“Knowing what you know now about money, do you regret buying that?”
This question came up recently in reference to a Louis Vuitton bag I was carrying (and from a person who knows I own several). The short answer to that question is: No, I don’t regret buying it. The longer answer is the focus of today’s discussion!
I have a robust process in place to ensure that I almost never make purchases I’ll regret. Everyone is going to have their own tastes and preferences when it comes to material acquisition, and this is a judgement-free zone (but if you ask, I’ll tell you which brands I love and which ones I hate!). That said, there are still a few fundamental considerations worth reflecting on before making any purchase, big or small:
Do I need it?
This is the primary driver of any decision I make today. It’s alarmingly easy to just buy things we think are cool, that we don’t actually need. I remember watching TV at my in-laws house a few years ago when I saw an infomercial for a Miracle Chop. I have absolutely no need whatsoever for a Miracle Chop, but I had a fleeting moment where I thought it’d be a great thing to buy. Think of all the onions I can chop, and how quickly! Truly a game changer. Turns out, the reviews are terrible, and I already own knives with which I can chop onions. If you have something that works well and meets your needs, buying something else that fits the same needs is just excessive and will stress you out. There is a difference between physical needs (kitchen tools) and mental/emotional needs; I’ve been on the other side of that where for a long time I resisted the desire to update my wardrobe, even though the one I had in play left me feeling shabby and uncomfortable in front of clients. I already own clothes that technically fit, I just don’t feel good in them, and how materialistic of me to want something new when I already have clothes. There wasn’t a physical need for new clothing, but it was impacting my mindset to not show up in something I felt confident in. Once I recognized that my emotional needs are no less worthy than my physical needs, I was able to take action and create a wardrobe that made me feel really good.
Do I love it?
Once I know that I need something, the hunt begins! I have to LOVE something if I’m going to buy it. There are some things it’s hard to get excited about – I wouldn’t say that I love one dish soap more than all of the other dish soap options in society, but I definitely still do my research with everything so that I get what will work for me. When it comes to purchasing something like a bag, clothing, shoes, home goods and so on, I will only buy what I absolutely love. It’s a waste of money (and indicates a lack of foresight, quite frankly) to settle for what’s available in the moment vs. planning for and acquiring what you really want. Marie Kondo discusses the same concept in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and while her focus obviously is on decluttering and minimizing, my goal is to help you think about what “sparks joy” for you before you buy it, so you don’t have to live through the anxiety of being surrounded by things you don’t like that much, but spent a lot of money on. So when it came to my first LV bag, I knew I could either buy what I wanted and take care of it, or try to compensate with a number of cheaper, trendier bags for years to come. I figured I would probably save money in the long run if I just bought a classic design that I really wanted and stuck with it. I was right! I use that thing all the time, and I haven’t bought a new bag in years. I don’t think I’ll buy another until one of mine wears out completely, but because I invested in high quality classic pieces and I really take care of them, I expect them to last for decades to come. How many purses have you churned through? Or if you don’t carry a purse (hi, male readers!), maybe it’s gadgets, shoes, whatever. Think about what will really light you up for years to come, and even if it’s a higher price point than something else that’s immediately available and is “good enough”, I’d still recommend investing in what you really love. I promise, you will save money in the long run and you’ll be happier!
Will it last a long time?
I started to allude to this in the last section, but I don’t believe in buying cheap things just because they’re on sale or otherwise inexpensive. They are still just that: cheap. And on the flip side of that, just because something has a high price point doesn’t mean it’s high quality. You really want to pay attention to workmanship and invest in what’s appropriate for you, your career and your lifestyle. I learned this the hard way when I invested in several pairs of luxury brand shoes for work, and between my sprints through airports and weekly surprises with weather conditions at client sites, they all fell apart in less than a year. I won’t make that mistake again! Additionally, consider how your tastes may change in the years ahead. It’s not a problem to buy something to meet a short-term need if it’s really a need, but to the extent possible, it’s much better to invest in what you want now and in the future. I’m thinking specifically in this case about home furnishings; even when I was just recently out of college and trying to furnish my first apartment, I held out for items that fit what I knew my style preferences were. I could have picked up a random, uncomfortable sofa at IKEA at a really low price just to “have something”, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted (this was a really long time ago, so maybe IKEA has more comfortable, durable furniture now? No hate!). It’s better, in my mind, to have one thing that’s really well made and will last a long time, than to give into the consumerism machine and continually buy things that wear out quickly.
What comes to mind for you when considering buying something? Is there anything big on your radar right now? Take a few moments to work through the questions above, and I guarantee you’ll be able to move forward with no regrets!
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