In Discussions, Discussions, For Beginners, Minimalism, Money

Is what you want really what you actually want?

I have a colleague (okay many colleagues) who have this mindset of believing that anything they buy is just a stepping stone, or a starter item to something bigger and better.

One of these colleagues by the way, knows my place and car (and what kind of car, she’s one of the few that does know at work) is paid in full with no debt, and aspires to the same lifestyle.

The problem?

She doesn’t make even a third of what I do and yet she wants the same things, so when she sees what I have done, she thinks: My place is just a starter home!! My car is just a starter car!!

…but not taking into account basic things like the fact that I only paid 50% on my home in cash, and I do have a partner who shares half the costs whereas she doesn’t.

Not knocking on single people but it is handier to have a second income along for the ride.

(I say “starter items” because it isn’t just a home or a car, it could be anything, really – a private school, better clothes, what have you.)

I have a little bit of this “starter” mindset myself, but it was more related to lifestyle inflation in the sense that once I started working and had more money, I saw my expenses creep up accordingly. *blush*

I just wanted to buy better items but I only bought those items not because I aspired to have them or wanted to look rich, but I started buying nicer things because I could afford it.


Key words here?

Could afford it.

What I am seeing as a slightly unsettling trend is people around my age, even older, saying things like: Oh I just bought a condo, and I am paying the mortgage on it, but it won’t be my first home.

They say this with pride, like it is a goal they will strive for – to buy a starter home, pay a mortgage, pay interest on this place, and then parlay that into a bigger upgrade in the future.

I sort of have to clamp my mouth shut because…

I don’t even say that sarcastically because — it is YOUR money, and YOU do with it what YOU want.

Anyway, back to my colleague.

She’s in her early 40s, single, dating but with no prospects on the horizon, perhaps will start a family or not.

She keeps repeating to me how her current (new) condo she purchased, will not be the one she lives in forever.

Why not?? I ask..

She explains to me that it’s  a 900 square foot condo, two bedrooms, in a very urban location close to a metro station and by all accounts, almost as large as our place which is 1200 square feet for 2 adults and a growing child.

She had spent years saving for her down payment, and spent another year or two searching for a place she could afford within her budget.

Her answer to me was that it was going to be too small for her in a few years but she didn’t elaborate on why or how. I think she has a PLAN to find someone and settle down with a family, but I strongly suspect that even without that looming on the horizon she is going to ‘upgrade’ until she reaches the penthouse.

UPGRADES ARE FINE, BUT CHECK WHY YOU WANT THEM

Look.

I am all for upgrades, and I am all for stretch goals – whatever gets you up and out of bed to go work in the morning, but let me pose a few questions to you:

Do you really need all that space?

It is one thing to upgrade to a better neighbourhood to have access to better schools, a better environment, or to be closer to a public transportation stop, but it is another thing completely to upgrade just because you want more space.

You want to be on the penthouse, you want a wine cellar, a guest room, heck a guest HOUSE, a swimming pool, yadda yadda yadda.

But do you really need all of that space?

If you had a ton of money to burn and could go 100 years without even making a dent in your wealth by buying the biggest place you could and paying the taxes & fees, WHY NOT?

GO FOR IT.


ENJOY YOUR MONEY.

Swim in a big pool of Benjamins!

….but if you’re someone who is not in that kind of wealth stratosphere, it means you have to take on debt to reach this dream.

A single person in a 2-bedroom 900 square foot apartment, one of the bedrooms now is being used as her office slash closet (A DREAM!), is just able to cover the mortgage with today’s low rates (4% and less), is already planning to upgrade to another place for more space.

And another space after that, until she reaches a mansion or a penthouse.

What is it all really for?

The other question I’d love to ask is – why?

What is it all really for?

To show that you have money?

Because you think real estate is a great investment (spoiler alert: it may not be depending on your area)?

If you want to show off that you have money, I’d rather have it in the bank than in a mortgage that is crushing me just because I wanted to have a guest room.

This is the reason why my partner and I, both decent earners, have held off on buying anything until we had enough money to pay in cash in full (we are very, VERY debt-averse which is not the norm here), and we also waited until we found our “forever” place.

Not “forever until I can upgrade to a penthouse”, but a “does this work in the short-term and the long-term for us to stay here, with Little Bun, to grow into this place, is a safe area, and somewhat reasonably priced for what we are getting and grow old and retire in this area?”

I know things change.

I know that one day I could wake up and we could all decide that we need to leave this city and move abroad because our country has been taken over by a feral animal. I know, but I can only plan for what is happening now and could happen in the future.

I cannot plan for EVERY. SINGLE. STINKING. POSSIBILITY. (Though I’d like to.)

So all that said, I wonder if people ever really take the time to consider all the possibilities, to explore what their actual needs and wants are, their future goals and to try and choose the best option for what they need rather than just blindly saying:

I plan on living in THE most expensive place I can afford, even if it kills me.

They say this, not just for a home, but also for their cars. I see people upgrade year after year to the biggest, newest, best thing.

I am no different – I went from a secondhand beater (two of them), to a serious upgrade worth 6-figures.

The trick with all of this, is that again, I could afford it, and without debt to boot.

I paid that car in cash, if I did not have that cash, I would have bought something within that budget.

I would not have overreached so that I could sit in and drive a luxury car that deep down I know I cannot easily afford.

I went to the top for my car, so I am not exactly setting a car goal to buy something nicer than what I have, but I think the splurge for me was less than to show off that I had the money for the nicest car I could afford, and more that I just wanted it for me.

Isn’t that all we do anyway?

We buy what we want because we want it?

I examined my reasons for wanting this car, and then gave in to my splurge. I didn’t blindly say: I want the most expensive one available, and then kill myself to afford the payments.

I feel like that’s the difference:

To know what it is that you truly want – rather than just saying:

I want it because it is the most expensive thing I can buy to show that I am successful.

Your motivation and drive for success should be something that comes inside, and should already be fulfilled by your accomplishments.

You don’t need the material goods to prove that.

You KNOW you are successful.

You KNOW what your achievements have been.

Who do you need to prove it to? No one but yourself.

You should already have that limitless fount of emotional security in who you are, what you have done and how proud you are of all of it to draw upon.

Who cares what other people think?

What do YOU want?

Do YOU want that penthouse?

Do YOU want that fancy car?

Does it make you happy?

Does it change your life for the better, truly?

For me, the house was not something I needed to have to feel like my life was successful. I see it for what it is – a house that I live in, that is comfortable, with excellent resale value and something I could afford.

My car was something that did in fact, change my life. I certainly did not need to buy THE MOST expensive one to get heating, heated seats or anything “luxurious”, but I wanted it, and that was good enough for me.

Buy whatever you want. It’s your money.

Just make sure it is what YOU want.

Not what you think or have been told or conditioned to think that it is what you want.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on September 17, 2014

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9 Comments

  1. G
    Grand Rounds: Show Me The Money | XRAYVSN

    […] Save. Spend. Splurge., cautions you to think twice before making these type decisions in, “Is What You Want Really What You Actually Want?” […]

    Reply
  2. Kyle @ NYPFGuy

    Really like your thoughts on this. It took me some time and courage to start living this way, but now I know I won’t go back. I won’t buy a home until I know I want to settle down, and it’ll have to be what I can afford. Currently, I’m also spending a lot of money on travel as I’m taking 6 months off work to go around the world, but I know it’s what I want for myself at this point in my life (and I’m living on a strict budget).

    It takes a lot of courage to live and use money this way, especially when the little voice inside your head (and probably your friends and family too) are telling you otherwise.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      My job luckily affords me this freedom of semi-retirement..

      Reply
  3. Xrayvsn

    Sadly this is the norm for most. It is especially rampant in the physician community where friends, family, and society think you are rich because your a doctor and something is wrong if you don’t have the glamorous outward trappings.

    I know of some who, in order to keep up this illusion, literally live paycheck to paycheck and have to extend their medical careers well beyond the normal retirement age.

    Another part is the delayed gratification of becoming a physician. It takes a lot of sacrifice to become an MD and then go through residency earning minimum wage or less. At the end of it we kid ourselves and say we deserve it bc of this even though we may be seriously in debt because of student loans etc. Banks compound this by giving easy credit/doctor loans.

    I had lifestyle creep early on as part of my “I made every mistake in the book” series and it set me back quite a bit. Luckily I came to my senses and turned my financial path around

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I still had lifestyle creep. I am not going to live like a cheap student when I make all of this money, but I am not going to spend every penny either.

      Reply
  4. J
    Jacq

    When I bought my condo, people said I’d know the right place because I’d fall in love with it. *eye roll* Having moved while in high school, due to the end of a long relationship, for a job (to a different state), & experiencing a fire in my apartment building, it’s a place to live for now. I’m not going to emotionally invest in a building. I approached it with logic of what I could afford, commute distance and could it become a rental if my job situation changes and I need to relocate? I’m living somewhere with enough taxes it isn’t ideal to remain here for retirement, and friends and family in nearby states, so I doubt this is my forever home. My ideal upgrade is a custom tiny home. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh a nice compact home! That would be interesting.

      Reply
  5. S
    Sense

    I am in the same boat as your colleague (but still rent). For single people (who don’t want to be single), the idea of the bigger house could mean that we have the OTHER (non-material) things that we want in life: a relationship solid enough to co-buy a house, the potential for kids, pets, whatever, and also maybe more financial security (because if I buy a house, it is because I can afford it, and I can’t afford it now). For me, it isn’t about the material things, it is about what the material things represent.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh that makes sense to me 🙂

      Reply

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