Quiz: Are You an Overbuyer or an Underbuyer?

How to be happier.
April 22 2009 7:25 AM

Quiz: Are You an Overbuyer or an Underbuyer?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day (or Quiz Day).
This Wednesday: Quiz—Are you an Over-Buyer or an Under-Buyer?

I've posted this quiz before, but I can't resist putting it up again. This distinction encapsulates one of my very favorite (if not most weighty) personal insights into human nature: the difference between overbuyers and underbuyers . I also love the satisficer/maximizer distinction, but I didn't come up with that one myself.


It’s not particularly productive to be in too deep as an over- or under-buyer; both offer certain advantages but also some definite drawbacks.

Does one of these descriptions fit you?

You’re an overbuyer if …
—You buy several summer outfits for your as-yet-unborn baby, then it turns out he outgrows those clothes before the weather warms up.
—You often lay in huge supplies of slow-moving items like shampoo or cough medicine.
—You often make a purchase, such as a tool or tech gadget, with the thought, "This will probably come in handy."
—You have a long list of stores to visit before you travel.
—You find yourself throwing things away—milk, medicine, even cans of soup—because they’ve hit their expiration date.
—You buy items with the thought, "This will make a great gift!" without having a recipient in mind.
—You think, "Buying these things shows that I’m responsible, organized, and thoughtful."

You’re an underbuyer if…
—You buy saline solution, which you use every morning and night, one bottle at a time.
—You often scramble to buy an item like a winter coat or bathing suit after the point at which you need it—and often, these items are sold out by the time you show up at a store.
—You’re suspicious of specialized objects and resist buying things dedicated very specific uses: suit bags, special plastic plates and cutlery for children, hand cream, rain boots, hair conditioner.
—You often need to come up with a makeshift solution, such using soap because you’ve run out of shaving cream, because you don’t have what you need.
—You often consider buying an item, then decide, "I’ll get this some other time" or "Maybe we don’t really need this."
—If you must buy something, you buy as little as possible—say, by putting $10 of gas in the car.
—You think, "Not buying these things shows that I’m frugal and not a consumerist sucker."

Me? I’m an underbuyer.

Underbuyers feel stressed because we don’t have the things we need. We make a lot of late-night runs to the drugstore. (I constantly run out of saline solution.) We’re surrounded with things that are shabby, don’t really work, or aren’t exactly suitable.

Overbuyers feel stressed because they’re hemmed in by stuff. They often don’t have enough storage space for everything they’ve bought, or they can’t find what they have. They feel oppressed by the number of errands they believe they need to do, and by the waste and clutter often created by their overbuying.

So underbuyers, buy what you need, without procrastination! Don’t wait for the first morning of your ski trip to buy ski gloves!

Overbuyers, think it over before you whip out your wallet! You don’t need a 10-year supply of toothpaste!

What do you think? Do you recognize yourself in either of these categories?

* A friend, Melanie Rehak, has started a terrific new blog, Eating for Beginners —"on food, farming, and raising a family." My favorite feature is the "Friday Food Writers," when Melanie quotes a wonderful food-related passage from literature. Delicious! Her book by the same name will be published next year, and I can't wait to get my hands on it—and I'm not even a foodie.

* Consider starting a group—organized around happiness projects! (Or a book group focused on happiness books.) I'm busily creating the starter kit to send out to anyone who is interested. If you want a starter kit, e-mail me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail [dot com] , and I'll add your name. (Use the usual email format—that weirdness is to thwart spammers). Just write "happiness-project group" in the subject line. Or sign up here .


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