Book Review - Shiny Objects

byFrugal and Simple

Sat Feb 17 2024

@ CompanyLLC
Shiny Objects - Book Review

This year my whole mindset about consuming has changed. We’ve been on a path towards rational minimalism. While we’ve certainly not ‘arrived’ our lifestyle has changed. I now think about the environmental, financial, and space impact of purchases and seriously question every thing we bring into our home.

I am intrigued by consumer culture and people seeking to acquire more and more stuff. Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy,  by James A. Robertswas a thought provoking read. I read through the book in a few short days and with each chapter I felt like I was gaining more insight into our culture as well as myself.

“Our current consumer culture is best understood as an environment in which the majority of consumers avidly desire, pursue, consume, and display goods and services that are valued for non-utilitarian reasons such as status, envy, provocation, and pleasure seeking.” 

This quote from the very beginning of the book sums up, in my opinion, our consumer culture quite well. So many people {myself included in my past} have sought after things thinking they’ll make me look better or they’ll make other people think I’m somebody or it’ll make me happy. None of these are true, we so easily buy into lies of consumerism.

Of course since we’re committed to living debt free, driving 10 year old cars and living in a small home, we’re living a non-traditional, somewhat counter cultural life. However, that’s not to say we also don’t get caught up in materialism at times. Understanding that we are susceptible to falling for the lie that consuming more will make us happier is the first place to start.

In Shiny Objects, after presenting facts about consumerism and making the reader really begin to evaluate their lifestyle, Roberts gives the reader tools to help them succeed at letting go of consumerism. He lists 25 tweaks to financial tranquility in chapter 13, including build a budget, just say no to the mall and rent or borrow, but don’t steal.

Using just these 3 suggestions out of the 25 can make a huge difference:

  • Building a budget- This is the first step to financial success. If that’s not a big enough reason to create a budget, consider the fact that a budget makes you evaluate your spending and can help control your frivolous purchases, putting you on the path towards overcoming consumerism.
  • Just say no to the mall- If you can’t go into a store without making a purchase, avoid it at all costs!
  • Rent or borrow, but don’t steal- Renting or borrowing saves you money, not to mention it gives you more space because you’re not acquiring items you will only use a time or two!

Another negative of materialism is how it undermines relationships, “Materialists tend to opt for work over family when pushed by time constraints; we’re a national of overworked souls, and the family is a major casualty.” Most people say that their family is the most important priority of their life but when it comes down to it, they often give stuff or the desire to obtain more stuff, priority over their family.

“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” -Henry David Thoreau

I know I don’t want to be preoccupied with possessions and spend my life working to obtain things, ignoring my loved ones and the people around me.

Reading Shiny Objects will give you insight into your behaviors whether you are pursuing the American Dream of bigger, better, faster, more or, like my family, working towards minimizing and living a simpler life that’s not preoccupied with stuff.