Beware of Diderot Effect

You went to an IKEA showroom to shop for a new bed frame. You saw one that really caught your liking. You bought it and assembled it. Then you only realize it doesn’t look as glorious as what you saw in the showroom. Perhaps the side table that you currently owned doesn’t match it. So you went back to IKEA and bought a new side table. Much better, but still, something is off. Maybe you should have gotten the table lamp that was displayed together with the side table. So back to IKEA again. This goes on until you realize that all you are looking for in the first place is a bed frame.

What happened? You have fallen into the trap of the Diderot Effect.

What is Diderot Effect?

Diderot Effect is when a new purchase triggers dissatisfaction with the existing environment, thus leading to more purchases to satisfy the dissatisfaction. It could be a new dress that sets you off into a wardrobe-changing frenzy. It could be a new RGB gaming mouse that leads to more gaming accessories. While it may sound harmless, this effect actually leads to unnecessary overspending. To further worsen things, our use of social media triggers a desire to keep up with our peers in terms of lifestyle.

What can we do?

The very first thing is to simply be aware of the presence of such an effect. By just acknowledging its existence, we may be able to hold off or delay certain purchases. When one new shirt triggers your desire to change your entire wardrobe, delaying or slowing down the process makes it easier for your cash flow to cope.

Secondly, being more environmentally conscious can guilt trip you into not buying more. It is well known that our current model of consumption is really not that sustainable for the environment in the long run. Disposing of a perfectly useable phone case for a brand new one simply means more garbage being disposed to the environment.

Lastly, you can restrict your spending spree by creating a separate, budget-limited spending account. By limiting yourself to only spend what is available in the spending account, you can avoid racking up high credit card debt due to impulse buying.

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