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Consumption and happiness I shop, therefore I am Business is up again. For many people, the lockdown was like withdrawal, because shopping can trigger feelings of happiness like drugs. But is less maybe more – and does it even make it happier? By I. Mec and S. Scheuring.


Young women lift up their shopping bags after a shopping tour | picture alliance / dpa / PA Wire

Consumption and happiness I shop therefore I am

Status: 13.06.2021 10:26 a.m.

Business is up again. For many people, the lockdown was like withdrawal, because shopping can trigger feelings of happiness like drugs. But is less maybe more – and does it even make it happier? By Ilyas Mec and Sandra Scheuring, MR According to the Federal Statistical Office, an average household in Europe has around 10,000 things. 100 years ago, the average German household had 180 things. It is estimated that almost three million people in this country live in a household with three cars or more. There are two million old cell phones in drawers. This list could go on: TVs, clothing, decorative items, household items are constantly increasing and far exceed the number of things that we really need. Obviously, ruffling is an instinct that was created in human evolution. Owning things reliably ensured survival. Buying triggers a feeling of elation, at least in the short term. It can even turn into a real addiction, shopping addiction. Those who consume are also looking for confirmation, wanting to belong – it’s about keeping up, but also about demarcation and the expression of individuality. Buyers are often at the mercy of their instincts. Two thirds of all purchase decisions are made spontaneously in the store, as so-called impulse purchases.

Germany fan decoration in the shop window of a pharmacy in Herzogenaurach, for the European Football Championship | picture alliance / dpa 06/11/2021

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The tea light phenomenon

Marketing strategists and advertising professionals use these behaviors to encourage people to buy. A walk through an Ikea branch shows how perfected the craft of seduction can be. It seems impossible not to buy anything. A pillow here, a carafe there, and finally tealights. We use them spontaneously, even if we have had such products at home for a long time. Why? “It can be a purely functional need on the one hand, but also an emotional one on the other hand: I want it to be more comfortable, I just want it to be nicer,” says Janet Wittmaack, deputy branch manager of Ikea in Frankfurt. The psychologist Jens Förster points out the disadvantage: the kick when shopping is always gone very quickly. “If you really want to spend money, adventure goods are a good choice, things like traveling,” says Förster. The memory remains, “and that makes you happier in the long term”.

Customers shopping in a village shop | dpa 05/18/2021

Consumption in the pandemic Germans buy in the shop around the corner According to a study, the corona crisis has not only strengthened online retail, but also local shops.

Consumer trend minimalism

An entire industry is now propagating the opposite. Because owning a lot is no longer so en vogue today. Owning little, but having the right thing for it, is a megatrend. The Japanese bestselling author Marie Kondo, for example, who is also known as the “Queen of Minimalism”, sells items for a minimalist life in her online shop. Otherwise she writes guidebooks on how to make tidying up and sorting out happy. Birgit Blättel-Mink is a professor of sociology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and conducts research on consumer issues, among other things. Instead of abstaining from consumption, there is often just a shift in consumption, she believes: “If someone says I do without clothes, I don’t really need that much – then we often observe something like a so-called rebound effect. So I save here. I can for that I can afford more on another side. ” In such cases, it may not be a matter of profound change or more sustainability, but rather a “subjectively good conscience”. Then there are only three very expensive shirts instead of ten cheaper ones. You have to be able to afford minimalism as celebrated on Instagram and Co.

Tomorrow Bank credit cards | Naïma Kunze / hr 05/10/2021

Carbon footprint The green conscience also consumes Some financial service providers show their customers how which purchase decision affects the climate.

Consumption is the work of others

Consumption is a prerequisite for our economy to run. If everyone renounces consumption, it would be a disaster, says Adalbert Winkler, economist at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. He is researching the consequences of the corona lockdown. “Those who offered goods and services had no income, and if the state hadn’t helped with transfer payments, then this drop in income would have meant that these people would not have been able to consume either, which in turn would have affected everyone else,” says Winkler . “We would have gotten into a dramatic recession.” In a nutshell, this means that if everyone lives ascetically, there is a risk of economic ruin. It is relatively easy to promote abstinence if your own income is not burdened. So what now? Living in a very spartan way and doing without consumption does not seem to be a solution either. Just as minimalist, elitist buying behavior is not an option for society at large. For most people, thinking about how you consume cannot be wrong. This includes the insight that the happiness rush when shopping is only short-term. And many things can quickly become a burden – when the basement is full and you have to ask yourself: where do you put all that stuff?