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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.  That ultimately saves me money.

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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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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