It’s obviously not a secret. Everyone loves to spend money. The desire to acquire new things is so programmed in to our minds that it’s almost primal. Just go next door, or visit a relative, or simply go to the mall and “people watch”. Everywhere you look, people are either spending money, or thinking about spending money to buy things that they might need, although most likely it’s things that they want. The “urge to splurge” is continual and never ending. It could be a fancy dinner, a new car, a new TV or computer. No matter what you have, you are always thinking about what you don’t have.
I have many personal examples of my desire to spend money. Just yesterday, I found myself perusing my local Craigslist classifieds. I didn’t know what I was looking for at the time, but I knew as soon as I saw it, I’d know I wanted it. In my case, I ended up browsing for mopeds, 4 wheelers, and golf carts. You see, eventually I’d like to have some recreational type transportation for our lake house. Do I need it? Nope. Can I afford it right now? Nope. Is it even the slightest bit practical? Nope. Do I want it? Yes. Just like I want a new GPS unit, or a new computer (this one is getting a little too slow). So, here I am. A somewhat practical, fairly conservative money handler and I’m out torturing myself by looking at all the things I shouldn’t buy. Why do I do it? Wandering the aisles in my favorite stores (Costco, any electronics store etc) has become a “hobby” for me. I’m especially good at being financially idiotic when I browse the aisles at Costco. It never ceases to amaze me how they always have new and exciting things for sale there, at great prices. The prices tend to be so good that I simply justify the purchase by telling myself that it is such a great value. Sometimes I buy the item, and other times I think back to something I read on Dawn’s “Frugal for Life” blog at least a year and a half ago. Basically she said that no matter what the price, it’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. So true. My house is full of things that I’ve purchased over the years that were a great price but that I didn’t need. I’d guess, probably to the tune of at least $5000.
So, why do we do this? Can we blame the marketing of all these companies? Well no, I can’t blame Costco’s marketing department if they even have one. They don’t even advertise. Sure, there are the “end of the aisle” temptation items in the store, but I find I do most of my damage in the tool or electronics sections.
Maybe the desire to spend money is different for each of us. Here are a few of the reasons I could come up with:
-Self medicate by buying new things
-Compensate for something else missing in our lives
-Marketing talks us in to it
-Because our friend’s are doing it
-To keep up with our neighbors
-Social pressures to own nice things
-It’s emotionally gratifying (addiction)
-Lack of a financial plan/strategy
-Doomsday purchases (Life could end tomorrow)
Over the years, I’ve done a pretty good job of slaying the demons that cause me to spend money. Certainly not all of the above apply to each of us, but I’m sure you can find a few in there that might be driving your spending patterns. Most of us spend our time feeling the “high” of buying something new. Not longer after we purchase it, we either regret the purchase, find it very useful and are glad we purchased it, or it gets tossed aside and queued up for the next garage sale, or Ebay auction. That used to be the definition of how I managed my money. Earn, spend, repeat. In recent years, I’ve found that I actually get more satisfaction and gratification by seeing money pile up in various accounts. It’s refreshing not to be so caught up in buying new things. Sure, sometimes I wish I had the latest TV or PC but that goes away and I’m still left with the satisfaction that I’ve given myself and my family more security by holding on to that hard earned money.