Why We Buy: Belonging as a Motivator to Spending

February 17, 2017 2 min read

Last summer, I came home from our family vacation to face the realities of life .

I had felt weary from the responsibilities of family, home, business, self, and so, naturally, vacation is when I ignore all of those things and do whatever I want! (it helps when you tag along with grandparents). Eating ALL THE THINGS was part of my responsibility-rebellion, so when I came back to life, I wasn’t surprised (but nonetheless horrified) that my clothes were ill-fitting and I looked, to myself in the mirror, well… vacaction-y (and I don’t mean tanned & relaxed).

I resolved that I would find some kind of exercise solution that would help get things back on track, and ultimately, signed up for a membership at my local YMCA. It made sense financially, because I was going to register my kids for various programs (there are discounted rates for members), it had dozens of drop-in classes included in membership, as well as a pool & the usual fitness facilities.

I have always been very motivated by the commitment of spending money. If I pay for a program, I am going to show up. Otherwise, what a waste of money! I know this isn’t a motivator for everyone (see: Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies), but it has worked for me.



But, for some reason, this time, it just didn’t. I went to classes here & there for a while, and I took the kids swimming, but the value I was taking advantage of was WAY less than the expense.

The obvious next step for someone who likes to be intentional about spending, is to cancel the membership. Right? It was certainly clear to my husband!

But, I was sooo reluctant. I didn’t want to give it up. I liked being able to go on a whim. I liked the possibility that if I wanted to exercise, I had a perfect forum & opportunity, waiting to welcome me in.

But all of this was at an expense of $84/month (that’s ~$1000 a year, for those of us who understood there would be no math). I haven’t been to a class since Christmas break, and have used the equipment floor exactly once. I’ve taken the kids swimming, but not nearly enough to make it cost less than dropping in. It didn’t make sense — why was I holding on?



I finally realized how much belonging to the membership of the club was impacting me. I liked being a part of something, and that feeling had really motivated me to spend money on this membership.

Belonging is a deep emotional & psychological need. The question for discerning consumers is: when is my fundamental need to belong being manipulated, for someone else’s gain?

For the record, I don’t think that the YMCA was manipulating me! But, there are numerous membership clubs, online groups, professional organizations, and the like, who, in many ways, sell belonging for a fee.

I need to determine, in each situation, if it is worth it to me. Is there more offered, and are the other benefits valuable enough to me? Or maybe, it is enough to pay for this belonging? Where else, and to whom, do Ibelong??


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