How many of us have bought something and then lived to regret it?
I know I have. I’ve regretted purchases as small as a Chapstick and as large as a SUV. So frequently, purchases are made out of some perceived form of necessity. For example, “I need that Chapstick because my lips are dry,” or “I need that bigger car so I haul my kids around.”
But in reality, I have tons of Chapsticks. I have a car that runs perfectly fine and can fit my two (now three) kids.
This is a post for those of you who have everything you need, but still find yourself spending money you don’t want to spend.
For those of you who want to spend less, but live better.
Before my year of no spending, I spent money pretty frivolously. I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it. I was about to have a baby, so I purchased a new SUV. A 8 pound baby can’t fit in a small car, right? (That is sarcasm. An 8 pound baby can certainly fit in a small car.)
Now, I’ll admit. That is a pretty extreme example.
More frequently, I would buy things like a new shirt that would make me look slimmer, a pair of sunglasses because I temporarily lost mine, or a eye makeup palette that was too good of deal to refuse.
I didn’t spend gobs of money on this stuff. I spent some here and there.
But as we all know, spending here and there adds up.
And most of the time, it doesn’t even feel good.
I mean, it starts out feeling good. But inevitably, reality hits when the credit card statement reads: “You have blown hundreds or thousands of dollars and have nothing to show for it.” Now the guilt creeps in, and I find myself enjoying what I have even less. I am more anxious about money, I am further from my financial goals, and I am not as thankful as should be.
Let me walk you through what happens when you buy something that you shouldn’t have.
First, you are excited. You just got this awesome (insert purchase here)! You can’t wait to use it/wear it/live in it/drive it! You show it to anyone who is around to feed off of their excitement too. It’s bright, shiny, and still has the new car smell (which, apparently is just formaldehyde).
After the initial excitement wears off, you start to question why you bought your (insert purchase here). It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you kinda wish you hadn’t bought it. After all, your not using as much as you thought or maybe it merely serves the same purpose as the old version of x,y,z.
The questioning brings on unmitigated doubt. You doubt everything about the purchase. Is it the right size, fit, style, price, etc.? Instead of seeing how amazing it is, you see all the problems with it.
And now you have it… buyer’s remorse.
We have all been there. It seems to me that the problem with buying things is this: When we buy things, we think we are buying what they will make us. Cooler, more esteemed, thinner, more professional, or whatever it is that you are trying to be. But things don’t change us. They don’t make us different or better. They make us poorer. And, as we grow poorer we lose a sense of accomplishing goals and building a better future.
How did we get here?
It comes back to you having a “perceived” need. Ad execs and marketers know you have this need, and they have the answer to in their product. Often times, the marketers create the perceived need with effective advertising (i.e. makeup – do I actually need to put paint on my eyelashes? No. But I look a lot better when I do!). But usually they can make enough money from taking your actual need and capitalizing on it. For instance, your actual need may be to get reliable transportation for work. Due to marketing, however, you leave the car lot with a newly leased luxury vehicle that meets your perceived needs – to have climate controlled zones for each passenger, firm steering, and XM radio. Or, your actual need may be a pair of boots, but your perceived need results in genuine lambswool boots from New Zealand.
If you are stressed about money, chances are you could find thousands of examples of this very storyline playing out again and again with some of your shopping decisions. It happens to all of us.
But there is good news here!
If you are stressed out about money because you are meeting your PERCEIVED NEEDS instead of your ACTUAL NEEDS, you can turn this situation around TODAY!
I know what you’re thinking: What if I can’t imagine life without the finer things?
My aim is not to bash luxury, quality, or the finer things. What makes a luxury a luxury is that it’s a LUXURY. It’s rare. It’s a treat. It’s scarce. I am convinced that if you ate Lobster every day, or even once a week, you would enjoy lobster less. It would bring you less pleasure. Thus is the plight of the epicureans. Additionally, buying quality products that last longer is a wise behavior, but all these decisions must be in balance with your personal budget. When your tastes are incongruent with your budget, your tastes have to yield. The other choice is 100% insanity, and it seems to be the prevalent form insanity in our times.
Here is one luxury you should strive for: BE DEBT FREE.
For many of us, big changes are needed in coming to terms with what are actual needs are and how we live within a budget. If you, like me, have felt buyer’s remorse, I encourage you to take a look at your spending habits. Determine what your actual needs are. Buy based on them. Or, try something radical. Do your own year of no spending. Or do a month of no spending. Or pick one day a week that becomes a no spend day. Do whatever will work for you, but do something!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Leave a comment below!