Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Buying things you don't need

It's been a while since I bought myself a gun (well, except for the buggered up $40 Mosin I bought but I don't count that), or really anything else "big". I've bought Mel a gun for her birthday, and another as an early christmas gift; and I bought the family a new Digital SLR a couple months ago; but nothing big really just for myself.

It's not that there weren't guns I wanted to buy, or even had the money for, so why not? Well, because there are things I want, or need, to do with that money, more than I want or need those guns. Bills, tuition, legal expenses...

Actually this whole year I've really only bought myself two guns, the DFMAS, and my Springfield1903 sporter. That's really not very much for me. Hell I've only even been to two gun shows this year.

We've put off purchasing a new TV, or a new AV system for a while; because we needed new furniture rather badly. Then in the middle of this year we had to buy a new car unplanned, which was a big hit; and we went to Reno for the gunblogger rendezvous, which was a non-trivial cost. Overall, my personal discretionary spending this year has been almost entirely limited to small items, under about $200.

I havent bought myself a new watch, guitar, any video games, any computer gear (though that's coming in the next couple months), and only one new knife this year.

So, in fact, this entire year I've really only made two large discretionary purchase that werent entirely for the family. The first was the camera; in that we didn't NEED it, but I've been wanting a DSLR to replace the SLR gear I sold off a few years ago for quite some time; and the digital camera we had wasn't cutting it, so I dropped $1400 on a Nikon D80 with lens and accessories. The second was the home gym setup, which IS for both me and Mel, but really she only uses the excercise bike.

For me, that's a record. I think my personal discretionary spending this year is the lowest it's been since I moved back from Ireland. Sure we've spent a lot, but it's been on house and family etc... Lord knows we spent a TON on furniture this year and the like.

Anyway, Mel has a problem buying things she wants. She feels guilty, or anxious, or worried she's wasting money. I on the other hand have no problem with it. Money is there so you can exchange it for the goods and services you want and need; there's no point in it otherwise. Money isn't an end to itself, it is used to provide for the necessities, enable the pursuit of activities you enjoy, and to alleviate worry.

Lots of people have a problem prioritizing, or dealing with a sense of proportion, or managing their pruches; or really balancing their want s and their needs.

When you're trying to decide whether you should buy something you don't actually directly need, there are a lot of things to consider, quality, features, options etc... ; but the most important one is whether to actually go ahead and buy it or not.

Now, with guns, guitars, watches, knives, cars... anything collectible and/or with a highly variable value; a lot of folks get hung up on "is it a good deal", or "is it worth it".

Well, those questions are completely invalid. If you absolutely need something, it's worth whatever you have to pay to get it. Otherwise, something is worth exactly what you're willing to pay for it.

So how much are you willing to pay?

First things first; there is no such thing as inherent value in a discretionary good. If it isn’t food, water, shelter, fuel, or sex; it’s a discretionary good.

So don’t be concerned with how good a deal it is, unless you know you can easily get a better one.

There are four questions you need to ask yourself here:

1. Do I want or need my $X more than I want this good (service, item, or experience)

2. Is there anything I could do with that $X, that I want or need more than this item or experience, and that I would not be able to do or buy otherwise.

3. Is what I want to do with the $X a unique good that cannot be purchased or experienced at another time; or is what I would otherwise spend $X on a unique good that I could not purchase at another time.

4. Would this good, or the good I would purchase alternatively to it, be significantly more, or less expensive if I purchased them at another time or from another source.

That is the only evaluation of a discretionary purchase that matters. Something is worth what you are willing to pay for it at the time; and by extension what you are willing to give up for it; no more, no less.

If you have the money for something you want; you dont need that money to do something else, you aren't giving up too much opportunity to purchase it, and you want it more than you want your money... what the hell are you waiting for?