Nine Lies Money Wasters Love to Tell Themselves

man making questionable decisions in the grocery store

When we make bad decisions with our money, it's usually not because we don't know any better. More often than not, it's because we've talked ourselves into those questionable decisions. And how does that happen? With a few very common and extremely persuasive lies. 

Think of all the times your common sense was overruled. What lies were you telling yourself? 

Here are some of the most popular (and expensive) lies we tell ourselves. By understanding these lies, you may be better prepared to challenge them in the future.

"I need this new version, because the old one I have isn’t good enough anymore."

Technology is great, don’t get me wrong. But technology is ever advancing, and in order to make more and more money tech companies work hard to convince people that yesterday’s great thing is nothing compared to today’s great thing.

If you’re feeling enticed to drop a lot of money on the latest and greatest version of a perfectly functional thing you already have, just take a moment and ask yourself if you really need to spend that money. How does this purchase fit in with your needs and priorities? And honestly, does the "old" thing really need to be replaced just yet?

"This is more expensive, but that’s because it’s a higher quality and I’ll never have to replace it."

It's very easy to mistake price for quality. Some products really will work better and last you a lifetime. And some are just pointlessly expensive.

Be realistic when you’re thinking about buying the most expensive option on the market. Why is it so expensive? Does the price difference outweigh the difference in quality? Don’t just assume that the most expensive is the best. Sometimes it is, and a lot of times it isn’t.

"This is going to save me so much time!"

Specialized, single-function items can seem really tantalizing, especially ones that simplify difficult tasks or save time. “This is going to make pitting mangoes so much easier!”

You really need to slow down and consider how much actual use certain “time-saving” tools are going to get. Is it worth the money and the space it will inevitably take up?

"This deal is too good to pass up."

No deal is ever too good to pass up if you don’t need (or even want) the item being sold.

Don’t let yourself be blinded by sales. Spending money on something you don’t need (no matter how low the cost) is a waste. If it wasn't on your radar at full price, then you're probably buying the deal and not the item. 

"New is always better than used."

There’s something about a product in its original, sealed packaging that’s comforting to many consumers. The thing is, lightly used products are usually significantly cheaper.

Don’t let your bias towards newness become an excuse to waste money. Always consider previously used alternatives when available. There will always be times when new actually is better. The key is keeping an open mind. 

"Name brand means higher quality."

As your parents probably told you once, “The store brand is just as good.” That’s still often the case. The name on the label only means so much.

There are always going to be instances where certain name brand items are legitimately better or don’t have a suitable, cheaper alternative and that’s fine. The key is to not just assume that name brands are always better by default.

"Buying in bulk always saves you money."

Buying in bulk often saves you money, but not always. Don’t buy an enormous amount of anything unless you’re positive that it won’t go to waste and that you can comfortably store all of it.

If you’ve got a reflex that tells you to buy the largest quantity available of something, slow down and verify that you're actually going to use all of it. The price per unit might be lower on bulk purchases, but it’s a wasted savings if you don’t use it all.

"I’ve been good – I earned this."

“Good” is a bit of a relative term. It basically means whatever you want it to mean. The danger of using the “I’ve been good” excuse when splurging is that you can really use it whenever.

If you want to reward yourself, set concrete goals with a particular reward in mind. “If I do X, I can have Y.” If you’re creating a justification on the spot for making a purchase, that’s usually a sign you shouldn’t be making that purchase.

"I can’t live without this!"

Yes, you can. If you don’t need it to live, you can live without it. Spending and emotion are tied very tightly, especially for people who struggle with money.

When you feel yourself getting emotionally tied to a potential purchase, step back. Don’t say no, just give it 24 hours. Let the emotions dissipate a bit and then come back to it. Maybe you’ll still want it, but you’ll probably recognize that you don’t need it anymore.

If you're still struggling or need more help assessing your spending and creating a working budget, connect with a debt and budget counselor. Counseling is free and available 24/7!

Articles updated September 2020

Tagged in Smart shopping, Psychology and money, Reducing expenses

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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