What happens when you want to buy something but can't justify the purchase? You find yourself weighing the “want” factor against the “need” factor (and the debt factor?) before you make your purchase. I’ve wanted things I swore I couldn’t live without, some of which are now gathering dust in my closet. At the pinnacle of the wanting, I would daydream about the object, envisioning myself dancing in a flower-filled meadow with the object of my desire in my hot little hands. That object symbolized happiness.
Yes, yes, I know, happiness comes from within. We all seem to know that, but even so, we still hold onto the belief that one little purchase, that thing we want, that will be just what we need to be even a little bit happier.
Raise your hand if you've justified a purchase using any of the following excuses (or something equally ridiculous):
-I'll end up in Mexico if I don't buy a GPS for my car.
-I won’t rest until every TV in my house is a flat panel.
-But those shoes would go perfectly with my outfit. I’m destined to buy them.
My hand is up--I'm guilty.
Then there are the purchases bought solely because they were on sale, or worse, on “clearance.” "Sale" means, you’d better get it while it’s hot while "Clearance" means you’d better get it before it’s gone! It’s very easy to convince yourself you need something when the words “for a limited time only!” are flashing through your head. You can get worked up thinking, “Well if I don’t buy it right this second, that’s it, the door to happiness is closed forever!”
So you buy it.
And then, next week, you notice there’s a new and improved version of your ticket to happiness, making what you already own obsolete. This is very common in electronics, but it happens in other areas too. The fashion term “last season” is just another way of saying “obsolete” or “outdated,” or simply, “out.” Which means you have to start the to-buy-or-not-to-buy process all over again.
Steve Jobs of Apple knows all about this—his answer to those who are holding off on a purchase in anticipation of the next advancement is that you’ll never buy anything with that kind of thinking. You’ll remain gun shy forever because there’s always going to be something new and improved right around the corner.
He has a point, but when you have a stockpile of perfectly functioning devices not being used (because the new one has video, or you got an iphone, rendering your ipod useless), you have to believe the man is onto something by making each new version of a product more enticing (and usually more affordable) than the last.
On another note, what happens when your favorite product is discontinued, or something you love breaks? Some people look at this as an opportunity to find something new while others will mourn until they find a duplicate or an adequate replacement. This thinking is fueled by the fear of running out of that beloved, irreplaceable thing. The fear that you will have to find a replacement, but no matter how hard you look, you will not capture the magic of the original. Buy it and hold on tight, your mind says, just in case you don't find this very thing ever again. I fall into the second type of thinking.
Let me explain—
I have a pair of sunglasses I bought a month ago, Kenneth Cole Reaction Aviators—list price, $50, that I found for $9.99 at Marshalls (Even though I mentioned the term earlier, I have no problem with “last season’s” wares). Anyone who shops at Marshalls knows it’s a needle in a haystack establishment. I saw no other shades like this pair. In fact, I had to take another pair that was similar (but not the same!) to the register because the ones I wanted did not have a price tag (let me reiterate that this was Marshalls).
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was at work and my prized sunglasses were hooked into the neckline of my shirt. I bent over and they fell to the floor. I picked up the glasses and placed them on my desk. Seconds later, I looked at those glasses, really looked, and noticed, hey, a lens popped out!
I paced the office, backtracking my steps since lunch, when I last remembered wearing my intact sunglasses. No luck. The lens was gone and I felt positively sick inside. Yes, they were $9.99, and I could probably find something similar for that much, but that was not the point. I liked these glasses and a couple of weeks was not an adequate amount of time for me to attain a full appreciation of my purchase.
I searched the floor under my desk and dug through my purse, but came up empty. I knew exactly what I had to do.
I had to go to Marshalls after work to see if they had another pair.
So I did.
And they didn’t.
I forced myself to go to Trader Joe's (which is in the same shopping center) so it wouldn't be a completely wasted trip, but I still drove away feeling as if I had failed my mission. I had to think of another plan of attack.
The next day, after work, I scoured T.J. Maxx (another needle in a haystack establishment). At first I found a pair with the same style frames, but in a different color scheme--“Not the same!” my mind screamed, but I was willing to compromise. I spotted at the rack of sunglasses on the opposite side of the store, in the men’s section. I held onto the pair I found, but walked over there with the farfetched hope that maybe I would be lucky.
I turned the rack. It looked like it held a blend of men’s and women’s frames. This was a good sign. I looked at the bottom of the rack…could it be? It was! In no time, I swapped the wrong colored shades for the right ones, a perfect match for the pair with the missing lens. I had arrived with a silly dream of finding the exact same pair—the last pair of its kind in an entirely different store and magic happened.
Redeemed, I paid for the glasses and left the store feeling as if a weight had been lifted from my heart. So really, I paid $20 ($21, if you count taxes) for two of the same pair of sunglasses. Really, it wasn't a bad deal considering the original price for two pairs would have been $100 ($106, if you count taxes).
The next morning I grabbed the plastic bag that held the empty food containers I had taken to work the day before. There, at the bottom, was some kind of disk shaped object shrouded in the bag. I was puzzled—what could that be, I wondered. I reached in, grabbed hold and—
The lens. It was the lens, missing for less than two days, and safely tucked in my bag the whole time. I laughed at the irony—all that stressing over something that was there all along. I cleaned the lens, found the frame, and popped it back into place. Good as new.
I decided to keep both pairs anyway. I can spread the wear and tear that way. Or if one pair breaks I can use it for spare parts in the event that the other pair has a problem. You know, just in case.