Whenever you make a purchase, it’s a good idea to stop and think about why you are buying that item.
One of the reasons that we have such a consumer driven culture of debt is that few of us really stop to consider our purchase decisions. It’s not just about whether you are making a poor spending decision or not; it’s more about the motivations behind your spending choices. Once you understand why you buy the things that you do, it’s a little bit easier to reform your behaviors, and bring your expenses in line with what you actually value and want.
You Need It
Some items, like groceries, are bought out of necessity. We need food to survive. Clothing is a requirement of living in our society. Shelter is a necessity. There are a number of things that are needs, and we buy them because they are essential for our survival and well-being. Explore the nature of true needs as you consider you spending choices.
Yes, you need shelter. But do you need a huge home for a four-person family? Sure, you need to eat. But is going out each night a true need when you are perfectly capable of making something with fresh ingredients at home? Consider your needs, and why you are buying something. You might discover that, in fact, what you “need” is actually something you are buying for other reasons.
You’re “Supposed” to Have It
We’re all supposed to have a TV, and Internet access. We’re all supposed to buy homes. There are lots of things that we’re expected to do because everyone else is doing them. Yes, I bought a home. But someone who was approved for the mortgage amount I was offered isn’t “supposed” to buy a home with less than 2,000 square feet and a mortgage payment that is less than 1/5 of her income.
Are you making purchases to impress others? We have a desire to be accepted by those around us, and often that means buying things, not because we need or want them, but because we want to make sure that everyone sees that we are “normal.” Don’t buy things because someone else tells you are supposed to have them.
There are a number of strategies used by advertisers and others to convince you to spend money because you are supposed to have something, or you deserve it.
You Want It
I firmly believe that, if you really want something, you should buy it (assuming you have the money for it, of course). However, make sure you really want it for you, and not for the purpose of impressing others. Consider your priorities and values. Your true wants should align with that. I don’t have a big TV because I don’t actually want one. Sometimes, I think that a bigger TV would be nice, but that’s not the same as truly wanting it.
As soon as I think about how much the TV would cost, and put it in terms of going on a trip or staycation, or in terms of books I could buy, or some other priority, I realize that there are more important things. Make sure you have your wants straight. Otherwise, you’ll make purchases that you think are “okay” — and wake up one day realizing that you have buyer’s remorse.