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Understand How and Why You Spend


conspicuous spending doesn't make you happy
❝Before I spend money I ask myself one question: Is this worth my freedom?❞ -Joshua Fields Millburn

I'm walking to lunch when I see the car dealership. I walk in, knowing that somebody will come up to me and start hounding me, but I'm okay with that. It's 2008, and my car is over a decade old and stopped working about a month ago. I work downtown, so I take the bus and don't really need my car, which is why I haven't gotten it repaired. Plus, I'm sick of getting this thing repaired. It seems like every two or three months, I have $700 or $800 worth of repairs. It's time for a new car.


I start looking at 3-year-old used cars. Specifically, I'm looking at compact cars because I literally only need my car for commuting. As I'm going through the process, the salesman tells me that he can get me into a brand new mid-size sedan for the same monthly payment as my car loan on the smaller used car. Before I know it, I'm signing the paperwork to lease a brand new car.


It happened so quickly I don't know how I ended up with a different car than I wanted. The following weekend shed some light on why I spent the way I did. I’m invited to a poker game at the house of one of the partners at work. I notice that everybody else has a nice car. Many of them are luxury cars. That's when it hit me; I wanted to fit in with the people I was working with. Even though I didn't get a luxury car, I did get a newer car than I intended, and it stretched me financially.


I spent money on this purchase to impress the people that I work with, or at least to not be looked down upon by them. Sure, this new car made my life better, but I could have received the same benefit for a lot less money if I let my quest for a status boost go.


THE PURSUIT OF MONEY


We seem to be hardwired to pursue money without understanding how much is enough. It's ingrained in us to continually strive for more without an end in mind.


This could look like never being satisfied with our current salary. This could be wanting to have more money saved. It could also simply be focusing on the acquisition of money above all else.

While many people may not even know that this hardwired pursuit of money is ingrained in them, fewer people understand why they are after money.


For some people, having more money saved comes with a feeling of safety. For others, there's a belief that more money will make them happy. But, since we are social animals, we're constantly gauging our position in the group. Money tends to be our default way to gauge because money can be counted. In contrast, life satisfaction isn't as easily quantified. This leads many to pursue money to show how successful they are or how smart they are.