I’ll admit it, but will you?
I get impulsive about buying that “thing”.
That new awesome thing that’s ten times better than the last awesome thing. You know, the crap I’ll regret buying the day after the return policy is up.
Why is that?
And why do we feel this way so often?
They don’t want you to know…but I do.
They are the advertisers.
The slick, ever-present advertisers planting messages in your mind that you want need what they’re selling.
I’m not against honest advertising that’s up front about its goals, reason for placement, and biases. But it seems like these don’t exist anymore.
It was more than enough when ads were just in commercials, magazines, and random web pages. But then they penetrated screen time before movies started.
And now they’re on gas pump handles, airplane tray tables, inside restrooms at bowling alleys, and floors at supermarkets.
Bad news for them though. You have weapons that they can’t defend against. Here’s how you use them.
Beginner Tools for Ad-Free Living
You can’t avoid all 5,000+ ads you’re exposed to every day. And I can’t stop drug companies from spending over $60 billion on ads every year.
But we can use these simple tools to significantly reduce the number and impact.
- Shut the sources off. You’re always one mute button, flip of the radio dial, or Readability app away from avoiding an ad. Do it for the benefits of silence if preventing their pocketbook infiltration isn’t enough. A few moments avoiding an ad is worth preventing their ability to make us spend money on things we don’t need (or want).
- Ads Complicate. Confucius said, “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Ads are a big part of making life more complicated. And who wants more unexplained, uncontrolled complication? Appreciate the bounty of what you already own, eat, or drive instead of what you may be missing out on. When you’re tempted by a slick ad, just tell your brain, “Hey, brain. My life is plenty rich as is. You don’t need that.”
- Technology giveth ads…and taketh away. Technology will always come up with new ways to create and spread ads. Fortunately, technology also comes up with new ways to stop them. Use Adblock Plus for an annoyance-free online experience. And use PaperKarma to snap a picture of junk mail with your phone…and then never see mail from that vendor again.
Once you’ve mastered beginner mode you’ll probably want to level up to expert mode. Here are some awesome mind tricks and Jedi level tools to break an advertiser’s strangle hold on our spending habits.
Expert Ad-Crushing Tools
Give these a whirl and experience some major ad-fighting super powers.
- Political Ads Have More Truth Than Corporate Ads. For every time a politician or their support groups lie in an ad, there are a hundred corporations telling even bigger lies. The deception of cigarette companies, drug companies, and weight loss companies is just the start. If you don’t trust political ads then there’s no reason to trust ads from corporations. Anyone who says differently is probably trying to pull a Jedi mind trick on you.
- Define Why You Buy. People buy because it brings them more happiness, love, and freedom or less pain, stress, and worry. Describe what desired outcome will be achieved when you feel the urge to buy. If you can’t explain it, odds are the advertisers got to you again. Don’t feel bad. They do it to everyone. But take this as a sign there’s an external force influencing you without your best interests in mind.
- You’re Not a “Consumer.” You exist to do much more than consume. Stop thinking of yourself as a “consumer” and don’t worry about doing your part to “stimulate the economy.” The labels we apply to ourselves define who we are and why we do what we do. Ditch the consumer label and with it, ditch having someone else mold you into a person you’d rather not be.
- Cultivate Selective Ignorance. Man, it sure is sweet to have the newest and coolest thing out there, right? But at what cost? Your urge to buy the latest, shiniest thing decreases in correlation with your awareness that there’s something better out there. Reducing time spent learning about the latest fashion craze and technology gadget (and the ad campaigns alongside them) does wonders for controlling your appetite for more. Ignorance really is bliss to fight purchases you don’t need.
- Instant Information. When you realize you need widget X for project Y, you’re only one Google search, text, phone call, or social media question away from finding the best solution. Yes, you already have all the tools to find out who sells it and how you can get it. Remind me again why ads need to exist these days?
Your Action Plan
Even when advertising isn’t “helping” us buy things we don’t need, it has a dubious impact on our worldview and our values. And this doesn’t even account for the shudder-inducing effects of ads on children. It takes a little work to mobilize against its impact but it can be done.
So use one or more of these tools today and start enjoying a life free of unwanted influences. You’ll be happier and have a healthier relationship with money when you do.
Which of these tools are you going to use today? And are there ones you use as a secret weapon against advertising’s impacts? Please share a comment below, even if it’s just a short blurb.
(Photo credit: Shopping Cart on Screen via Shutterstock)