One thing that has saved me a ton of money over the years is the fact that I am very ad-averse. Not only do I try to keep as much advertising as possible out of my life, when I do see an ad I don’t buy into the sales pitch. Advertising seems to have the opposite of the intended effect on me. Rather than being attracted to advertised products, I find myself repulsed by many of them. It saves a lot of money when I see something advertised on TV and think, “That ad is so stupid, there’s no way I’m buying that thing.”
Part of this comes from the way I was raised, I think. I can remember my father griping at ads and always talking about how worthless all of the crap being advertised was. It rubbed off on me. Then, in college, I took a communications course that spent weeks dissecting the advertising process. Once I’d learned all the manipulative and sneaky tactics that advertisers use, I never looked at ads the same way again. All I could see after that course was the dishonesty and manipulation inherent in advertising and I never trusted an advertiser again.
Ad aversion can be learned and once you become ad-averse, I think you’ll find much less stuff cluttering your home and much less money flying out the window. Here are some ways to train yourself to become ad-averse.
Begin to view ads as an imposition
Ads intrude on your time, the beauty of a place (think billboards around a park), and even your privacy. When you start thinking about all the ways ads intrude on you, it becomes easier to view them as an imposition. Ads are forced on you in places and ways you may not like. We generally seek to avoid impositions and we hate them when we must deal with them. Once you realize that ads are an imposition on your life, you begin to avoid them when you can and to look at them with dislike when you can’t. Advertised products become a lot less attractive when you think of the ad in terms of the time it’s stealing from you or the beauty it’s destroying.
Understand that you are being manipulated
All ads are manipulating you in some way. Whether it’s tugging at your emotions, exploiting your insecurities, or showing you some sort of idealized life or body, ads are trying to convince you that their product can fix whatever is wrong in your life. Just buy this product and you will be younger, sexier, smarter, cooler, more athletic, prettier, or just plain better than you were before. Heck, you might not even know you need improving, but the ads obviously think so! Once you understand that ads are not trying to help you but only to manipulate you into buying their stuff, you start to resent advertising. You don’t like it when people try to manipulate you and you likely avoid people who try it. It’s no different with advertising.
Study advertisers’ tactics and advertising’s effects on you
There are many great books out there that discuss the psychological and social effects of advertising, as well as the slimy tactics that some advertisers use to get you to buy. A search on Amazon will give you many choices, but two that I like are Marketing Madness: A Survival Guide for a Consumer Society by Michael F. Jacobson and Laurie Ann Mazur, and No Logo: Solutions for a Sold Planet by Naomi Klein. Marketing Madness is an older book and out of print (and is expensive if you buy used), but your library likely has a copy. Once you’ve spent some time reading up on advertising’s tactics and effects, you’ll probably never look at ads the same way again.
Understand that the cost of advertising is built into the product
The next time you notice that your favorite products have gone up in price, ask yourself if you’ve noticed more advertising for the brand. Chances are that you have. Products that are heavily advertised are more expensive than those that are not. (This is the primary reason why store brands and generics are cheaper.) The more ads you see, the more you pay. If that makes you mad enough to buy other brands, you’re on your way to becoming ad-averse.
You don’t have to be like me and go out of your way to try to avoid or tune out most advertising. A few ads are, admittedly, cute, at least the first time you see them. However, you can’t be a sucker and fall for every pitch, either, unless you want to spend all of your money on junk you don’t need. Be skeptical when you see ads and think about the negative aspects of the advertising. If you focus on the time you’re losing, the sneaky tactics being used, and the general intrusion into your private space, you’ll get mad enough to say, “I don’t need your products.”