Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Saying "YES" is the hardest part.

I had bit of an existential crisis last weekend. My wife and I were walking around Toys R Us, and I made my way over to the video game section. There, at the top of the display case were two brand new SNES Classics. When it was first announced, I really had no interest at all in the tiny little retro machine. Most of the games included on the system really held no interest for me, and I already had the ones I did like socked away on my computer's hard drive. There was no reason for me to fork out the $80 in order to enjoy the same games I already had. But, there was something about seeing that black box with the red lettering that just triggered a sudden need to open up my wallet and take one home with me. My wife was incredulous.

"You're not spending that kind of money on something you'll only play twice then forget about. Besides, we already have a Super Nintendo that we never play".

"But, that's because we don't own any games that I want to play. This has a bunch that I love. Besides, just one of those games is worth what the system costs!"

We went back and forth a couple times, and in the end I relented. I was pretty mopey as we walked around Petsmart, lamenting the joy that such games as Super Metroid and Link to the Past could bring. Plus, I was little sore about being told I couldn't buy something I wanted. I was an adult, dammit! As long as my bills were paid, I should be able to buy something now and then. Eventually she told me that if I wanted it that badly, to go back and buy it. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, and started making my way to the exit doors. I stepped outside and started walking back to Toys R Us when something stopped me in my tracks.

I started thinking, that maybe Chelsea was right. I looked back at my history of impulse buys, and started noticing a trend. Most of the things I bought on impulse were gone, sold off when I eventually lost interest.  I'd get caught up in the excitement of finding the thing that everyone else was looking for, and quickly whip out my wallet. Even if I initially had no interest in it at all, I'd still buy it. Who cares what of consequences this might have for my bank account? I now owned this thing! Then a few months later I'd find the thing in a box and wonder, "Why the Hell did I buy this?", before tossing it up on eBay. That all changed a couple of years ago, with Chelsea's newest career venture.

Before her new job, we were nearly living paycheck to paycheck. Not exactly above our means, but definitely not far enough below them. Since her new job involves helping other people be responsible with their money, she decided we should follow the same advice she was giving. It was tough at first, saying "no". There was always that temptation to toss it on a credit card. It's easier to ignore the growing balance rather than ignoring the leaking bank account. Over the course of a few months, both of us fell in line, pretty much cutting off any extraneous purchases, and almost immediately we saw the difference in our bank account. I grew up in a household where the paychecks were pretty much spent before they were deposited, a habit that carried over into my young adulthood. To have money leftover at the end of the month that can be put into savings has been unheard for me.

That's not to say that we still don't buy stuff, it's just more intentional now. Saying "Yes" has definitely become more difficult. Big purchases are the hardest ones.  My old computer started failing but it still took me at least 8 months to finally get up the nerve to buy something else. Both of our couches are pretty worn out, but it will probably be a few more months before we replace them. Even small purchases get the same scrutiny now. That $20 dollar action figure might look cool and all, but am I going to enjoy looking at it once I finish writing a blog post about it? Or am I going to toss it on eBay afterward, hoping to recoup some of my money? If it's the latter, then it stays at the store now.

I've also set limits on what money I can use to buy non-essentials. For example, any money I make selling on eBay goes toward "fun" stuff. When it's gone, it's gone. And no more using PayPal credit. That's a hole that can easily get too deep. Same with gift cards. I usually get a bunch for Christmas and birthdays, so I'll use them to purchase things I want over the course of the year. If I blow them all before January is over, like I did this year, then I gotta wait until I get some more. It's all about limits, and once you can find some you can live with, it makes life a lot easier.

I'd be lying if I said this change in philosophy wasn't at least partially responsible for the lack of new content on the blog lately, but I'm also trying to find ways to stop on relying on just things I've bought for subject matter. I guess I'm trying to be a more deliberate blogger as well. That doesn't mean that I still won't be posting "Hey lookit this toy/food/random thing!" posts, but I don't want them to be the only thing that I do anymore. I won't promise that the quality of the writing is going to improve, because I don't make any promises I'm sure I can't keep. Besides, it might give me a reason to start having my wife edit everything before I post it.

So, has anyone else gone through similar changes? Do you buy more or less now? Or, do you throw caution to the wind and let the creditors sort it out?

Since I don't want to end this on a question, here's a random picture of an Incredible Hulk Christmas tree.

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