One of the biggest obstacles to living the life you deserve deals with your finances. If you do not control your money, then finances will control you, depriving you of being a well balanced man. The solid man controls his budget, which allows him to pursue the activities which are important to him. However, the best designed budget is worthless, if you are constantly trying to recover from large, unexpected purchases from impulse buying. These impulse purchases are typically based on one thing: Emotion. To avoid these emotional purchases, there are few tactics you can use to help take the emotion out of the decision.
In our house, we refer to these emotional purchases as a “$5 Hamster.” You see, when Young Ranger was in the 5th grade, one of his little friends informed him that the local pet store sold hamsters for only $5. He got it stuck in his little skull that he had to have one. We tried to talk him out of it, but he had Christmas money burning a hole in his pocket and wouldn’t let go of the idea. So Mama and I relented and took him to the pet shop. He found the cutest little hamster, which indeed only cost five bucks. But, after he bought the little rodent, he realized he needed a cage, bedding, a water bottle, food, an exercise wheel and the coolest little ball that it could run around the house in. Suddenly, the $5 hamster cost Young Ranger $65. All his holiday money was gone.
When making emotional purchases, we tend to look strictly at the price tag. However, we do not think of all the accessories that go along in such a purchase. With purchases not involving emotion, people tend to do a better job of thinking through all the associated costs.
For men, a common emotional purchase is a motorcycle. The man imagines how cool he would look on the bike. He thinks of the freedom, the wind in his face, the excitement of driving 70 mph mere inches from the pavement and the longing looks in the young women’s eyes as he rides by. Once he is in the clutches of the emotion, he makes the purchase, usually with a loan that he really can’t afford. Then the additional costs start to pile up. He now realizes he needs a helmet, jacket and gloves. Oh, that’s right, forgot about the additional cost of vehicle insurance and the rise in price of the life insurance. Crap, there are some additional maintenance costs. And don’t forget the motorcycle safety course required by many states. The cost is more than the listing on Craigslist.
An over-purchase with much higher stakes is a home purchase. It’s interesting to note that many experienced real estate agents will tell you most home purchases are based primarily on emotion. Many homebuyers make a purchase at the upper end of their limit and then the heartache begins. Insurance, maintenance, lawn care, repairs, homeowner association fees….the list goes on. Having bought at the upper end of his credit limit, there are no funds left to enjoy life. His life is spent paying for a home that he can’t take care of and he’s one financial hiccup away from losing it all and filing bankruptcy. Let me tell you right now, when you are in debt up to your nostrils, life becomes a living hell. Every other aspect of your life is stressed to the max. That’s not the life of a well balanced man.
To avoid becoming the victim of over purchasing, there are a few tactics to implement:
1. Require a time buffer for large purchases.
Several years ago, I decided not to spend more than $100 without sleeping on it. You’d be amazed the amount of things you buy that you don’t really need. (This is typically where women get in hot water, by going shopping for “nothing in particular”.) If you give yourself time, you allow the emotion to evaporate from the decision and can view the purchase more clearly.
2. If you are married, make a pact with the Mrs. not to make large purchases without first consulting each other.
Emotional purchases usually do not affect the genders in the same way. You may be significantly less impressed with the purchase of a new dress, just as your wife may scrutinize the total costs of that Harley you’ve been dying to get.
3. Get counsel from people who have made similar purchases.
Ask advice from people you respect. Your parents, uncles and aunts or even your boss can be excellent resources to confer with. Find someone who has ‘Been There/Done That’. If you want a hot tub, talk to people who have a hot tub. They can give insights into things you hadn’t thought of.
Controlling your finances is an important step to becoming a better man. When you’re finances are out of balance, it’s hard to manage other pieces of your life. A big piece of that puzzle is learning how to avoid making poor purchasing decisions based on emotion.
So the next time you see someone giving away puppies, with those big eyes and floppy ears, remember one thing: the puppy isn’t really free.
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