Personal Finance, Saving Money, Shopping

The Advantage of Over-Analyzing Your Spending


I’ve reached a point in my financial life where I tend to analyze everything to death. It’s not just because of the money, either, although that’s a big part of it. My small house only has so much space, so I’m constantly thinking, “Do I really need/want this?” Not only that, I have several longer-term goals I’m trying to reach so I ask myself questions like, “If I buy this today, what’s the effect on my other goals? Is it worth it?” Plus, as I get older I find I’m actually happier with less stuff. It’s less to worry about, maintain, clean, and use.

So I over-analyze everything. I can stand in the store for a solid half hour analyzing purchases, particularly if they’re large or impulse items. I’ve been known to wander around a store for a while, talking to myself, running the pros and cons of an item until I get so frustrated (or have to go on to another appointment) that I just put it down and walk out. Even if I manage to get something home, I end up taking it back a lot of the time because the analysis continues and I simply cannot justify it.

You’d think this would be exhausting, and it is. It’s frustrating and no fun, but it does have its advantages. All this analysis has led to more careful spending, but not simply because I’m finding the best prices or waiting for sales. I’ve discovered that over-analysis tends to kill the joy of shopping. Therefore, I want to do it less. When I know it’s going to be a painful half hour in a store or lead to a lot of regret and gnashing of teeth, I’m even less interested in whatever object it is that I think I desire. If I find myself in a store and I’m tempted by something, the analysis quickly ruins the thrill of the item.

By killing the thrill of the chase and the joy of bringing something home, I’ve greatly reduced the purchases of unneeded items. Sometimes what people find the most fun about shopping is the quick grab, the thrill of finding something new, or finding an unexpected bargain. Most of these joys are not motivated by a true need or desire for the product, but are instead motivated by an adrenaline rush. Subjecting everything to careful scrutiny, even if it’s painful, takes the adrenaline out of the equation. By the time I’m done asking myself questions and carefully evaluating the item, the adrenaline is gone and I usually find that I no longer want or even need whatever this thing is. I can put it down, walk away, and keep my money. (For added benefit I go home and transfer the price into my savings account.)

This doesn’t mean that I never spend on anything fun, just that when I do I can be sure it’s going to be something I’m really going to love. If it’s survived the analysis, it’s truly something special and I can feel good about owning it. Anything that can’t stand up to my thousands of questions was never worth it to start with. If you want to cut your spending, subject your purchases to rigorous (and I don’t mean a casual, “Hey, do I need this?”) analysis. Really ask yourself if this thing is worth putting aside other goals or taking up valuable space in your home. Chances are it won’t be.

(Photo courtesy of katerha)

6 thoughts on “The Advantage of Over-Analyzing Your Spending

  1. My 1st reaction was to wonder your age. Clever marketing has led to your shopping as entertainment. Why consider buying stuff you didn’t plan and likely don’t need for the short term thrill of the ‘buy.’ Rather than over analyze or stressing, tell yourself you’ll return the following day or 48 hours later and see if you still feel the same level of desire.

    Since we only wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time, don’t buy without eliminating a similar item of similar size to keep the volume of stuff about the same. We’ve also made a decision we call ‘how much is enough.’ We’ve based it on space constraints and use. Do our teenagers need more than 24 T’s? How many ties does DH need since business attire has become so much more casual. I have promised to buy no shoes this entire summer.

  2. The one downside of over-analyzing spending is that you can get trapped into not enjoying when you do spend. Its great to analyze, even beneficial to over-analyze to a point, but when you pull the trigger – pull it, enjoy it, and part of enjoying is to move on.

  3. Its an interesting analysis. I have -in the past- been known to shop, put things into the cart, keep shopping, then go back around taking everything I put in the cart back out onto the shelves. Always felt good/smart, but am finally cured of the whole browsing to buy concept. I do find that staying away becomes easier, and easier, and the thought of walking around [shopping] without purpose now seems boring and a waste of time. Internet shopping can be “dangerous” because its so easy to hit that BUY button. However, now I find I’m doing the same thing virtually that I used to do in stores. Put things in the “cart” then delete, move to wish list, or best, simply close the window.
    Clearly scrutinizing everything you think about buying is excellent, and if and when you do spend money, you’ll have not regrets, but probably this process is but a step in the bigger idea of disconnecting from consumerism.
    Well said!

  4. As with most things such, I think that imbalances much more effective than an extreme. While in extreme will definitely have some advantages, it will also come with many disadvantages compared to a more balanced approach. This is not always easy, but it is something that everybody should strive for in my opinion. Being able to find the balance in everything that you do whether it be finances, personal life, friendships, etc. is a big key to being happy. Just my two cents.

  5. Agree with Edith about balance, also with Hon, Baselle and Jay. If I find myself cogitating like this over an item I ususally decide I don’t want it enough and leave it.

    I also assume that if I go to the shops I will end up buying something. Result, I rarely go shopping.

  6. While I never was a shop till you drop person, let me tell you having bad rheumatoid arthritis, knee replacements, and ongoing fatigue and pain can cure you very quickly of wandering aimlessly around in a store. I get what I need and get out of there hoping that I make it home before I collapse into a heap of misery. My son used to help me get my groceries and run my errands, but he got a part time job on his day off and so can’t help me any more—boy do I miss him!

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