money I’d buy more clothes but right now that’s really low on my list of values.  I’m sitting here in my CottonOn trackies and some socks that were gifted to me by my lovely cousin, and I’m in a top that I think is about 20 years old but it’s done really well.  

So you might think, well you spend so much money on organic food, why don’t you use some of that to buy some nice clothes?  

That’s just because in my mind it’s not as important to me right now.  And with the amount of money that I have right now, Iyou have to make more decisions about what I spend my money on.  

So that’s one example of spending more money on stuff that is more valuable to me than on things that are not so high in value.  But you might be a different type of person. You might value having well-made clothes, the latest designer and that sort of thing.  But that’s your business, everyone is different and everyone has different values.  

All it takes is a little bit of awareness of your own values and mindfulness about where you are spending your money, and then you are on a more values based spending kind of plan, I guess, if there is one.

So, if you look back to these companies and these advertisers and their excellent marketing where they all want you to part with your money.  Well that’s fine, you’re now aware that everybody basically wants your money. It’s really helpful to think like that because it’s true!  

Your job is just to figure out who deserves that hard earned money of yours?  And is their product truly going to improve your life, and make you happy? 

Sometimes it’s going to take some experimentation to figure that out, other times you might just know this is a done deal.  “I need this in my life, I don’t care who I buy it from, the advertising doesn’t matter, it’s something that I value highly and I need it in my life.”  That could be anything.  

So really we’re just looking at being more aware of where we’re spending our money, and being more mindful so that we’re not frittering away our money on things that don’t really add any joy to our lives.  

It doesn’t have to be complicated working out where to spend your money on things that you value more.  If you don’t really have a high awareness of your spending habits, you might want to use an app like PocketSmith to track your spending, and it will help you categorise your spending and see where your money is going.  You might want to do that if you’re really new to understanding your spending habits.  

Or you might just know, you might just have a feeling that you bought that thing and it’s a waste of time, you’ve never used it or you spend a lot of money every week on this or that and what are you doing.  You might just have a sense of it. It is definitely worth sitting down, paying some attention and being aware of where you are spending your money and how you’re feeling after you buy these things. Is it bringing you a great deal of joy?

For example, I recently bought an iPad and I know that Apple’s marketing is pretty good.  I see their ads online, and they’re good.  But at the same time, this little iPad has brought me a lot of joy.  I do so many things on it, it gives me a sense of freedom, I’m able to be creative on it.  I just spent a few hours recently setting up an online scheduler where I can draw on it and it really does bring me so much joy to look at it and it actually makes it really fun for me to plan! 

So I spent money on the iPad, I spent money on the GoodNotes app, and then on the template that I bought from Etsy for my planner.  And I absolutely love it, it makes me feel great. Am I a complete nerd or what? Does anyone else love planning? I love planning.  

But that iPad was not cheap.  The marketing is good. I’m not saying ‘oh you were sucked into the marketing, oh no you shouldn’t have watched that ad.’  No it’s not like that. I know that is an enabler for me in many areas of my life so it’s money well spent.  

My car, I spent $6000 on it, it’s a second hand car, it’s just a wee get around the town car.  But it also brings me a lot of joy, but I didn’t spend that much on it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get joy back from your possessions.  

So, mindfulness. What are you spending your money on right now that’s bringing you a great deal of joy?  Think about what it means to you in terms of your values. What do you value? I know with the iPad, I value creativity, but also freedom, I can put it in my bag, it’s really portable – I can take it anywhere.  It’s got my calendar anywhere I want it. I can note things down, I can make podcasts anywhere I want to.  

I’m aware that one of my values is convenience, and the ability just to be free.  If it enables my freedom, I’m all over it.  

How I don’t want you to feel about spending money, is guilty.  We all make the best decisions we can, based on the tools, knowledge, skills and experience we have, and the impulses and urges that we have.  We all make the best decisions that we think are right at the time. So don’t feel guilty about spending a bit more money than you think you should.  Just look at the purpose, why did you buy that, what is the value that you’re getting from it. Don’t feel guilty. If you really aren’t getting a whole lot of value for it, then in whatever way, maybe it’s just time to re-evaluate spending on that item or that type of product or service again.  

I recently stopped getting my nails done.  I spent about 10 months getting my nails done and I really loved it.  I loved having new, fresh nails every few weeks. But after a while I decided that it didn’t gel with me (pun intended).  It didn’t entirely gel with my values and I felt like it was a bit more money down the drain. Sometimes I do that, and I’m okay with that.  It’s just kind of the way I’m wired and that’s okay. So no guilt, we are guilt free over here.  

People can advertise to me, can try and convince me that I need something, and sometimes I will just go “give it to me!”.  And other times no, I’m too wise to it. All I’m saying to you is, look at your values.  Reassess based on your values, and the joy that you get from spending your money on something.  Because, the money that you earn as a Mum feels so much more valuable and you want to hold onto it as much as possible.  And this is one way of doing that.  

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