How to buy stuff
As I get older and more established in my finances and working life, I find my purchasing decisions are driven less and less by cost.
That is, I can ‘afford’ pretty much anything I might reasonably want — which for me basically means using mortgage-derived debt to fund middle-class lifestyle choices: tablets, computers, musical equipment, a coffee machine, camping gear, diving gear, a car, etc.
This presents an interesting problem: given the price of stuff generally is not the barrier it once was, what criteria should I use instead to decide what to buy?
More importantly, since I am impulsive and prone to accumulating new hobbies, interests and stuff: how do I decide what not to buy?
And a related problem: given the state of the world and the resources I have available to me to make a difference to it, I don’t want to create arbitrary prohibitions on useful spending.
I want to live an abundant life free from material constraints that stop me from enhancing my life, my impact, my ability to help other people, and the contribution I can make to the world.
A fortunate position
In short, after decades of scraping by, I’ve gradually shifted to the fortunate position of having (access to) enough money to buy more or less whatever I need to live a fulfilling life.
This access to resources can be deceptive, however, and I find myself making impulse purchases, undertaking ‘retail therapy’ to soothe emotional needs, and getting locked into ongoing payments for stuff that doesn’t add to my life. On the other hand, I don’t want to stop myself buying something useful just because it costs money.
So to solve this problem, I came up with a mental model to use when evaluating purchases when cost is not the main concern.
My purchase evaluation tool
It’s built around four axes: need–want; leverage–burden; time–no time; and space–clutter.