Does this scenario sound familiar?
You are walking around a shopping centre, or browsing Etsy, or passing by an Apple Store. Place doesn’t matter. You look around, somewhat bored, when suddenly your eyes focus on something: THIS. IS. IT. Suddenly you can not imagine your life without Item X. How could you have survived until 30 seconds ago without owning Item X? Suddenly it feels like your entire brain has turned into one enormous WANT. You NEED Item X. For… reasons. It doesn’t really matter, why would anything matter when you WANT it so much you could suddenly turn into a 3-year-old and throw a crying strop complete with kicking the floor and hitting it with fists?
You leave the store with Item X in your bag. You already start feeling a little less excited about it, and you haven’t unpacked it yet, but you convince yourself that now your life is complete, after all you wanted it so badly, how could it be anything but the most important key thing that will unlock potential amazingness hiding right inside the box? You get home, not quickly enough, and unwrap the box, and take Item X out, and hold it and kiss it and call it George, and you fully intend to spend the rest of your life enjoying it non-stop.
Two weeks later, Item X is gathering dust somewhere in a corner you don’t check too often. But that doesn’t matter because you have just found Item Y, and you WANT it, and your life will never be good enough until you own Item Y and you must have it right now, and…
Overspending, a signal of mania or hypomania, means spending money on items you don’t need. Having read stories of people who bought luxury cars, jewellery, islands (yes!) or $10,000 scarves I thought I was free from overspending. I have never bought an island after all. And then, as I was writing my memoirs, I started remembering times when WANT dominated my brain.
I bought an electric guitar and an amplifier. I knew I was meant to be a guitarist. Then I discovered practicing it is difficult and my fingers hurt after playing for longer than half an hour. After the guitar spent two years gathering dust, I gave it to my youngest brother, who – unlike me – REALLY wanted an electric guitar. His first album came out last year.
I bought a wood engraver. I wanted it so bad. I spent literally months staring at it online, and picking the best and most amazing model. I convinced my mom to give it to me for my birthday, and counted days until I finally get older and get my wood engraver. I used it twice. With nice results – it turns out I could be pretty good at it. Except I lost interest after the second time. It’s covered by so much dust now you can’t read the brand anymore.
I used to walk past a store every now and then that had a really nice $400 leather jacket on display. One day I was passing by and the jacket wasn’t there. Suddenly I realised how much I wanted this jacket. How absolutely horrifying it would be to not own it. I ran inside, found out they just changed displays and even got a discount on it. I was so happy with my new leather jacket. My seventh leather jacket. I like leather jackets. I could now wear a different one every day of the week thanks to my new acquisition.
I thought that I knew all about overspending by now, and that I was immune to it due to my knowledge, until my boyfriend and me went to an Apple Store. We both sold our old iPads – me, because I never used it, him, because he wanted a new, faster one (he uses it all the time). And suddenly I saw an iPad Mini and WANT woke up in my brain. Suddenly I couldn’t imagine not owning an iPad Mini. It was so cute and small and shiny and new and it was only 350 euros! (At that time I think my bank account said 140 euros, and the payday was nowhere near.) I so hoped my boyfriend would buy me one. But he didn’t. (I explained overspending and obsessing to him a long time ago.) I went home, opened iPad Mini reviews and Apple page on my browser, obsessed about finding the lowest price, and I found it for ONLY 340 euros. A steal! Who wouldn’t buy an iPad Mini for whole ten euros less? And I needed it so much!!! For… reasons.
Luckily payday was still away, my bank account still empty, and so I was reduced to looking at it online. I started looking at other tablets but none of them was as ipadminish as I needed it to be. And as two weeks slowly passed I found myself realising… I didn’t actually want an iPad Mini. What would I do with it that I never did with my old one? I have a smartphone. I have a Mac. And suddenly I realised I didn’t WANT it anymore. Sure, I wouldn’t mind one. But that was all.
It turns out the best cure for overspending is not being able to spend. My credit card is of the sort where your debt automatically gets deducted from your bank account, interest-free, within 30 days. So if I bought it with my credit card, all I would get was deep in the red with my bank. My bank account couldn’t handle a surprise 350 euro purchase. Obviously I didn’t have that money in cash either. And now that two weeks have passed I am extremely grateful for how difficult I made it for myself to spend money. Because had I not done it, I would now own an iPad Mini, which would be gathering dust behind the sofa, and I would also have a debt I couldn’t pay.
Sometimes what we want is not what we need.
Photo: Money by Tax Credits (CC 2.0)