Standing in an aisle of food when you’re hungry is a high intensity lesson in delayed gratification.
Your stomach is crying out for food. You’re staring down a box of your favorite cookies. You’ve got your credit card in your wallet, ready to be swiped so that you may feast upon the sugary goodness.
But wait. You’ve still got the rest of your shopping to do. And you’ve been trying to eat healthier anyway. Plus, you set a budget for your grocery spending this week, and this box of cookies ain’t in it.
Is a desire for something enough of a reason to buy it?
Our ‘Say YES’ to Spending Culture
Most of our culture will tell you YES, a longing for something is definitely, deeply enough. In fact, a passing interest in something is enough to buy it. Because if you can’t use it today, you may use it SOMEDAY. And also, you deserve the things you want. And also, also, you are a really good person who works hard, and it’s YOUR money after all. No one but you gets to make these purchasing calls, and anyone who tries is impeding on your FREEDOM.
We’re so free to spend in the US, that we have a collective $3.9 TRILLION in consumer debt.
So free to spend, that 44% of Americans cite money as their top stressor.
So does buying anything and everything you’ve ever been remotely interested in make you happy? Is it good for your bank account? And most importantly; is spending always worth it?
In order to know if something is worth spending money, we have to know the value of money to us.
Is it worth more to you to have $21.99 in your bank account, or to have the new book from your favorite author in your hands?
Is $250 enough to make you feel secure if it’s in your bank account, or is it worth the happiness of a flight to Mexico City?
Money is so much more than a dollar figure. Money translates to happiness, security, anxiety, fear. When you have $10,000 looking back at you from your savings, you might feel comfortable and safe. When you get a bill for $500, you might feel scared or angry.
So to determine if an item is REALLY worth to you, we have to both consider the deduction that purchase will make from our bank account AND consider what it will do to our emotional state. We find ourselves with a simple equation:
Cost + emotions = worth.
But emotions are pesky little things, and they rarely let us off neatly. You can easily spend $300 at the doctor, getting necessary tests done, and not feel like it was WORTH it when you also have a $300 electric bill due.
You can put a $1000 weekend at Coachella anon a credit card and not mind when the bill comes, because you partied with your friends in sparkles and feathers, and after all, you’ll never be 26 in the desert again.
Define Your Values to Determine Your Spending
To find your personal true north when it comes deciding what is worth spending money on, you’ll need a clear understanding of your values. What is it in life that brings you joy, security, and moves you forward?
Does time with friends refresh your soul? Does convenience make your heart sing? Determining what your life values are is the starting point to understanding your spending, and thus, making spending choices that feel WORTH every penny.
More on Values Based Spending
Your value might not line up exactly with your friends, your family or your partners. You could be a clothes horse who loves dressing up for work every day, married to someone who only wears free t shirts they scored at a conference.
It’s not about fitting some pre-defined mold. It’s about understanding what you want for yourself, and then spending accordingly.
The next time you find yourself wondering ‘is this worth spending money on?’ think back to the things, feelings, and experiences that you really love and value. Ask yourself; will buying this thing bring me more of that good stuff?
If the answer is yes, it’s probably worth spending money on and bringing into your life. If the answer is no, transfer that money to your savings and wait to buy something that you really, truly, love.