Once you’ve bought it, it’s your problem

owning less

Lately I’ve been trying to unload “stuff” I don’t use. Most of it has gone to Goodwill, but there are other things that I find too valuable to donate yet selling them is harder than I expected.

I have an apple watch that my husband bought me for Christmas a few years back. I have rarely worn the thing and to be honest, I don’t get much value out of it. I am constantly staring at my phone or computer (sad, but true), so I always know what time it is. As for the other features – meh… not really interested in them.

ebay apple watch

 

So I put the watch on ebay and see what happens.   **Insert cricket sound.**   I guess I’ve overpriced it at $170, but like most things, we always overvalue what we own. It’s a psychological phenomenon called the endowment effect.

So given that it wasn’t selling, I decided to try Facebook Marketplace. BIG mistake. I’m not sure where Facebook is going with that platform, but I ended up getting some emails from pretty sketchy characters offering low ball figures who failed to follow up if I agreed to their price. I decided to pull the watch from FB because I didn’t really want to hand deliver anything to these people. I’m not sure if you guys have had much success with Marketplace, but I think it’s a waste of time.

When it comes down to it, selling your “stuff” can be more trouble than it’s worth. My experience trying to sell this watch has really shown me how owning things we don’t use can be cumbersome. I have to keep the damn thing charged in case I do want to use it and I have to keep all the packaging in case I do actually end up selling it.

It’s a pain in the ass.

Sure, it’s not a big pain in the ass, just a minor pinch, really, but when you think of it, I have so many little pinches in the ass with all this stuff I own, that it all adds up. No wonder we’re all suffering from so much anxiety and depression these days. We have so many little, minor stresses that snowball into larger sources of anxiety that we can’t quite put our finger on the single cause anymore.

Whoa! There’s an interesting revelation.

So there’s not much I can do about the stuff I’ve already acquired other than continue to use it, donate it, or accept that its value is much less than I place on it and therefore sell it at any price I can get. But the greater lesson here is that once I acquire something, it becomes not just my possession, but also my burden. My burden to care for it, get it fixed if it’s broken and ensure it’s got what it needs to run as it should (my watch requires energy and wifi to power it).

The same thing goes with cars, homes, boats, jewelry, expensive clothes, art, technology and all the other stuff we accumulate. It requires space to store it, experts to maintain and repair it, often insurance to cover the cost of replacement and whatever else is required to keep the stuff useable. I learned first hand how much of a drag this can be when we owned a lake home in Southern California. If we weren’t buying stuff to fill our home, we were paying someone to fix it, paint it or (gently) remove critters from it. And then we had to spend as much time as we could there, just to justify the cost of maintaining it, which was stressful in itself.

Eventually, we took a loss on the home when we sold it (after we had a break in which is another story), but it was a relief to get rid of it. I’ve vowed never to own a second home again. With all the options to rent homes through Airbnb and VRBO, I see no reason to assume the burden of vacation home ownership again.

This perspective has really enlightened me to the purchasing decisions I make, largely on autopilot. There’s such a striking similarity to buying and eating habits. We consume mindlessly because we want what we want, but when the consequences show up in the form of stuff or fat, we wonder how we ended up where we are. When we try to cut back, we experience a visceral sense of deprivation that keeps us wanting to go back to our consumptive habits. Because we deserve to consume. We work hard to have that privilege.

But instead of looking at less consumption as a deprivation, I see it now as freedom. Freedom from the weight of carrying everything I consume. It feels lighter, calmer and much less stressful to consume less. Less stuff and less feeling of “stuffed”.

So the big “ah ha” for me here is to focus on saying “yes to less” rather than saying “no to more”. It feels less like deprivation and more like freedom from burden and anxiety.

What are your thoughts on consumption? Do you think you could be more mindful of what you acquire?

Dave Ramsey – Financial advice with a side of Jesus?

dave ramsey review

In my quest for seeking out money mentors I naturally checked out Dave because so many people swear by him, but man, I just can’t. I bet some of you LOVE this guy and you’re going to send me ranty emails about being ungrateful or unGodful or whatever, but hear me out.

Why would your financial status have anything to do with your proximity to God?  If you’re a religious person, that’s great, but do you really think God is up there giving out $100 bills only to nice people?  God doesn’t only reward “the good people” with nice cars and mortgage-free homes, does he?  Because if that’s the case, Mother Theresa and Gandhi got the short end of that stick.

I also take issue with his idea of paying off your home as a sound financial tactic (at least for those of us living in America).  If you are living here, you have an amazing opportunity to write off the interest you pay on your mortgage.  That’s a huge tax advantage that I think is worth leveraging, especially given how low mortgage rates have been over the last 10 years.  Meanwhile, those funds that you’re not putting toward the capital of your home could be better used making 7% or more in index funds. 

Pay down a 4% tax-deductible mortgage or invest in an index fund with 7% (or more) in returns – which do you think is going to get you to financial freedom quicker?  I know there are some cases where paying down a mortgage makes sense, but for most Americans, that money will work harder in other places.

I also feel like tying up too much of your net worth in your home can be a very risky investment.  Homes have little liquidity unless you borrow against it, so if all your money eggs are in your home basket and the market tanks – you’ve got problems if you need to sell. 

Finally, while I do think paying off your debt is important, I think prioritizing paying off the higher interest debt rather than the small debt makes a bit more sense.  I can understand the psychological benefits to seeing small debts go away, but the higher interest stuff is still out there snowballing at a much faster rate.

Personally, I’d rather focus on avoiding an avalanche that might take me out rather than the little hand-size snowballs that might ruin a good hair day at worst. 

Anyway, I’m not a financial expert by ANY means, but those are my thoughts. 

Think of your money like this….

invest don't shop

I read this on a Mr Money Mustache post and I thought it was so clever: think of your dollars as little employees that work for you. 

Now, with that in mind, you can send your employees to a highly-civilized investment project where they will grow and develop while helping the world do great things. Alternatively, you can send your dollars to The Gap where their employment contract with you is eliminated the minute they reach that grubby cashier’s hands.  Gone. They’re all fired and now you’ve got this ill-fitting, scratchy acrylic sweater to work for you instead.

money management women

Sadly, your new employee (the scratchy sweater) isn’t quite the little worker-bee that your dollars were.  It doesn’t go out and grow and expand.  In fact, it does the exact opposite when you put it in the dryer for the first time where it officially quits on you.  Forever.  Bub-bye acrylic employee.

I think this is such a powerful way to think about money and how it serves you.  Now, I have nothing against sweaters from the Gap, but when I think about how money can either work for you, or you can wear it, I’m pretty sure I’ll pick the “work for me” option, (almost) every time now.  I know I’ve exceeded the appropriate volume of clothes about 10x over, but this mindset has definitely shifted my thinking.

XO

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