Controlling your wants is a difficult endeavor for even the most disciplined of savers. But, without this skill, you can easily double your working years. What do I mean? The better question is, “What do you want?” Do you want a California beach house? Do you want a new Audi? Do you want to wear bespoke Italian suits, stay in 5-star hotels and travel first class?
Because if you really want; you can all of these things. But they will cost you. They will cost you years of working, years of saving, years where you aren’t free to do what you would like to do. If you are up for this, have at it. Work those 40-plus hour weeks for 40-plus years and you can have almost anything you want as long as you pick the right career path.
However, purchasing a million dollar home because you are making great money at 30 years-old might prove to be a terrible decision when we have another crash. Don’t sign a death pledge (mortgage in French) unless you have a strong plan in place to come out alive. I plan to own a house eventually but don’t want to be tied to a huge 30 year loan. Do you really want to stay in one place for 30 years and pay half of your paycheck just to put a roof over your head?!
Many people follow their wants without regard for what they actually need, waking up years later to a life of debt and a garage of the unnecessary. I’m not exempt from this unlimited wants phenomenon. I have unlimited wants that I try to control on a regular basis. I love my bicycles but I regularly check out Surly Long Haul Truckers and vintage Trek 520s. My old car runs fine but I still enjoy browsing around a dealership for something newer. I have a beautiful vintage Omega Seamaster but that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of putting a vintage Rolex Explorer 1016 or Patek Philippe Calatrava on my wrist. Having wants is a normal thing but if you cannot control them you will end up broke.
An exercise I practice to control my spending is to make a list of my wants and include the price. This list should include both the retail price and the price you are willing to pay (you don’t plan on paying full price do you?). In almost every instance you should not buy anything on your list until it is on there for at least one month but probably more if you are waiting for a sale. For example I have long wanted a Barbour Beaufort. The retail price is $400 but once or twice a year it will go on sale for $250-300. It seems that my size 38 is quite popular but with patience I should be able to grab one if I pay close attention to the changing seasons. I do not need this jacket by any means but while other items have been on my list only to be deleted later, this item has been there for over a year. It has lasted the tests of time and will eventually be mine. It’s ok to splurge occasionally, just make sure you think it through.
When I first started dressing better I made a list of my clothing wants and over the course of a few years gradually started checking things off. I went to thrift stores, searched Ebay and followed sales. Trench coat, penny loafers, and enough wool sweaters to make Mr. Rogers blush: check, check, and check.
Certain items such as a foreclosed house may need a quick decision before the deal is gobbled up (of course on an investment like this you better have done tons of research already). But for most purchases it doesn’t hurt to wait. It seems easy enough to see something nice and just buy it but what if you make the wrong decision? By keeping a list of your wants and waiting for sales you significantly reduce your chance of buyer’s remorse and will appreciate items you do purchase that much more. Perhaps most importantly: you will significantly reduce the chance of cluttering your house with stuff you don’t need or use (and helping the environment if you’re into that kind of thing). But if you are still on the fence about creating a list of items to buy; walking through your parents’ garage or watching an episode of Hoarders should help.
So how do you control your wants? Write your best tips in the comments below.