As a college student, it is easy to get wrapped up in the latest trends. TikTok promotes a new product every week, just for it to be out of trend the next. An overconsumption problem is disguised as a shopping addiction, and ‘totally’ normal. It is ingrained into the college brand. Students get trapped in the trend cycle and continue to spend without needing it. This is a reality check for students who need to realize that consumerism is not cute and we can all do better!
Everyone’s feed is full of brand deals, ads, Amazon storefronts, and a thousand ways to shop easily and be like your favorite influencer. There are ads marketing us products from the minute we wake up, and infiltrating everything from how we spend our free time, to what we talk about with our friends. We have normalized being influenced to an insane degree. Undiagnosed shopping addictions and retail therapy are far too common — especially when college students are in a vulnerable state figuring out their spending habits as young adults.
When you think outside the trend cycle, you can look at purchases with the right mindset and think about how unhealthy it is to constantly be buying. The amount of going-out shirts that are bought, never worn, and tossed; or buying the newest water bottle, every six months, for it to be immediately replaced — when I break apart the trend cycle, I notice that purchases like these fill me with guilt and prevent me from achieving my real financial goals.
Materialism, which is considered a preoccupation with having tangible objects and material possessions, is linked to lower well-being. According to PsychReg, “Researchers developed a model in which endorsement of materialistic values is linked to buying motives focused on identity projection and emotion regulation, which, in turn, are linked to lower well-being and dysfunctional consumer behavior.”
Not only does consumerism have serious mental health effects, but it is also hurting the planet. Everyone knows the single-use lifestyle is bad for the planet, yet every single day we continue to shop and eat the same way. Although many college students would agree that climate change is a serious issue for our generation, very few consciously act like it. According to The World Counts, “..if everyone on earth lived like the average American we would need 5.2 planets to support us. The number is 3 if everyone lived like the average Japanese and about 3.3 as Europeans. If you think about this every time you go to shop, you may consider slowing down and thinking critically about the purchases you make. Although you can justify numerous purchases for the amount of use you can get from it, it doesn’t mean you actually need it.”
College campuses are notorious for having plenty of spending opportunities from the ridiculous cost of going out every weekend, merch, and living the ‘clean’ lifestyle. It’s an unsustainable lifestyle to keep this up constantly, even if you can afford it.
If the mental and physical effects of overconsuming are still not enough evidence for you, consider what you can do without constantly spending. Saving your money to improve your financial status is a crucial factor in determining if you currently have a problem and motivating you. When you visualize a goal and make set plans, you have a greater chance of achieving it. Saving for bigger goals like experiences or traveling versus everyday spending can reduce your impact. Recognizing your spending habits is the first step to a better lifestyle!