Knowing When to Indulge and When to Be Mindful on Purchases

If you’re considering buying something expensive, you may wonder how this decision fits into mindful practice. How do you decide when an occasional indulgence is a healthy habit and when it is a sign you’re swaying from the path of appreciating life? Will that item lead to more happiness in your life, or just more clutter?

Less Stuff

We want to be appreciative of what we have and not fearful of missing out. After practicing habits of mindful thinking over the last few years, I was able to look at the possessions in my life in a very different way. Instead of wanting to accumulate more and more things, I was able to get rid of many objects in my home that just took up space. I would hold up a shirt and ask myself, “Does this bring me happiness when I wear it?” and if I didn’t have an immediate “Yes!” reaction, I’d give it away.

Over time, my home became easier and easier to keep clean and organized, and I am happier with the items I do have than I was with the multitude of things I had before. I feel a great deal of pride in the way I approach having stuff in my life, so when I want to indulge, here are the questions I think about when considering a potentially indulgent purchase:

  1. What do I expect to get out of this purchase?
  1. Is this something that will bring me significant satisfaction over the long term?
  1. Is it something where I’m getting more quality for what I’m paying?
  1. Who am I really buying this for?
  1. How long before I want to indulge again if I get this item?

Usually indulging revolves around buying a splurge item because it’s so attractive to you right now. Or, you might be considering buying something you don’t really need, but want. When I saw fancy Nespresso coffee makers, I loved the design and the promise of a perfect espresso every time. I suddenly really wanted this in my life, despite never having heard of it before. Sometimes you might also be tempted to buy a variation on something you already have. “I have simple drinking glasses, but these beer steins would be fun to pull out of the freezer for friends.”

A great reason to indulge is when something will be much higher quality. Let’s say I need a new pair of jeans. Normally, a pair lasts me years and takes me through all kinds of daily wear and tear. I am considering indulging on a more expensive pair but I could buy something less costly that would work for now. If I apply the five questions I listed above, I can ensure buying this pair will meet these goals.

  1. I need it and I love it! – I’m getting something I will use over and over with this pair, and I really like them best.
  1. I’m satisfied over the long-term. – This pair will fade slower and stretch out less between wears.
  2. It will give me repeated “in the moment” happiness. – These jeans look better than cheaper pairs, and putting them on each time makes me feel confident.
  1. I’m buying this for me. – I’m not buying a brand name to impress other people, I’m buying an item because it makes me happy.
  1. I won’t need to “re-indulge” again soon to get this feeling. – I will enjoy this pair for at least a few years before I need to buy another pair, because they are sturdier. I’ve not only met my need, but I’ve picked something I’ll repeatedly appreciate.

By stopping and asking myself questions when I’m considering indulging, I’m choosing a mindful approach over impulse. Often, I’ve found going through these questions actually makes me happier with items I already have in my life. This helps me eliminate purchases that add to collections, are impulse buys, or are really high quality but not something I necessarily need to own.

Choosing to go for the indulgent option when I’m buying something I really need makes me way more satisfied in my purchase and I buy less over time. Occasionally I do indulge in an item I just really want but don’t really need. By asking myself the questions I’ve shared with you, I feel comfortable with my decision. I lose the guilt and self-questioning that often come after an impulse decision, and I hope you can, too.

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The Cost of Uber vs Owning

If you don’t have a car and find yourself taking Uber often, you may be wondering if you’re wasting your money by spending more on Uber than on an actual car. Likewise, if you do have a car and are drowning in your monthly car, gas, maintenance, and insurance payments, you might be wanting to ditch it all and start using Uber instead.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to the cost of using Uber versus the cost of owning a car.

  1. How much do you drive/Uber?

Take a look at your lifestyle. Are you needing to get to and from work every day by Uber? Do you work from home and only drive on weekends? Are most of your driving trips close by and around town, or do you like to hit the highway on the weekends for random road trips?
All of these things matter when it comes to the benefits of Uber, versus the benefits of having your own car. The average Uber trip is about 5 miles, and costs about $11. If you do the math, that comes out to a really costly per-mile average with Uber. However, if you’re only taking two average Uber rides a day to local places and that’s about it, your monthly Uber cost of around $500 may be cheaper than the payment on a new car. However, paying $500 a month to be limited to only get to work and back might not seem like a desirable way to live.

  1. Where do you live?

Do you live somewhere with public transportation, or where everything is very walkable? If you live in the middle of a big city, sometimes having a car can be more of a hassle than it’s worth with expensive parking, heavy traffic, and costly insurance. Taking public transportation, an occasional Uber ride, and renting a car for a weekend getaway may be the best combination for you.

However, if you live somewhere where a trip to the grocery store will take an hour by bus, or is a few miles away, Uber will really add up if you’re using it every time you leave the house.

  1. How much money do you have on-hand for a car?

If you do want a car, you can potentially find a great deal on a leased vehicle if you have a few thousand dollars to put down. After that, your monthly payments can be ultra low — even under $200 if you go with something like a 2017 Ford Focus or a Kia. Or, buy a used car with that few thousand dollars and you won’t have to worry about making any payments.

Here’s a really interesting look at how three Uber users rack up costs using this service, and how they could all ultimately do better financially by owning a basic car.

If you can’t afford a car right now but are spending a lot of money on Uber, you may want to sit down and calculate exactly how much you’re spending per month on Uber. If it’s a lot of money —comparable to a car payment— you should consider if you’d rather own a car, or if you like a car-less lifestyle. Do you value increased freedom of mobility, or the freedom of owning one less thing? If owning a car seems more right for you and you’re interested in getting one, consider a low-cost lease if you want something new. Or, buy something used and you can potentially skip the monthly payment altogether. Each month you’ll start saving money since you won’t have to pay for Uber anymore, and you’ll have the freedom to take more frequent and farther trips.

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