RDS of SmartFinancialValues.com left an intriguing comment in response to a recent weekend post asking readers if they would be willing to sell all material possessions to become debt free. RDS mentions that when it comes to their possessions “the transformation from desired, valued item to clutter happens very suddenly.” It forced me to reflect on the life cycle of a few of my own purchases in the past, and how I feel towards those items today.
The Object of My Desire
I had it bad. I looked at pictures of her in magazines, videos online, and often rode by during lunch breaks just to catch a glimpse of her. Her name was Silverado, as in a Chevy Silverado. After a teenage obsession with wanting a car I quickly decided I needed a truck. And not just any truck; I wanted a Chevy truck. One with four doors and a big cab with a comfy interior, but enough power to haul whatever I wanted to wherever I needed.
This truck fever stayed with me through the early years of marriage, though I resisted the temptation to buy. That was until, in a moment of weakness, I stopped at the car lot and test drove the truck model I had been watching for all those years. This particular truck was sporty–shiny black exterior with tan leather seats and a chrome sports package. It also had a dual exhaust which gave the engine a throaty sound on acceleration. I was in love.
So I pulled the trigger and financed the truck, ignoring the little voice in the back of my head telling me to walk away. I told myself I could afford the $350 a month payments, and the increased insurance premium. After all, I worked hard.
For those first few days and weeks I thoroughly enjoyed that truck. I looked for excuses to drive places. But after a few months the payments started to catch up with me. Our insurance premium renewed and I saw a noticeable increase when projected over the full six months. The thing was pretty, but it did use up gas, and because I was doing more “pleasure driving” I burned even more of it.
We still had some debt hanging around from my journey to finish school. My wife was staying home with both of our kids. In what now seems like an overnight epiphany the shine wore off that truck. I sold it two weeks from the time I decided I wanted to sell it, and felt only a slight twinge as the new owners backed out of my driveway on a Saturday morning.
The Life Cycle Of A Purchase
What happened with my truck inevitably happens to all of our purchases. The shine begins to fade, our enjoyment of them lessens over time, and eventually they become more of a burden than they are worth. Call it what you want–the law of diminished returns, buyer’s remorse–the only variable in the equation is time.
Occasionally things retain sentimental value long after the useful life is lived up, and we hang onto them for posterity, knowing that future generations of family may have some interest in our heirloom. However, given enough time all of our prized possessions wind up in the landfill next to a forty year-old styrofoam cup.
Does knowing this ahead of time keep us from buying too many things now? Of course not, else all the people who say “You can’t take it with you” wouldn’t have to remind us. That still doesn’t mean that things cannot be enjoyed while we are here. It simply means that objects of our desire are just that, objects. Their only value is the one we assign to it, not what a marketer has priced it to be. Try to focus your life energy on acquiring only things that have a lot of value to you, not someone else. Through this lens, things like paying premiums for a name brand, or buying just to impress others will seem like a monumental waste.