The Surprising Way That Being A Perfectionist Saves Me Money
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The following is a contribution from Richard at Frugality Magazine. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules, please see our guidelines and contact us.
It wasn’t too many years ago when my idea of a budget was simply continuing to spend money on anything I fancied until finally the ATM stopped spitting out cash. Even then I simply had to wait a week or two until I got paid again. Looking back I kick myself for my financial stupidity, but we were all young once, right?
Being a Perfectionist Matters
Then one day I picked up a copy of Your Money Or Your Life, the classic personal finance book and still one of the best books I’ve ever read about money management. One of the core principles of the book revolves around assessing how much pleasure you get from your spending. It’s less about *not* spending money, and more about being a perfectionist about only spending money on things that really bring you pleasure. After all, why “waste” money on things that aren’t having a significant positive impact on your life?
It was while reading the book that I realized that much of my spending was a result of my “being a perfectionist” attitude. I always wanted the best, the latest, the smartest, the coolest. And all that cost money. Frankly, money I often didn’t have.
But when I stopped to think about it and was honest with myself, very few of the things I bought ever actually measured up to my expectations. After all, as a perfectionist I’m naturally primed to always see the imperfections. Very few things really have a “wow” factor for me – no matter what I might think before I purchase them. Yes, the meal was delicious but the service wasn’t up to scratch. Yes, the jeans are cool but if only they were a few shades darker. Yes, that movie was enjoyable but how annoying was that person eating popcorn behind us? And on, and on. More spending, more annoyance. Why was I doing this to myself, in a constant cycle of post purchase remorse? Maybe it’s just because I can’t help being a perfectionist when it comes to spending my money.
When Being a Perfectionist Can Hurt You
Over the years I’ve often seen my perfectionism as a bad thing. It’s a personality trait that makes me restless, unable to compromise and – I admit it – frequently disappointed. It can make me unbearable at work as I accept only the best from myself and my team. And it frequently robs me of the small pleasures in life that other people enjoy.
But here’s the “eureka” moment I had while considering these facts:
- Why spend money on things if they rarely ever live up to my expectations?
- Why spend money on something that’s going to disappoint me?
- Why spend money I don’t have on things I won’t enjoy?
Suddenly my spending dropped through the floor. Without effort. No budgeting was required. No will power. No complex rules. All I did – before making a purchase – was make a very honest assessment of whether this purchase would disappoint me. If I thought it probably would, I simply wouldn’t bother wasting my money. No more buying things that are good but not quite right. Like those shoes you love but are only available half a size too small. Don’t kid yourself – you won’t wear them once you get them home. Buy it right or don’t buy it at all.
Now all this sounds a bit negative and depressing. After all our modern society encourages us to “think positive” and perfectionists like me often aren’t able to do such things. We’re too taken with the one thing that’s wrong to see the multitude of things that are right. But surprisingly this hasn’t turned me into a miserable person. Quite the opposite – I still spend money – but only on things I truly believe will bring me pleasure. Like cooking a fantastic meal for my girlfriend. Or buying my iPhone. Or my first car. All of these things have cost me money but I feel I’ve got maximum value for the money I spent on them. These purchases were worth it and are a case where my being a perfectionist has paid off.
These things have truly brought me pleasure and I’m happy to have spent money on them (though I still did so on a shoe-string). What about all those other things I considered, but didn’t buy? I consider myself lucky for having saved myself money and disappointment. In fact, I believe that I value and appreciate the few items I do buy now even more because they’re not competing against so many other unnecessary purchases.
What psychological tricks do you use to keep your spending under control? If you’re a perfectionist, how has this affected your personal finance habits?
Last year UK blogger Richard Adams finally succeeded in paying off all his consumer debt. He blogs about frugal lifestyle tips, getting out of debt and his plans to achieve financial freedom over at FrugalityMagazine.com.
Photo courtesy of: Paul Stein