Are you spending for the life you have, or the life you want?
That’s the question I had to ask myself as I stood in an electronics store recently mulling over a tablet purchase. As I contemplated how much this purchase would set me back financially, I glanced down at my shoes. The rubber had all but completely worn off the bottom near my toes, and it looked to be only a matter of time before my big toe came out for air. This was my only pair of decent ballet flats to wear to work, and they were way past raggedy at this point. I’d been too cheap to purchase a new pair, yet I was justifying a shiny, new electronics purchase that was easily forty times the price of a new pair of shoes.
Making Decisions That Aren’t Within Your Means
There I stood between the life I have as a working girl who needs dress shoes for the office, versus the life I wanted as a lucrative, self-employed woman whose line of business requires flip-flops… and the latest electronics. The lives were mutually exclusive: one decidedly less expensive, and the other undoubtedly rooted in fantasy. Yet, I was much more willing to throw away my life savings chasing a mirage instead of investing my disposable income to improve upon what I already possessed.
I’d done this time and time again:
- I decided I wanted to be a “woman who scrapbooks” and bought a ton of scrapbook materials, yet never made a single scrapbook page.
- I aspired to be a marathon-runner, so I bought a pair of custom running shoes and signed up for a gym membership–only to use them both twice in six months.
- I wanted to be a great cook, so I purchased a wok to make exotic, Asian-inspired cuisine… and never used it once.
How To Live Within Your Means
Psychologists would call my efforts “feel-good tasks”: tasks I could do that made me feel like I am doing something without my actually doing anything. A feel good task is a task not essential to getting started nor directly contributing to success; therefore, this task rarely results in achieving a particular goal and instead becomes an end unto itself.
This isn’t to say we can never change, pursue our dreams, or pick up a new hobby, but maybe we can ease into those changes financially once we’ve made a serious commitment (evidenced by follow-through) rather than using our desire to change as an excuse to spend money. Prioritizing purchases is one thing; financing a life you don’t actually live is another, and a sure-fire way to end up in debt or, at the very least, with a lot of stuff you don’t need or use.
What do you think? Have you ever found yourself financing a life you don’t actually live?