Have you ever been afraid to check your credit card balance…because you spent way too much last month?
You are not alone.
Overspending hits all of us.
But why? Why do we overspend?
I am sure most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking “I want to spend a ton of money today and destroy my finances.” But our actions communicate that we could care less about our finances.
I have found three common themes in overspending (spoiler alert: they all start with the letter C):
The essence of luxury is being as comfortable as possible. We will tend to pay more if it will relieve any stress.
My brother told me the other day that at Equinox (a premium gym), they have towels dipped in eucalyptus. It is supposed to provide a refreshing feeling as you dry yourself off.
Check out this description of a Eucalyptus Towel from Bed, Bath and Beyond
“The Eucalyptus Origins Tencel Lyocell/Cotton towels are ultra-absorbent, luxuriously soft, and fade resistant. Made with a blend of cotton and Tencel Lyocell fibers for complete comfort and durability, these towels are a must have for any bathroom.”
Man, I didn’t know I needed this in my life!
Marketers are very skilled at promoting a product and service you didn’t know you needed. They are good at it. So good that things that we once considered luxuries are now considered needs.
As luxuries become needs they shift from the non-essential portion of your budget to the essential.
Now, spending $40 on a towel won’t seem out of the ordinary because you need it. Thus, a regular towel is not good enough anymore.
I am not saying luxuries aren’t enjoyable. They are great. They add a certain sweetness to life, but they are not necessary.
It’s like flying in a plane: you can either select first class or business class, but both seats are on the same plane going to the same destination. The extra leg room and cushioned seats are nice, but not necessary.
Life is Uncomfortable, And that’s OK
As I get older, the more I realize that life is uncomfortable and you must deal with it. Unfortunately, one can’t have a 100% comfortable life. It is not possible. Whether it be financial, physical or relational constraints, life happens and you must adjust.
There is no amount of money or resources that will allow you to avoid the difficulty of life.
The key here is to asses what comforts are important to you and why. This should frame your spending decisions.
If you enjoy a nice car, get the best. Or do you appreciate a comfy bed? Feel free to get the premium mattress. Just balance out these splurges with savings in other areas.
The funny thing is that if you are reading this blog, you are probably living a pretty comfortable life, relatively speaking. You have access to the internet. You have access to hot water. It’s all about perspective. Recognize 1st world problems when you see them.
As you notice the comforts you already have, you won’t get caught up chasing the luxuries.
Strategies to Stop Wasting Money on Unnecessary Luxuries
- Assess what you find valuable, ignore the rest
- Change your perspective, appreciate what you have
I like convenience.
There are things in today’s world that wasn’t available a generation ago. Like a music player and a phone in one device. Or what about an internet browser and a camera in the palm of your hand.
These four things can be found in one device: the smartphone. It is super convenient and super expensive. The current iPhone is $650. The cellular companies used to subsidize the cost, but now they are pushing the cost on the consumer. Make sure you get a case for that iPhone!
As you can see, convenience is pervasive in our everyday life. Services like 2-day shipping or on-demand food delivery enables us to get things quicker than ever before. There is no reason to leave home because everything is delivered right to your door step. Forget about grocery shopping, Fresh Direct and Instacart got you covered.
Look, like any normal millennial, I enjoy these things. But it is easy to go overboard. Again, convenience comes at premium. I see it here in NYC, specifically in real estate.
As you know, NYC is all about location, location, location. If you are close to anything of value, rent goes up. It is a sellers’ market here. You want to be close to the subway, you got to pay. You want to be close to the park, pay up. And people pay.
But you don’t have to be one of these people.
A Little Inconvienence Will Save You Money
Again, in NYC, living a couple of blocks from the park or subway stop could mean saving hundreds of dollars. This also means that you need to be prepared to walk. It is a minor inconvenience that people pay to avoid.
Eight years ago, I learned how to cut my hair. A haircut in my neighborhood would run you about $15. Usually, I would get my hair cut 2 times a month.
In a year, I saved $360 cutting my own hair. In 8 years, I saved $2,880. That is almost $3K in my pocket because I taught myself to cut hair (thanks YouTube!) instead of going to the barber. Also, I am not even factoring the earnings potential of cutting other people’s hair.
The simple concept here is this: learn to become more DIY and creative. What services that people are providing you that you could reasonably do yourself? I say “reasonable” because I when I first learned how to cut my hair, it looked like I cut my own hair, lol. There was a learning curve, and I was ok with that.
Strategies to Stop Getting Caught Up with Convienence
- Do-it-Yourself, learn a new skill
- Save money by inconveniencing yourself a little
- Get creative
The third and last C is consumerism. We know this one well. Today we have access to what we want when we want and how we want it. Between eBay and Amazon I can buy anything I want online.
Consumerism is defined as “preoccupation with and an inclination toward buying consumer goods.”
In America, consumer spending makes up almost 70% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is the metric that measures the strength of an enconomy. As you can see, there is legitimate reason why consumerism is baked into our culture.
As result, people spend more and take on unnecessary debt. In today’s society, it is normal to have debt.
“We buy stuff we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like, with money we don’t have.” – Dave Ramsey
Furthermore, we have normalized having more and more stuff. Anyone who is not constantly buying is considered weird.
Being Weird Pays
Sometimes you need to be weird. This is one of those times being weird pays. If you want to get a handle on your spending, challenge the status quo. In other words, change your perspective. Appreciate what you do have. Look for ways to think outside the box.
It will mean making unpopular decisions.
For me, it means buying my 2-year-old daughter one birthday gift instead of 5 or 10. Or it looks like driving around during the first of the month looking for used furniture instead of buying new (free is better than new).
Don’t get me wrong, I like black Friday sales as much as anyone, but I try not to buy into the narrative that I must get the latest and greatest thing. If I don’t, I am missing out.
Strategies to Being Weird Financially
- Challenge the status quo
- Be content in what you do have
- Don’t play the comparison game
Don’t let these three Cs get the best of you. Acknowledging the threat your wallet is half the battle. Having a good time doesn’t have to lead to debt.
How do you deal with the 3 Cs?