Despite aspiring to a new, more frugal life since May, I was looking at used car prices for newer models. Nothing is wrong with my older Honda Civic, but something was stirring inside me; at times, an inescapable and indescribable animalistic desire for more (even if I cannot afford it).
Something shook me from my ogling – a realization. We want what we cannot have. When we have what we desired, we no longer crave it. This phenomenon is the purchase paradox.
It’s in the perpetual want and desire that we maintain our spending – a hamster wheel that is hard to depart. I could simply blame advertisers for causing and creating this false demand. I could point out how our capitalistic system encourages it. But there’s a fundamental human need to perpetuate this paradox.
Seemingly, it is nature to crave what we cannot have and lose attraction to that which becomes ours. We buy a fashionable coat, thinking it’s needed, craved, and desired. Purchased, owned, held, and it’s merely another accoutrement filling your burgeoning closet with stuff. The superfluous is only found after it’s written, purchased, and owned.
We adjust to a lifestyle. Buy the luxuries, feel the thrills, but eventually it fades. Objects cannot be more than fascination for long. They melt and meld into our identities and lives – defining a new normal and looking for the next fix. Bigger, better, fuller, fancier – the search continues.
Flirting with temptation and desire can motivate poor decisions and spending, but it fuels us – fundamentally. I cannot escape my desires every time, but I learn from each. We are walking paradoxes, spending like there’s no tomorrow, while recognizing that our days are numbered.
I have never seen this phenomenon described better. Wow, Sam!
Prudence Debtfree says
Very well said! And I love the Oscar Wilde quote. I think the great thing is that you caught yourself lusting after that car before you put any money down. I really hope that you stay true to your old Honda Civic. We humans are versatile creatures, capable of change. You might some day be as proud of your Civic as I am of our ’99 Dodge Caravan. And the yearning for “more” and “better” can morph into “more time” and “better relationships” and other non-materialistic things that have no price tag. I hope you keep up with your frugality and that you keep being honest about thoughts and feelings that threaten to derail your progress – and I hope that you find yourself noticing a change in yourself as materialistic temptations lose their hold on you.
I feel like this now with certain things we want for the house. It’s all investment into the house through furnishings or certain upgrades or remodeling.
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says
There are somethings I’ve really wanted and bought and continue to LOVE every time I wear or use them.
Sam Lustgarten says
That’s a good point. There’s definitely some variation on an individual level, but many can’t seem to limit that lever; looking for the next love, if you will.
Thanks for your comment,
The Fighting Shy says
I find that doing something to short circuit the buying impulse–borrowing an item, rather than buying it–can be just as satisfactory as buying. More satisfactory, as it saves money. Another good short circuit technique: think what you want to do with the desired item, then find a way to do it with something already owned, or something you can make for free. You say you gotta have that propane camp stove? You can make one just as good with a Pepsi can and some mesh, and it’ll be more fun to use.