Money to some people has the attractive, hoarding relationship that contributes so neatly to their need for security, but this is not the case for everyone and not the case for me. For others, money is more often than not simply a stepping stone to a new guitar, a motorbike, or paying off a debt (not that those examples are specific of course..). To these people, on its own money in itself is boring.
This attitude perhaps would not be too dangerous. The problem is that it is often coupled with an attitude to consumerism that can at certain times be difficult, and at other times severely damaging.
When money itself holds so little intrinsic value, several self-selling strategies can rule within our minds:
- "I deserve it" thinking. I work hard, therefore this item/thing is something I am entitled too, dammit.
- "What if I don't? Will I ever find the 'perfect' thing again" thinking.
Given these twin forces, we often find ourselves buying something that not only ends up adding almost nothing to our overall happiness, but in fact contributes more than its fair share of impact on increasing our guilt and disappointing sense of shallowness.
At our most masochistically brutal moments, we may even reduce ourselves to wrecks who believe we are worthless for having spent 'so much money' on 'something I can't even enjoy now'. We appear to be our own best salesman and torturer in tight chronological sequence.
Imagine you've got it
- Consider something you're intending to buy.
- Stop and think about how you will feel in the future if you have that thing. Imagine the consequences, the benefits and disadvantages on your overall condition if you have that item.
- On balance, decide to make the purchase if the outcome is to the good in terms of your happiness.
Common sense, no? It turns out most often it's unfortunately not. A combination of good salesmanship, externally and internally to the mind of the buyer, often circumvents even this simple thought experiment.
So what else could you do?
Is it enough? What would I miss?
Two questions I've found that better appeal to my own sensibilities are around introducing feelings into the mix. The two questions that have had most impact in curtailing my own wanton purchasing urges are:
- If everything I had now was all I ever had, would it be enough?
- If everything I had was all I ever had, what would I miss?
These questions are quicker to think about. I tend to have a real emotional response to the emerging responses to the questions that quickly dampens my desire for the thing-under-purchase.
These questions work for me, for others I wouldn't be able to guess. What works for you?
Be careful of your brain 'filling in the gaps'
My take is that we can only do the best with what we have. Nothing beats 'taking time' when making a decision, and the amount of time you're willing to take will likely be a snap-judgement on the overall risk you're taking (not necessarily a bad thing either, if you're to believe Malcolm Gladwell's findings documented in his excellent book "Blink").
Gilbert's proposed answer to this conundrum is to find other people who have made this decision and ask them how happy it made them. That sounds a little ideal to me, and is far from easy when you're staring at that brand new Gibson Les Paul with your internal salesman in full swing and an eager external salesman giving the distinct impression that your next 5 minutes will decide if his family eats this week...