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)