Justifying the Purchase of Stuff we don’t Need Gets the Best of us
Ever bought something that you overpaid for? Or something that you were very geeked up for, only to realize later on that you never even used it. It’s human nature to create justifications for things that we don’t really need, but really want. We become the hunter and the ‘thing’ we’re after is our prey. It’s happened to even the most frugal of us at one time or another. Here are a few personal stories of when I felt buyer’s remorse.
The TV when I was 7 that Claimed my Life Savings
When I was about 7 years old, I had saved up around $80 and thought that money would be well spent towards a small portable black and white television from Meijers. The big day came, I handed over all of my money, which had taken years to earn. I got home, excitedly unpacked the TV from it’s box, turned it on, and watched a show or two.
Then it started to sink in. I had just spent every last cent I had. The day ended with me crying to my parents, “that’s a lot of money for a little kid!”. We ended up returning the TV. Lesson learned. It was the first time I had truly felt buyer remorse. My parents still won’t let me live that one down. I still hear, “that’s a lot of money for a little kid” occasionally, always in mocking tones.
The Acoustic Guitar when I didn’t Really Care for Guitar
In high school, I started to play an electric guitar. It was a cheap one, around $150 or so. I dabbled in playing and learning a few songs with a friend of mine. The cheap guitar was a good bang for the buck, even though I was horrid at playing it and not passionate enough to put the time into becoming great at it.
Towards the end of my college years, I went looking for my next hobby. I hadn’t played guitar in a while, but thought that just maybe I would now have time to dedicate towards becoming a modestly decent guitarist and justified the thought that maybe a nice new guitar was just the kind of motivation I needed to be the next Slash. I went out to a Guitar Shoppe and found a beautiful Ibanez acoustic guitar and dropped $500 on it.
With good intentions, I took a guitar class right after the purchase. The class finished, and I don’t think that I’ve played the guitar since. Lesson learned? Don’t spend a lot of money on something nice thinking that it will motivate you to love something that you’re really not that passionate about.
The Car that we Didn’t Need
A few years back, my wife’s ’96 Chevy Monte Carlo began piling up the miles and had a few mechanical issues that ended with the car sputtering out on the side of the highway. We paid to have the issues fixed and the car was running great afterward. But I began to justify why the incident was a valid reason for me to go out and start looking for a newer (and much more expensive) used vehicle.
I quickly found a car and financed $11K to take it home. Today, I could have easily purchased that car outright, but back then we had very little savings to invest in that kind of purchase. And we were paying interest on a depreciating asset. All while giving up another vehicle (for almost nothing) that was running just fine. Not a good decision on my part. Lesson learned? There’s a lot of them, but I felt somewhat redeemed two years later when I sold the car for only $500 less than what I paid for it and started busing to work.
Purchasing Wisdom that I’ve Gained Over the Years to Prevent Buyer Remorse Later on:
1. When you start justifying why something is a good idea to purchase, you begin transforming a want into a need in your head. Slow down and rationally remind yourself that material possessions will rarely, if ever, add to your happiness level.
2. Don’t make a purchase with the intent of using that purchase as a motivator. It rarely works. You have to be passionate about something, first and foremost.
3. Never finance to purchase a material possession, other than a house. I can’t come up with a good reason why you would ever need to.
4. $80 is a lot of money for a little kid.
Buyer Remorse/Purchasing Wisdom Discussion
- What things have you purchased that you later had buyer remorse for? Why were you remorseful?
- What tricks/advice do you have to stem poor purchasing decisions?