Short of moving out of the first world, it’s nearly impossible to escape the incessant draw of advertising. Television. Radio. Hell, even blogs (like this one) contain advertising. It’s all over the place, and it takes its toll on our wallets.
This article is a part of the Kill It! series of articles aimed at streamlining your life into a well-oiled machine.
The biggest sources of ads come from television. Even if you have mastered the art of ignoring advertising, your kids probably haven’t. Or friends. Or family members. Heck, your neighbor. It happens to all of us.
None of us are immune to ads!
Most of us know the effect those ads have. They tickle our buying bones. They convince us we need this or that. At the end of each year, companies pay big bucks to get new commercials in front of us to get us to spend those year-end bonuses and raises – sometimes before we even get them.
It’s not easy, but reducing our exposure to ads removes the temptation to spend good money on stupid shit. Remember, elimination isn’t the goal – let’s focus on something achievable.
We need to reduce our exposure to ads. Here is how.
How to reduce exposure to ads
Stop watching so much television – Easier said than done, right? Yup, it can be. Though, my wife and I haven’t owned a TV in years (yup, seriously!). No television. Nada. Sorry, Sony. Or Panasonic.
But, that doesn’t mean we don’t watch any entertainment. We do, but we don’t use television to do it. Instead, we stream the large majority of the shows that we watch using services like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. Okay, I get that some programs use clever product-placement to subliminally advertise straight from within programs and movies. To remove exposure to those things, we’ll need to stop watching entertainment altogether.
Avoid malls whenever possible – I know, malls are super easy. Everything is just right there. Trust me, I get it. However, malls are also chalk-full of ads and imagery throughout the entire place that most of us can’t help ourselves but peak into different stores along the way. Even if we have no intention of buying something, products that are visible from the outside are placed there for a reason. That’s no accident. They are advertising!
Amazon.com is kinda the same way. It’s an online mall.
Instead, try shopping at other stores that are outside of malls to reduce the temptation to duck into other stores…you know, just to “look around”. Make it tougher and more inconvenient for you to shop more. Also, consider shopping locally and supporting local merchants if you can. Those stores will always be independent and separated from larger commercial centers and malls, and you’ll probably get a higher quality product, too.
Try making your own stuff – This isn’t just about saving money. Making your own stuff can reduce your exposure to advertising because your mind is fixated on something entirely different. You’re thinking about the ingredients and process of making something rather than just buying it already made – probably from India or China.
Your innate skills have value. If you’re a natural knitter, knit something instead of buying it. If you love to garden, grow your veggies instead of buying them. Of course, most of us won’t be able to replace everything with stuff we can make ourselves (whom among us can make their own computer monitor?), but understanding the value of our skills can be life-changing.
Fix your stuff rather than replacing it – When we buy, we’re almost always exposed to some form of advertisement. A wide variety of companies offer whatever it is that we’re looking for. Naturally, they all want your money, and they will do their best to advertise their way into a sale. Instead of looking for something new to replace an item that’s broken, try fixing that item first. Plug holes in your clothes with good, old-fashioned thread and needle. Fix a broken pot with a little super glue.
And if you’re pretty cheap, a little duct tape can go a long way to “fixing” something that broke apart, too. Oh, and bungee cords. Those things are amazing, aren’t they? Get creative. There are a lot of interesting and cost-effective ways to fix the stuff that breaks on us without buying new.
Buy used whenever you can – I’ve become a huge believer in buying used products over new, especially with high depreciation items like cars and electronics. Not only are you saving a ton of money by letting someone else pay for the cost of depreciation, you are removing the temptation that we get whenever we’re in the market for brand-spanking-new stuff.
Looking for a camera? Buy used and save hundreds (or thousands) through eBay.com or – my personal favorite – keh.com. Cars? Definitely, buy used. New cars lose an incredible amount of value the second they are driven off the lot. Even clothes. Books. Computer equipment. Whenever possible, pick things up second-hand after depreciation has already taken its toll.
Live sensibly – Just cut down on the number of things you have. Seriously, it works. Before moving into our Airstream, my wife and I sold both of our homes and the vast majority of our possessions. As a result, we live a lifestyle that many would consider minimalist, but I don’t like that term.
I prefer to think of our lifestyle as sensible, not minimal. There’s nothing positive or uplifting about the “bare minimum”. We don’t live a minimal lifestyle. Instead, we pick and choose the items that we value the most. We only buy what we need and tend to replace, rather than add to, the items that we have whenever we acquire something new (to us).
In other words, we live a sensible lifestyle free of clutter and stuff. That, in terms, removes the temptation to buy. We just don’t need stuff to feel happy, and as a result, the majority of the advertisements that we do see have very little pull on our minds or emotions. We just don’t need it, and we know it.
Kill It challenge
Here’s an experiment: Try cutting out television for an entire week. Instead, get your entertainment through mediums like YouTube or Netflix. While there are ads on YouTube, they are easy to dismiss. Focus on the content. And, you might be surprised that 30-minute television shows only have about 15 or 20 minutes of actual show. Nearly half of that time slot are ads!
If you’ve already cut out television like my wife and me, try banning yourself from malls and instead shop as much as you can locally. Support your local merchants for a couple of weeks.
Then, honestly think about the difference those choices made in your desire to buy stuff. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t even tell you what version the iPhone is on at the moment. I just don’t focus on that stuff. Therefore, I don’t buy.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.