The Diderot Effect: How to overcome it for better financial stability.

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2 months ago - 6 minutes read

Why do we want things we do not need?

A few days ago, we were talking about the house I am living in and the rooms that were vacant. A guy in my compound said he wants to give out his room jokingly because it was too big and the rent is much. The house is so spacious that one could still have space for another room in it.

Everyone started saying their minds out; they said if a lady should get such a room, she would be prompted to keep buying things to fill everywhere so there wouldn't be space anymore. The more new things she buys, the more she would purchase more things to complement and beautify the whole place.

It then occurred to me that I have read something about the principle of buying a new thing and purchasing more items to complement it and that is called “The Diderot Effect”.

I learnt this word from the book by James Clear I finished recently titled “Atomic Habits”. James explained the principle behind the Diderot Effect and how it can affect our lives and finances.

The idea of this principle was started by a French philosopher named Denis Diderot. He lived his life in poverty before things changed for him in 1765.

Denis Diderot was 52 years when his daughter wanted to get married. He couldn't afford to provide a dowry and things his daughter would need. Diderot was famous, not minding his lack of wealth, for being the co-founder and writer of Encyclopédie.

The Empress of Russia named Catherine the Great heard of his financial situation and how his daughter wanted to get married but due to lack of money, he couldn't. She offered to buy his library from him which was worth £1000 GBP which approximated $50,000 by that time. Suddenly, he became wealthy through that and was able to fund his daughter's wedding and still had some to spare.

This was where the Diderot Effect began.

After the wedding, he bought a beautiful scarlet robe that he noticed his old possession needs to be changed because according to him, he saw no coordination, unity, and beauty with his new robe and older possession. From there, he replaced his old rug with a new one. He decorated his room and furnished it with beautiful sculptures and a better kitchen table.

This continuous purchase is known as the Diderot Effect. This means that when we purchase a new item, it leads to purchasing another, resulting in a process of spiralling consumption.

We can see this common with everyone. A lady buys a new dress and decides to buy a new shoe and bag to complement with instead of maintaining a minimalist lifestyle by using what is available in her possession. A mother buys a new lunch bag for her son because he is changing to a new school and wearing a new uniform, knowing the previous one is still intact and useful. The introduction of a new item will result in the desire to purchase more which at the end of the day, we buy what we do not need.

There is a natural tendency that life becomes filled with more. It's natural for human beings to accumulate, upgrade and add to their possession rather than to eliminate and reduce.

My younger sister advised me to sell off all my items when I am leaving finally my current place so that when I rent a new apartment, I could get new items to beautify my home instead of taking the old items into a new home. I didn't see the need for this because I still have items that are much useful for me and starting over to purchase new ones could mean wasting money.

Many people are always after an impressive lifestyle. They want to get things to impress other people and because of this, they spend unnecessarily on things they do not need. For instance, when you get new clothes for an occasion, instead of going with your old shoes and accessories to go with them, you decide to get new ones to complement the clothes. Another example is buying a new couch and you decide to change the entire room just to fit in new ones.

Being drawn into a process of spiralling consumption is when we realize that something new has been introduced into our lives and we do not want the old ones to be part of them, whereas we could save money while we use what we have in the house.

The Diderot Effect is something that could hamper our financial stability if we do not choose to overcome them as soon as possible. When we understand the idea of over-accumulation, how purchasing often leads to more, unplanned acquirement, it would be easier to break the cycle to gain control over our financial life.

The first thing is to be aware: It is necessary to observe when you are being pushed to purchase more things, thereby consuming a lot of money, not because you actually need such items, but because something new has been introduced.

Predict and Analyze the cost of future purchases: You may want to get a new outfit — if the new outfit forces you to buy new shoes or handbags to match, then it has become a more expensive purchase than you assumed. A friend was getting married and she sent me the colour of the outfit to wear. I was forced to purchase a new shoe, bag and accessories to use because I assumed it was my friend and should rock the day with new outfits, but after analyzing the cost of those items, I just had to go with what I had in my closet because I saw it as a one-time use. I may end up not using them again since I don't go out.

Avoid unnecessary new purchases: When you realize Diderot Effect is a force and can be difficult to overcome, and many times, you would have to get new things, the best way to overcome this effect is not to allow it to overpower you to the extent you wouldn't be able to control it.

Do not let your possessions define you: One thing one should understand is that having life in abundance cannot be found in things one owns because those things do not define them. You should buy things because they are useful rather than fighting status to maintain. Try not to impress people with your stuff because there are those who think, the more items they have, the more they could think of impressing others and wanting to be defined by them.

Reduce Exposure: According to James in his novel, habits are always initiated by a trigger or cue. It becomes a habit to want to purchase more items when a new one is being introduced if not controlled. To reduce the power of this effect, one has to avoid those habit that triggers the cause. For instance, meeting someone in a park instead of a restaurant because there is a possibility you may spend what you never planned for unless there is a need for it truly. Blocking your favourite shopping websites to avoid visiting and adding to your catalogue including things you do not need.

Finally, you have to impose limits on what you purchase. This takes discipline but when you realize the Diderot Effect is a bad one which could delay the progress of your financial stability, you will have to find a way to stop it and set limits for yourself.

Thanks for your time on my blog.

Posted Using LeoFinance Beta

Posted Using LeoFinance Beta