How to feel better about making responsible decisions?
July 4, 2020 11:03 PM   Subscribe

I've gotten better about making responsible decisions when it comes to buying things, but making the 'right' choice leaves me feeling miserable. How can I reframe things so I feel good about ... well, being good?

Today, after too much dithering, I decided not to buy an expensive item, and instead of feeling good about making the smarter choice, I just feel angry and sad and worn out from arguing against my more impulsive side. This is hardly the first time it's happened, and I don't know how to reframe this so I'm not so unhappy. In the past I've made a bunch of dumb decisions and bought or done things I couldn't really afford, and then regretted it later. So it's positive that I won't be able to regret spending this money later, because I'll still have it, but it sure doesn't feel positive.

There's also a strong chance at least some of that past poor impulsive decision making was helped along by my (recently diagnosed) adhd, which I've really only started to work on, so if anyone has suggestions/experience with that element of that, even better.

If context helps, the thing I didn't buy was a several hundred dollar chair. Technically, I have the money, but it should go to other, more practical things, or into savings, or making extra payments. And it's too big and I don't have a good place to put it or even an easy way to get it home, so this should be a no brainer! But I love it; I used to use it daily when I worked at the place that sells them because I loved it so much, and it's half the price it normally would be, and they're going to stop being made so I won't get another chance.

I made the smart choice, right? Go me! Please help me figure out how to be happy about that.
posted by goreycat to Shopping (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have struggled with this a bit, and it’s helped a bit to directly envision the benefits I get from deferring gratification.

E.g., “I didn’t buy a new chair this month, but my emergency buffer is now up to 3 months and I’ll appreciate that if I get laid off!”

Or, “I did not buy the new chair but I can use that money to replace $other_thing which is actually broken, even if not as exciting”.

It helps me a lot to make the direct substitution between the purchase I’m deferring and the alternate goal. It’s harder when I try to just say “there are better uses for this money” without actually visualizing what those are.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 11:25 PM on July 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Someone on reddit has suggested the 72 hour rule: write down what you want and the price on an excel sheet and if you still want it in 72 hours, buy it. BUT if you don't buy it, the excel sheet keeps track of all your saved money, which is pretty good gratification for me. Whenever I look at the spreadsheet I always look at the total of the column "B" that's all the $$$ I HAVEN'T spent.

Every once and while when i can easily afford it, I move that total to from my checkings to my savings.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:35 PM on July 4, 2020 [27 favorites]

Hm. I try to frame my visualisations and decisions as "What do I actually want?" Not what should I do, although they end up being synonyms a lot of the time. But to seriously visualize the good thing, I have to remember that I save money because I "want" to have it for later, because I "want" the security of knowing I have the cushion, because I "want" to avoid the hassle of finding a place for new things and stumbling across crap I feel guilty about, and I "want" to stop contributing so much waste to the environment.

It's kind of just a trivial word substitution exercise but it's also a totally revolutionary shift in how you talk to yourself and think about yourself as being on your own side. If you do that visualization exercise a couple times you might find it helps you with making the decisions that you will feel good about. and sometimes you find out that you've been beating yourself up doing something you "should" do but you don't actually want to do it.
posted by Lady Li at 11:49 PM on July 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

There may also be other things going on here, so I would suggest you think about whether it's money specifically that you seem to struggle with valuing when it's sitting still (in your savings), or if it's more generally needing to refocus on other ways to get pleasure/joy, or if there's something specific that works as a common thread across times when you feel like you make bad decisions.
posted by Lady Li at 12:03 AM on July 5, 2020

I try to think of this kind of thing as a present for Future Me. In other words, I'm not depriving Me Of Today of owning some cool item. I'm buying Me Of Next Year the gift of having a bigger bank account.

And sometimes I reenforce this by pausing to think about some cool thing I have because some Previous Me got it for me. Thank you, Me of Last Night for going to bed at a reasonable hour so that Me Of This Morning feels well rested!
posted by yankeefog at 12:38 AM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

Taking a picture of the thing I want is sometimes enough for me to be okay with not buying a thing I want. I also have ADHD.

And it's too big and I don't have a good place to put it or even an easy way to get it home, so this should be a no brainer! But I love it; I used to use it daily when I worked at the place that sells them because I loved it so much, and it's half the price it normally would be, and they're going to stop being made so I won't get another chance.

Is there anyway to make buying it work for you? One thing about having ADHD for me is how hard it is to allow myself things I love. Because I don’t deserve them because of all the reasons. There are delivery services, for example. Can you imagine a way to reorganize your home so this chair will work for you? You say you can afford to buy it. It’s not irresponsible to get something you know that you love if you can make it work.

Being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. Sometimes all you need to do is just re-frame your thinking, as mentioned above. To remind yourself that your future self will be grateful and happy with this money you’re saving. But sometimes It is OK to give yourself some thing important. If you buy this chair and it doesn’t work out, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Could you resell it for close to what you spent on it?

I think balance is really hard for a lot of us who have ADHD. For myself, it’s easy to feel deprived and angry at myself and I have to be careful so that I am being responsible but also caring toward myself in a way that meets my goals. This stuff is hard, and not just for people with ADHD. Money stuff is hard generally. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:00 AM on July 5, 2020 [15 favorites]

I have this same tendency, and the one thing that always lessens my regret/covetousness is quality time with people—i only get into the cycle of “but I need this thing” “but it’s too expensive” “but it’s so special” when I’m alone. (It’s definitely related to my ADD overfocus ability...) After I’ve spent time with friends or family, my mind readjusts to the reality that this is just a chair, not a life changing magic object, and the sense of loss I felt for not having it is gone. At that point, if I’m still thinking instead “no, this thing really is special,” then I think about really buying it.

Obviously, that’s difficult for many people right now, so I wonder whether (depending on your location/situation) this is especially hard for you to practice because we’re being deprived of a lot of things at the moment. Lots of other routes of boosting our mood are closed off, but online shopping is always there. It might help to put your phone down / close your computer as soon as you X out of the shopping screen and go spend some time outside (if you can), then come back and chat with a friend or family before you look at the chair again.
posted by sallybrown at 5:35 AM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I used to reward myself for making responsible decisions by putting a small fraction of the money I saved in clear jar on my dresser.

The accumulating money was a visible indicator of success that encouraged me to continue. I told myself that I could use that money for whatever I wanted with no judgement.
posted by srboisvert at 6:13 AM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

The other thing I did was setup a debt repayment spreadsheet that tracked all my debts and interest rates. That way I knew exactly how much I saved when I paid off debt rather than spent more money.

It is extremely motivating to see that early payments can save you thousands of dollars and that buying something for $50 actually costs you $80+ because of your debt load. One little google spreadsheet fundamentally changed my relationship to money and put me on track to facing reality and ultimately financial security. I used this one:
posted by srboisvert at 6:23 AM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I know you asked about psychology but I am going to answer using personal finance. You need to have a budget for buying things you want - a Splurge Fund. Every month you pay your bills, contribute to your retirement, make sure your emergency fund is healthy, and you put some money into your splurge fund. There is no guilt about spending from this fund. As long as your impulse buys don't exceed the value of this fund, then go ahead and buy whatever you want.
posted by CathyG at 6:39 AM on July 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

I like srboisvert's suggestion also because it gives you a way to think and feel and imagine about your finances, deeper than "I shouldn't it's expensive" - dive in to the spreadsheet! Figure out how much more you can improve your financial sitch if you have the money instead of not having the money! (You can tell what leaning my own hyperfocus has, hm? Spreadsheets! Ymmv.)

I find it helpful to think about purchases as a choice between two futures: having the thing and having the money.

Example: I could buy a newer car. The newer car is objectively better, and they are willing to sell it to me / my application for credit will clear. OR, I could have my old car AND $5000 AND have no car loan to pay every month. Not having to pay that loan feels great and is definitely worth not having the car.
posted by Lady Li at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2020

I wonder if part of it is that the decision doesn't feel "done" unless it's a yes?
posted by Lady Li at 8:33 AM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Focus on the reasons while accepting the wish. Gosh that's a really pretty chair. It would be fun to have room for it, but I don't. Buying it would feel nice, but then bad because it would be a hassle, and then I'd look at it and feel stupid for making an unwise purchase. Budget, yes, yes, yes, because seeing your finances come under control feels good.

At various times, I've hung out on personal finance sites. It helps with the resolve because the community culture supports financial responsibility on the way to financial comfort and freedom. Advertising works. It makes us want things. to be cool. to fit in. for some notion that stuff will make us happier. It's all lies, but it gets in your head. I hate advertising, but I like to shop, to see what's out there, what's interesting. I pin stuff on pinterest, which helps me assuage some of the want, also reminds me that there is always more beautiful stuff. Having no credit card debt feels awesome. There will be many more beautiful chairs.
posted by theora55 at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2020

My advice would be to get the chair. You used the chair at work and you LOVED it! It’s on sale. You can afford it. It’s hard to find a decent chair. I’ve spent years doing this, and I still don’t have one that doesn’t drive me nuts. Cheap chairs suck. Especially if you work from home and are using it a lot. If this one feels right, you’re saving youself the trouble of back and posture problems down the road. This isn’t trivial, having the right chair. It’s important. Find someone to help you get it home.

You seem to have internalized some negatve thinking around spending. Spending money isn’t bad to do. It’s neutral. Responsible spending means you arrange your finances so that you can spend on what really matters to you. You can cut back in another category that doesn’t matter as much.

Great advice above to make a splurge category in your budget. If the other necessary categories are funded, you can have a guilt-free splurge.

Guilt should play no part in your money decisions anyway. You’regetting help for the ADHD, I assume, and you’re aware of the need to make responsible financial decisions. A rational analysis of this situation, to me, points to your being able to buy the chair. Just do it. Get the chair!
posted by cartoonella at 7:04 PM on July 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

If this chair is on sale and you can't change your mind and get it later because it will be no longer sold and you already know you love it, BUY THE DAMN CHAIR. DO IT NOW.
I might normally advise otherwise--I was about to say, wait a few days and see if you want it still--but under those circumstances, BUY THE THING.

I used to eyeball a gorgeous sweater I saw in catalogs over and over and over again. But it was $60 and see through airy--i.e. not at all a practical use sweater and way too expensive as a useless clothing item--so I didn't buy it for years. Finally it went on sale because they were about to discontinue it and I bought the thing. And it was actually....terrible in person, shoddily made, not pretty at all, looked awful on me, I actually went to the trouble of sending the damn thing BACK, it was so bad. But hey, at least I found that out and now I knew it wasn't the dream I thought it was.

In your case, you've already vetted the chair and soon you won't be able to get it. Get the dang chair.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:50 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I’m with those who think you should get the chair, UNLESS it really truly wouldn’t work in your apartment and you know it would annoy you every time you looked at it not fitting right, or every time you had to squeeze awkwardly around it to cross the room, or whatever the problem will be. Like, can you make it work in a way that will feel good, or not? Because if you can’t, then that’s why you’re not getting the chair, because having it will be more of a pain in the ass than not getting it.
posted by sumiami at 4:35 PM on July 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

« Older I need a hobby   |   Stud me with (copper) barnacles and drape me in... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments