Thoughts on Spending

February 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm (February Challenge, Money & Spending) (, , )

I’m not gonna lie- I like to spend money. If I really like something, I’ll usually buy it. Two-hundred dollar jeans? Sure. A four-dollar latte (almost every day)? Why not? Last month I actually bought an $88 tank top. While I don’t usually flinch at my spending, THAT scared me.

But while the financial implications of this spending are obvious, that’s not  what truly scares me. Despite these somewhat ridiculous purchases, my finances are fine- I save and invest a portion of my income every month and I don’t generally spend more than I have (thanks, Ramit!).

Here’s what scares me more: The possibility that in seeking satisfaction from the things I buy, I’m missing out on a much deeper satisfaction. The thought that when I’m in “spending mode,” I’m focusing far too much on the “materiality” of things — at the expense of what really matters.

At least once a year, I clean out my closet and get rid of all the clothes I haven’t worn for awhile. Without fail, I always end up getting rid of something that, just months or years earlier, I absolutely, no-questions-asked, *had* to have. This always makes me think- how can something go so quickly from something I couldn’t live without to something I’m throwing out? The point is, the satisfaction I get from these things doesn’t last long. The feeling I get from a new purchase quickly fades, until months later I finally realize that I never really needed it at all. What value did these shoes, or this purse, or this car truly bring to my life? More importantly, is this happening at the expense of something that truly does matter?

It’s not that material things are bad; it’s just that, at least for me, they’re overshadowing more important things. So although this month’s challenge will certainly have a financial impact, that’s not really what it’s about. It’s not about being cheap or being frugal or about not enjoying life. Instead, it’s about taking away the distractions and seeing what happens, seeing what’s under there. It’s about seeing if I can enjoy life on a different level. Call it a month long  fast if you’d like. I think that I’ll learn a lot about myself.

What about you? What do you have in your life that might be distracting you from what’s real?

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4 Comments

  1. Jeff Tong said,

    While I’ve never had a spending issue, I have had several distractions in life.

    Some things that have helped me include setting priorities, deadlines, and daily calendars. I currently use google calendar religiously… =P

    Spending Example: I recently saved up over $1,200 to buy a Nikon D200 and a few accessories (lens and flash). Things I had to cut included going out for lunches and dinners. I’m satisfied with my choice and I think my photography has begun to improve as payback!
    =)

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/gundamwing4132/]

  2. ksiew0911 said,

    Hey Therese I got here from Eark1K. Your story reminds me of the “Confessions of a Shopaholic”. I don’t mean you’re a shopaholic, but your situation is actually a reflection of many people.

    I personally also get instant gratification from buying stuffs, I know it’s pointless to control myself because humans act on impulses. So, whenever I put stuffs on my Amazon cart, I let them sit there for a few days first. Then I’ll go back and see if I still want it, and if I have the money to get it. The thing that keeps me out of financial troubles is that I hate debt, so I pay off my credit card balance every month.

    I can see myself beginning to overspend on personal development books and courses (which include basically anything I want to learn: marketing, blogging, money, sociology, psychology, etc). It’s fine provided I take actions, but it’s not an easy thing to do. So, the real thing for me is to take the stuffs I buy seriously and learn as much as I could from them and put them to actions!

    Phew I’m done with my ramble, thanks for a thought provoking post.

    Ken Siew

  3. Steven Moody said,

    I think Jeff has a point – its (usually) not enough to decide to stop spending, but to decide on a bigger use of the money. Since you can afford to spend the money, that just makes it worse. Have you considered taking a volunteering trip, such as conserving turtles in Costa Rica? Something like that might be big enough to save for, and important enough to escape the $200 cotton trappings.

    • thereseschwenkler said,

      Very good input from all of you. Steven, that is a good thought… maybe I can think of a worthwhile use for the money. Will keep you updated! 🙂

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