The Kryptonite of Financial Stability

Let’s talk financial stability. There is a pressure in our society to have things. We’re inundated with advertisements, all day long, selling us things that we don’t really need. We see ads on television, in the form of product placement in movies, on the pages of every magazine and on billboards all over town. They’re selling to us in airports, on airplanes, in supermarkets and on our social media accounts.

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It’s unavoidable, and it’s ingrained in the fabric of our lives.

Sometimes it’s nice to be sold on something. You’ve been searching online for a new vacuum cleaner, and an ad for one shows up on your Facebook wall the same day. It’s the right price and seems like the perfect vacuum, so you click through and make the purchase.

Simple.

But what about all of the ads that are selling you something you don’t need?

The ones that are claiming they can change your life, your weight, your level of happiness or your annual income. The ones that make you feel bad, like you’re not good enough just as you are, like your job is wrong and your car is too small and your house doesn’t have the right furniture.

These ads are the kryptonite of financial stability.

They pull you into the myth that inundates our lives, that there is someone, somewhere, that you have to keep up with. That if you purchase a new car and gather the latest fashions and move into the too expensive house, you’ll finally be happy. Satisfied. Surrounded by friends and love and good luck.

But that’s all it is. A myth. And a very expensive one, at that. I’m not suggesting that you stop buying things. Not even close. What I’m suggesting is that you take a few minutes before you make purchases, and ask yourself the following questions.

Will this make my life better?

Will buying this thing make the processes in my life easier? Will it make each day more joy filled? If the answer is no, or you can’t really say, then don’t buy it. If you answer yes to the easier piece because the thing will get you somewhere faster, but the loan payment will create an added layer of stress, then the answer is still no.

Can I delay this purchase?

My first suggestion is that you unlink your paypal and your credit card information from the websites you find yourself buying from most often. Are you signed up for the one-click purchasing on Amazon? Perhaps you should rethink that. It’s all about providing some breathing room between the moment  you decide you need something, the impulse, and the actual purchase. You’d be surprised at how quickly these impulsive desires fade. Give it a minute, or a day. You can probably live without it.

Is there a void that I’m trying to fill, which I could satisfy in some other way?

We’re all familiar with unhealthy behaviors, used as a band-aid for some other problem in our lives. Some people eat to feel better. Some people drink, gamble, exercise or sleep. Others, shop. If you’re one of those people, then you know who you are. Next time you’re driven to buy, take a few moments to consider an alternative. Go back to question 2, and delay the purchase. Go for a walk. Drink some water. Call a friend and schedule a dinner for later in the week. Do anything that will shake up your routine and get you looking forward to something unrelated to shopping.

Will the stress of the cost of this purchase outweigh the benefit of the temporary happiness it will bring?

This seems like an obvious question to ask before you buy something, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think this far into the future. If you have to use a credit card to buy it, please don’t. And if you have the cash, imagine how much you would have if you put that money into an IRA and left it there for 30 years. I’ll give you the answer. A lot more.

It’s Not All Bad

Of course, there are things worth purchasing, and even the most financially savvy among us are guilty of impulse buys. We all have our own limit for frugality, so for some of us, that will mean allowing for the occasional splurge for no good reason.

The advice here is to pay attention to your habits, and to challenge them once in awhile. Stop for a moment before you click the Buy Now button. In the long run, taking a few minutes to consider how your purchase will affect you down the line is well worth the time.

After all, it could save you from buying that fedora that you’ll never wear, or the wine decanter that was too complicated to use. It could save you from going deeper into debt. And the biggest reward, is to know that you can not be taken down by the kryptonite of financial stability.

Advertising has nothing on you. Your money has better things to do.

Solid ground. What are you doing to help your financial stability?

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