A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

But I Only Paid $300 For This Luxury Good I Don't Need Anyway!

Note: This post is the first in a series about why young adults spend the way we do, and how to re-tool our thinking.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books & blogs dedicated to personal finance, and I'm a dedicated reader of several. But while there are tons of great blogs on how to save money, how to invest, how to life-hack, how to get out of debt, and how to be a good consumer- very few blogs broach the topic of our spendthrift nature or how twentysomethings wind up in debt or if not in debt, barely scraping by paycheck to paycheck in the first place.

Most financial advice for young people is about paying off debts incurred by college expenses which, while useful for many, doesn't apply to thousands of other young folk. Everytime I crack open a book about personal finance for young adults I get about a chapter in before I realize that they're not talking to me. I don't have student loans, I don't have thousands of dollars of credit card debt, I don't have a degree that isn't helping me get the salary the career counselor promised me, and most of the post-college how-to-make-it-on-your-own advice is old news.

I do have some medical debt, a monstrously huge library fine, a utility bill I never paid off, and a charged off auto loan. But even all that adds up to less than $3000, none of which is accruing interest. And that debt exists because as I racked it up, I felt entitled to eating out most nights, buying fancy cocktails at bars, owning designer clothes, having a massive CD collection or whatever the whim of the moment was.

So why did a smart girl like me- raised by frugal parents- spend like a blithering idiot the second I moved out? I think most of us are high on freedom, whether we've escaped to apartments down the street from our parents or to dorm rooms hundreds of miles away. Whether we're living on paychecks or allowances, we're still children in many ways. Financial realities haven't quite set in yet, and most of us grew up in a culture that encourages the image of riches rather than the reality of wealth.

If we can manage to look well off, we can believe we are well off. In my case looking rich meant financing a fairly new car, buying loads of designer clothes (used, of course! I saved money!...More on that logical fallacy at a later date.), treating my friends to dinners I couldn't afford and rounds of drinks we shouldn't have been drinking anyway. Looking rich might mean different things to different folks, but the principal is the same: We end up sacrificing our needs for our wants.

Some people manage to never fall into these nasty spending habits, or are able to rely on scholarships or their parents if they do, but I think the vast majority of us spend like this at some point, even if we think we don't.

Most of my more embarrassing tales of financial idiocy revolve around buying expensive clothes. To this day I've still got a $400 purse in my closet. Granted, I bought it on sale for $320 and then got another $20 taken off because of a tiny nick on one of the handles, but I still paid (with tax) over $300 for a purse I haven't even used in over a year. My everyday purse was bought on clearance at Target for $7.98. Go figure.

What are your most embarrasing over-spending stories? What did you pay too much for and why did you do it? Post your answer in the comments. The best story gets an as yet undeclared prize. Probably from-scratch brownies or maybe my like-crack to some ginger snaps.

Next entry in this series: What makes us stop spending like idiots, and if you haven't stopped yet, reasons to change your ways.


Hava said...

I spent over 100 dollars on perfume once. Granted, I got over 30 bottles, but still. That is kind of ridiculous.

Hand over that brownie.

Lindsay said...

I actually have a bigger problem BECAUSE I'm a bargain shopper. I have been looking for the perfect purse for years, because the one from Target that I loved had a huge hole in the lining. I found the perfect purse at the Coach outlet in Camarillo, only $150, with all the pockets I wanted and lasts-for-a-million-years and goes-with-everything black leather I needed. I didn't buy it. Couldn't face spending $150 on an item that was replacing a $26 item. I have since spent almost $300 on purses that tear, wear out, crack, or are completely insensible. Wish I'd just bought the Coach purse.

Erika said...

I am now in the process of paying back student loans for an education for a career that I can't afford to live off of. I also spend an entire 2 week paycheck on my rent. I think I'm going to move somewhere cheaper soon. My plan once I do that is to knock my student loans down so I'm not paying them back for the next 15 years.