I read an interesting article in the Raleigh News and Observer two Sundays ago (1/24). Unfortunately, I can't find it online, or I'd link to it for you. Basically, it's an editorial written by a dad whose son really wanted a cell phone for his 15th birthday. Dad said "Sure," but there were conditions attached...
The thing I liked about this is how the dad forced his teenager to do two things concerning money: think (evaluate) and save. When we step back and truly evaluate an item before purchasing it, we make better decisions. A couple of lessons I've learned...the hard way:
1. Cowboy boots. I got it in my head that I wanted cowboy boots. Don't know why. Finally got them after three months of thinking about them. Do I wear them? Rarely. They weren't a good buy, and I had no idea why I wanted them or what I'd wear them with. I'm going to hang on to them until my feet return to non-pregnant size. If they're not on my feet over six times between May and August, they're getting sent to the local Goodwill!
2. A Smart Phone. Gosh, I've been wanting one of these for ages. However, I haven't needed one. My phone does one thing, and it does it well: it allows me to make phone calls. That's about it. I can receive texts, but I rarely accept them because it charges more to my account. Things are going to change, though. I'm going through real estate training right now. Once I become a full-fledged agent, I'm going to NEED one of these phones (according to everyone I've asked-and I've asked at least 30 of my classmates already listing and selling). My endless research on CNET and Consumer Reports will be brought to fruition! :) I'm sure I'll enjoy my new phone (won't get it until April) greatly and that it'll be very useful in my new (part-time only!) job.
So, evaluation is one of the greater parts of valor in shopping. If you decide you can't live without the newest widget, fine. But be sure you deconflict your purchase with what you already have or what your money is already allotted for (i.e., credit card bills, insurance, utilities, loan payments, etc.)! There's nothing wrong with wanting something new. Just make it work with what you have.
Which brings me to my second point: SAVE your money for the things you want. Why buy on credit and make interest payments on top of the face-value price (unless you can pay off your card at the end of the cycle-if so, bravo!)? Start a "Got to Have My Smart Phone" fund within your bank accounts and funnel yourself money every paycheck. The money will add up fairly quickly, and you'll appreciate your purchase that much more.
If you have kids begging you for a huge purchase (i.e., their own cell phone and new plan for themselves), tell them sure, as long as they pay for half of the phone purchase and half of the monthly bill. This gives them input and more important, responsibility, in the matter. Think of how many ways you can damage your phone. Now think of how many ways your teenager can damage a phone. Isn't his/her responsibility in the matter just a bonus for the both of you?
Saving and exercising personal discipline over your finances takes a lot of mental strength, but I know you can do it! Instant gratification is just that: here now, gone tomorrow. Think about how much more you'll enjoy your stuff if you've determined you actually want it and how you can use it and if you've saved your money to acquire it. Happy evaluating and saving!
-Domestic Goddess out.