Spending for the life you have

Over at Get Rich Slowly, writer April Dykman recently wrote a post called “Spend on the Things You Do Every Day.” The gist was that people tend to waste a lot of money buying things for the life they hope they will have: lots of “going out” outfits when they don’t go out, lots of fancy cookware when they don’t cook, etc. Meanwhile, things you do every day get shortchanged.

It’s understandable. We often think that by buying something, we will adopt the habit. That explains the vast number of treadmills that have been turned into clothes racks. Chalk it up to the human capacity for optimism.

But it is possible to get around this trap. My suggestion? Adopt the habit first, then buy for it. Maybe you’ll play the piano if you buy one, but if you actually haul yourself to a university practice room, or the house of a friend who owns a piano, three times a week for 2 months, you can be pretty sure you’ll play your new instrument if you buy one. Likewise, as long as you’ve got a decent pair of sneakers, you can run a mile or so. After running and walking for 30 minutes a few times a week for a month or two, you can start buying running clothes, secure in the knowledge that you will use them.

When you look through your stuff, do you think you’re guilty of buying for the life you want, rather than the life you have?

6 thoughts on “Spending for the life you have

  1. Guilty *and* innocent! I cook a lot and do it well, and now work a little for a caterer– but as I tossed boxes and boxes of yarn from my former knitting habit, I’m afraid to spend on any new hobby. So I only bought a good chef’s knife last week! It’s awesome. However I am thinking of abandoning the pair of fingerless gloves I’m only an eighth of the way done with. (The yarn thing is just weird!)

    But I did follow this advice for running. Once I ran 3-4 X a week all through the summer, I bought a gym membership for winter– cheaper than a treadmill and with other stuff to do. I don’t feel bad about buying good shoes now either. But at first I ran in what I had.

    So I guess I’ve learned a little of this lesson. Less guilt, less waste! Not *quite* so much yarn. Maybe I should sell all my knitting needles on ebay to just end it. I’ll keep one size and with the money from the needles, buy a stash of colorful cotton yarn to make dish cloths while I watch tv, which is really all I enjoy. There’s an idea!

    1. @Melanie: I think I’m guilty and innocent too. I have bought a fair amount of workout clothes over the years, and could possibly even buy more. I run outside in all kinds of weather, so having two pairs of insulated pants isn’t exactly profligate — it means I don’t smell quite as bad on Friday as I would! I also wear jeans all the time, and so having pairs I really like is worth some money (right now, alas, none of them really fit right, which is ticking me off. Ah, postpartum weight loss). But I also have a lot of other clothes that I think I bought because hey, you can always use another cute little shirt, right? Except eventually, you can’t. It really doesn’t matter how cheap it was. If you don’t wear it, it’s a waste.

  2. I find not having too much stuff is a good thing. The room of the house I hate the most is the garage… b/c it gathers junk… When you have only what you use — especially if you are a visual person — there is not so much stuff to visually distract you from what you actually want to do …

  3. I’m a non-clutter, minimal hobby person. My husband has lots of hobbies and (in my opinion) too much associated clutter but even after a decade plus, is optimistic he’ll find time. (and for some of it, he will- but not in a way that’s planned or feels fair) I doubt my marriage is the only one like this. Clutter posts assume that the person BOTHERED by the clutter OWNS the clutter. (Not directly related to this post, but my beef just the same)

    1. @TwinMom – yes, ownership of clutter is a tricky issue. I can purge my own stuff, but woe betide someone who purges other people’s stuff, only to learn that the grimy back-pack in the giveaway pile is a treasured memento of childhood.

  4. I think all but the most disciplined, self-aware people among us are guilty of this. But if I may point out, nowadays you can rent or borrow a lot of items like these (maybe not workout clothes) to make sure you’ll actually use them. For instance, my parents rented me a piano, which I used often while in high school, and when we moved, they didn’t have to pay to move it! Before I bought a slow cooker recently (for $10 on Craigslist), I borrowed one from a friend to test it out.

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