The Diderot Effect: how does our spending fuel more spending?
Who was Diderot?
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher who lived in the mid-1700s. Despite being a very intelligent and talented man, for pretty much all his life, he lived in poverty…until 1765.
His luck suddenly changed in his early 50s when Catherine the Great (the Empress of Russia) bought his library of work from him for a hefty sum.
How did The Diderot Effect come about?
Following his influx of cash, Diderot treated himself to a beautiful new robe, which then became a bugbear to him because it felt out of place with the rest of his ordinary possessions. This led to him buying more new possessions to match the beauty of his new robe, which consequently spiralled out of control.
This purchasing reaction — when buying a new possession creates a want for more new possessions — became known as The Diderot Effect.
“My friends, keep your old friends. My friends, fear the touch of wealth. Let my example teach you a lesson. Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles,” said Diderot in 1769.
Why do we want things we don’t need?
We have all been guilty of being sucked into brilliant marketing campaigns — drawn to pretty packaging, luxurious fabrics and promises of ageless skin. And then once we’ve bought such items, including the bright fuchsia cashmere sweater we saw in Vogue magazine, we then find a need to buy the fuchsia shoes and handbag to match. And so, it begins to spiral…
And it’s not just clothing this applies to. You might buy a membership to the new swanky gym, and then need new trainers and cool gym gear to feel part of the trendy gang. Or you might buy a new laptop and then decide you need a new case and wireless mouse to accompany it. The principles here are all the same — you are drawn to purchase things as a consequence of your first purchase.
So, how can we combat against The Diderot Effect?
We will all come across situations in our lives when The Diderot Effect could rear its financially dangerous head. However, providing we recognise the symptoms, we should be able to deflect from it a little better.
Imposing a carefully thought-through personal budget should help us to keep track of our financial situation and implement a healthy financial structure to follow each month. If we keep this budget with us as much as possible, either on an app or saved in our notebook, then we will be more likely to stick to it and not be tempted to overspend.
Reducing our exposure to tempting marketing campaigns can also help to reduce the effect of spiralling spending. Try unsubscribing from retailer’s emails, have a break from social media scrolling and go for a walk in the park rather than a walk around the shops.
Remember, you don’t always have to purchase something new. Re-upholstering, upcycling or re-customising your current items could give you even more satisfaction than buying something straight from the shelves.
*This is a collaborative post