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Get Out Of Debt


Why do you make certain purchases?

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by Paul Kindzia in Happiness, Personal Finance
August 23, 2022

As we progress through life, we make a lot of decisions related to overlapping areas of life.  We have to balance out wealth building, health, family/dependents, our own happiness, and a host of personal goals and objectives.

Unless you are a Buddhist Monk or have taken a vow of poverty out of some moral virtue, you probably desire material possessions.  Better yet, you probably have desires for goodies that could be consider luxuries or certainly:

“WANTS” versus “NEEDS”

There are plenty of things that we would like to own (preferably sooner rather than later) and they certainly qualify as wants.  We desire these things because we believe that they will make us happy.

Where things get into a gray area is when we start to desire (or actually acquire) goods and services that cross the line between fulfilling our own internal wants and desires versus chasing external validation and social praise for climbing the food chain.  This happens when we act in ways that are appealing to our sense of prideego, and self-worth in comparison to others (real or imaginary people) at the expense of our own self-interest.

When we purchase goods or services, we often don’t realize that we are doing things for external validation.  Let’s go through an example.

Imagine that you have a dream of owning a second home which will be used as a vacation home for you and your family.  For some, that may be a ski retreat in Colorado, for others a beach ocean side condo.  Imagine arriving at your own place, drinking from your own glasses, showering and sleeping with your own linens, and reading a good book on your own sofa.

Plenty of people have this dream (I know I certainly do).  Here’s where it gets interesting in uncovering potential problem causing motivations.  There are all kinds of decisions we could make when it comes to selecting our second home.  What is it that you imagine?  Are you imagining hosting lavish parties and get-togethers with large numbers of guest?  Do you imagine all of your guests walking around the house and property, mouth’s open, gasping in awe and jealousy while you proclaim, “Enjoy yourself at my luxury property.  I’m happy to have you as my guest!”

When we start making large financial decisions for external validation, it is appealing to our sense of self-worth and personal pride.  Why are we seeking that praise?  What is causing us to desire the approval (or jealousy) of others?  When we do things for external validation, it often can lead us to trouble because we end up footing the financial bill for something that isn’t done for our own pure and authentic desires.  We typically over-extend ourselves.  But we still do it anyways.

Let’s go back to imagining that we want a second home.  Ask yourself this,

  • What would you own/purchase if the only people that knew what you owned was your immediate family (spouse and kids?)
  • What size house would it be?
  • How would it be decorated?
  • What kind of furniture would you find the most comfortable and enjoyable?
  • How low maintenance would you want it to be?
  • What features would you want just for yourself if you didn’t have to impress anybody other than yourself?

Now compare those answers to what you may be pursuing to impress others and by seeking external validation.  Please note, it will end up being more important that you impress and please yourself versus others.  This is very important perspective to have when making purchases and financial decisions.

I can’t tell you the number of times I come across people buying primary residences, cars, second homes, boats, and all kinds of things not because that item is perfect for their use, but rather as a display of their attempt to broadcast their accomplishmentspride and self-worth to anybody who is willing to pay attention.  I was recently listening to a guy who was busting with pride and self-worth as he proclaimed, “Look at my awesome house.  It has nineteen bedrooms!”  He really thought that was impressive.  But if he didn’t have to worry about impressing others or seeking outside and external validation, what kind of home do you think he would have purchased for his own pleasure?

Do you think he will actually sleep in all nineteen bedrooms?  Is he running a hotel?  Is he planning on adopting 28 children or housing foreign refugees?  There is nothing wrong with wanting a swimming pool, an awesome view, a beautiful kitchen, a stone fireplace or a family room with vaulted ceilings.  These are things that may add real enjoyment and pleasure to your experience along with the things that you can actually afford without the debt.

So as you progress through life as a wealth builder, take the time to do this exercise when making big financial decisions.  Make sure you are doing it for yourself.  Simply ask:

If nobody else knew what I owned, what would I own for myself and what would it look like?

  • What would you buy just to make myself happy?
  • What kind of car would you drive?
  • What size house would you live in?
  • What kind of clothes would you wear?
  • What kind of boat would you have for yourself?
  • What kind of beach side condo would you have for your own pleasure?

The truth is, people are going to go off and live their own life anyways.  They may or may not be impressed with your stuff (i.e. headaches) and financial commitments as much as you think.  When you do things for your own internal motivations rather than external, you end up making far better decisions for your own self-interest.

You may just discover that no one is looking anyways and they may never know nor care if you tried to impress others.  They probably would be more envious if you did things to impress yourself and succeeded.

Good habits lead to good behaviors.  Good behaviors lead to good decisions.  Good decisions lead to a good life.  Live by principles and choose wisely.

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