How to Have Anything You Want With No Regrets

Posted on 01. Feb, 2012 by in Wealth Essentials

How to get what you want

If you are anything like me, then you have experienced the terrible feeling of buyers remorse very soon after purchasing something that only minutes ago you were in love with.  A terrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that just won’t go away and the dreaded thought that you really shouldn’t have traded the money you just did for the object you now own.

Not fun right?  I hate it, which is why I needed to find a way to counteract the feeling and be able to spend money without feeling bad about it.  In this post I’m going to show you how I get what I want without those regrets.

Spending Psychology

Money has a pretty powerful effect on most of us.  We want more so we can have the things we desire, but then once we have it, we don’t often want to give it up.  Retail outlets and clever marketers have found ways to convince us to part with our money, which can help the economy, but parting with your hard earned cash can also cause a certain amount of stress.

In order for you to spend your money, you first need to go through a convoluted process of justification, whereby you convince yourself that the object that you desire is one you absolutely and desperately need.  For most of us, the process is so effective and consuming, we end up blinded by the single purpose of acquiring what we want.

Once you have convinced yourself that the only way you can possibly continue in life is to have what you want, you may go through some obligatory steps to find the best deal or possibly even show the (feigned) restraint to wait for a sale.  Certainly you get points for effort, but this is a futile struggle and you submit in the end.

People that are poor at using money are very good at justifying the spend, often it isn’t even a painful process.  Others that are better with money often endure a fierce battle within themselves before they give in, then regret their actions later.

No matter which category you fall into, it is likely that you will eventually have regrets at some point because once you spend the money you worked so hard for, it is gone forever.

Emotional Intelligence

Your emotional intelligence is the thing you fight against when you want something desperately, its the little voice telling you that it isn’t really something that you truly need.  Unless you develop your emotional intelligence, you will continue to beat the little voice into submission and be a lot poorer for it over time.

Your emotional intelligence is a muscle and needs regular exercise in order to develop and help in the battle against your desires.  Personally I have managed to get better at recognising my needs versus my wants and taken back a little ground in the battle against retail therapy.  Now days I can usually satisfy myself by just researching the heck out of something that takes my fancy and be satisfied with that, but sometime the desire is so strong I have no choice but to surrender.

I definitely don’t get off on the sweet pain of denying myself and living an ultra frugal lifestyle, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to hold your ground either.  Although inner strength is the best way to combat spending, it needs to be tempered by the recognising your hard work.  Sometimes it is worth letting go and treating yourself, why else would you work so hard in the first place?

The Easy Fix

Developing your emotional intelligence can be difficult and it takes time, but there is a pretty simple fix to the immediate problem.  It still requires some discipline, but it can help to make things a little easier and stop you from suffering the terrible feeling of post-purchase remorse.

Have you ever wondered why kids are so good at spending their pocket money without a worry in the world?  It’s because they know that is what the money is there for.

My wife and I are quite devoted to spending money wisely, so we allocate ourselves a weekly allowance of $50 each.  Some people may think that is a lot, others may think it is very little.  For us, this amount works well and we get to spend it as we like.  The establishment of our ‘pocket money’ system has meant that we never feel guilty about spending money on our wants, because it is money that is allocated to use for this purpose.

While it may sound like a luxury, or perhaps even silly, this system still requires some practice to master.  The money needs to cover all of our needs for the week and it is amazing how quickly it can go if you aren’t conscious of your spending.  In fact, doing this has made me even more aware of where my money goes because I effectively create a mini budget for myself.

If I want to buy something that costs more than my allowance, I save and adjust my spending habits accordingly.  If I want to blow the lot on coffee and lunches at work I can, but that leaves me with nothing to spend on anything else.  Whatever I choose to do with my allocated money I really don’t feel guilty anymore because that is what it is designed for.

If you are having trouble finding the balance between good and bad spending habits, why not try giving this a go to see if it works for you.  I guarantee it will make you think more about the way you spend at the very least.

Image by Meredith_Farmer

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41 Responses to “How to Have Anything You Want With No Regrets”

  1. MoneyforCollegeProNo Gravatar

    01. Feb, 2012

    Good words. The psychology behind spending is fascinating. In my own financial life, it does make sense to create mini-budgets for the expenses that I want outside of my normal budget. This allows me to make purchases without guilt or remorse because I know they were semi-planned, and I have the funds to cover them.

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      I’m a big fan of financial psychology myself. Sounds like you have it nicely sorted out though, a bit of planning goes a long way.

      Reply to this comment
  2. I agree – if I want something, obviously I’m going to go out and buy it, but the key thing is when will I have enough cash to do that.

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      Exactly Jeff,

      No reason you should just flat out deny yourself, but you also need to approach it with a bit of though. Instead of ‘I want’ or ‘I can’t’ I like to ask ‘how can I?’ It’s amazing what you can conceive if you put some thought into it.

      Reply to this comment
  3. maria@moneyprincipleNo Gravatar

    02. Feb, 2012

    I have always argued that we are getting the whole thing about needs and wants wrong. We, as humans, are defined not by our needs (these are usually simple and animal like) but by our wants. If we wish to deal away with remorse we have to tame our wants. Ironically, today I have been doing some reading on minimalism.

    I also have a ‘I’m so worth it fund’ and the rules are that this is fun money and it has to be spend every month – because I am worth it!

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      Love the sound of that fund of yours maria, I think it is exactly what you need in order to stay motivated and on track. Like the new banner design on your site too!

      Reply to this comment
  4. Marissa @ Thirty Six MonthsNo Gravatar

    02. Feb, 2012

    I used to be an emotional spender. So a bad day = shopping. It was after taking a few psych that i realized that I was spending to displace whatever emotion I was feeling. Now I just examine my emotions to find the root cause. Saves me a lot of money.

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      Ha! I bet it does save a bit of money. It is really surprising how good retail therapy is, but if it is unplanned it can cause more harm than good. Examining your emotions is a great way to get to the bottom of things, buying to suppress feelings is quite a negative action, much better to buy to reward positive action instead :)

      Reply to this comment
  5. MyMoneyDesignNo Gravatar

    02. Feb, 2012

    I have always struggled with buyers remorse for the same exact reasons you point out. I think too much about how hard I had to work to get up to the price of the item, or how long it would take me to make enough to cover that purchase. I totally agree with the allowance system. In fact, my wife and I are on the same program you mentioned!

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      The allowance system is a great way to kick off and keep you sane in the short to medium term. An even better alternative is to create alternative income streams that generate additional funds that you can use as you see fit. I don’t think this should include interest on savings or investments (that needs to be reinvested), but a nice little side hustle (like a blog) is a good way to go!

      Reply to this comment
  6. I have a strategy to minimise spending that seems rather simple and obvious but is very effective for me – I try to avoid walking into shops unless I know I want to buy something and I don’t read fashion magazines. If I walk into a shop / read a magazine and see something I like I will convince myself that I can’t live without it. But if I hadn’t walked into the shop / read the magazine in the first place, I wouldn’t know it was there and be completely oblivious to the item I supposedly couldn’t live without!

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      Nothing wrong with simple! It’s amazing how good we can actually be at convincing ourselves of things. I often feel the same way and have to spend almost twice as long at un-convincing myself about the need for something I have taken a fancy to. As far as I’m concerned, I think that learning how to control your emotional intelligence is one of the best life skills that you can learn.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Aaron HungNo Gravatar

    02. Feb, 2012

    I just traded in my car for a lower milage car and had to pay a little bit of difference too and I too feel guilty afterwards because the old car was already paid for and now I have a new car payment. I’ve had the other car for so long and it was like an attachment of me so it felt weird. I need to try that $50 dollars a week with my wife hehe

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      02. Feb, 2012

      Haha! $50 can be challenging for some people, but it is a great way to develop better money habits.

      Hope the car trade works out well. they can be a huge money trap, but if you made the decision consciously you just have to back yourself and get it paid off as son as you can.

      Reply to this comment
  8. This is a great way to take the guilt out. I just wrote about Conscious Spending, which is essentially planning your spending in advance so that you do it right and without guilt.

    Pocket money is key to staying in the right mindset.

    Reply to this comment
  9. BrianNo Gravatar

    03. Feb, 2012

    Just found your blog – love the content!

    I’ve tried using this type of budgeting previously, but had to readjust. I see a lot of live music and it’s not a cheap hobby. I was able to cut other monthly expenses (through pedantic tracking) and have budget in concert tickets outside of my weekly budget. It’s shocking how much money I’m able to save while enjoying shows more than ever (now that I don’t feel like I’m going broke!)

    Look forward to more posts from you!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Pam at MoneyTrailNo Gravatar

    04. Feb, 2012

    I like your approach and it works well with me too. Knowing I have a little bit of cash to use as I see fit makes me happy. And…as long as I don’t overspend, I am sticking to the budget which also makes me happy. Win-win!

    Reply to this comment
  11. Roshawn @ Watson IncNo Gravatar

    04. Feb, 2012

    This sounds like a reasonable plan. The important thing is that it gets you to actually think about your money and budget accordingly. With those key components done well and consistently, the details the plan may not even matter as much.

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      04. Feb, 2012

      I agree Roshawn, it really is about being aware of what you are doing, or conscious spending as John put it. With a bit of practice it actually becomes pretty easy to manage your money and still have what you want.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Financial SamuraiNo Gravatar

    04. Feb, 2012

    REturn everything before 30 days!

    Reply to this comment
    • Money CactusNo Gravatar

      04. Feb, 2012

      Ha Ha! I read an article you wrote about returning things Sam, even as far as new cars! I love it, most of the time the novelty wears off once we have what we want, so why not go the extra step and get it – then return it ;)

      Reply to this comment
  13. One thing my fiance and I definitely plan to do when we combine finances is have a small allowance to spend on whatever we want. He calls it “I’m-an-adult money” while I prefer to call it “discretionary spending money”, but it all amounts to the same thing. Having the ability to buy something small on a whim makes a big difference, but there need to be boundaries in place.

    Reply to this comment
  14. To make it easier for myself, my default approach is always “not to buy”. Thus if I wonder if I should buy something, the automatic answer I give myself is “no, you do not need it”. Only if this really does not feel well, I invest time and energy to see if I can convince myself otherwise. Yes, sometimes you have regrets about things that you do not buy. But then in any case you still have your money in your pocket. That softens the “pain”.

    Reply to this comment
  15. My husband and I used to have that weekly pocket money, too… but got away from the habit in recent years. With kids in the home, we found we were spending our discretionary income on them instead of on us!

    Reply to this comment
  16. AndreaNo Gravatar

    06. Feb, 2012

    Great article, it seems I now struggle with this inner voice every time I want to buy something even when I can afford it. Trying to find the balance between too cheap and spend-too-much isn’t always easy. There are months where I’m in the toocheap range and months where I nudge the spend-too-much threshold. Hmmmm, work to be done still.

    Reply to this comment
  17. For most of us it’s like the Rolling Stones song, “you can’t always get what you want”. Like you were pointing out MC, people often struggle controlling emotions when it comes to money. I just finished an article on this topic and the research I read shows that many people spend money when they are stressed, sad, or angry as a way of coping. That is a hard habit to break.

    Reply to this comment
  18. This is so timely. My hubby and I were just talking about this. Being aware is key for many things in life, not just finances. We need to make sure we are making conscious, well thought out decisions.
    I like having money saved for things that I want. If I could only pay bills, life wouldn’t be very fun.

    Reply to this comment
  19. eJean1981No Gravatar

    20. Mar, 2012

    I frequently try to get my family to think in terms of needs, instead of wants. It seems that they are brainwashed in terms of thinking that theY “need” every luxury that they see advertised.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Simple FinanceNo Gravatar

    22. Mar, 2012

    The flip side of this, I suppose, is buying something just because you HAVE done the research and KNOW it’s a good value. I did this with a car purchase years ago – I needed it, I wanted it, I’d done the research, but I still regretted the purchase… and still haven’t figured out why.

    Reply to this comment

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