Shopping and Tunnel Vision

One feature that Sarah and I have decided to add to our dream home is a “den” of sorts. This den would serve as a game room and a party room of sorts, plus it would be a place to house our board game collection, our book collection, and our remaining movie collection.

As I’ve mentioned before, we have a pretty detailed idea of what kind of house we’re going to build, so we’ve actually been thinking about details like how to furnish the house. What will we take from our current home? What will we need to add to the new home?

Any game room / party room will need at least one solid table and we currently don’t have any that will work well for that purpose (we could use our main dining table, but we intend to continue to use that for dining and if we repurposed it, we’d be buying a new dining table). So, this has left me looking for a good table for a game room.

I want a sturdy table that will last for a very long time, meaning I want one made of solid wood that’s well constructed. I’d also like the table to have some features that make it work well for tabletop games – it shouldn’t be too far across the table, but it needs to be big enough to hold a sprawling game. Easy access to beverages without them being right on the table would be very nice, too.

In looking around for ideas for this, several friends pointed me toward this company. I had the chance to examine several of their tables recently and I fell in love. Some of their products are basically perfect for what I’m looking for.

The price tag, though? Painful is an understatement.

Here’s where things get tricky. It would be really, really easy to get “tunnel vision” at this point and begin to focus obsessively on one of those tables. I could keep gazing at their website, imagining one of those tables in my dream home. I’d add in details – friends sitting around it, enjoying each other’s company while playing a game.

Eventually, I’d reach a point where the desire would become overwhelming and I’d decide that I must have this table. At that point, I’d find myself clicking the “buy” button, deciding that I’d figure out how to pay for it later.

Why would I envision that? I used to do it all the time – and I know from talking to readers and reading other articles that many, many people do that very thing. We get caught up in something we perceive as a need, we find the “perfect” solution for it even though that solution is really expensive, and then we talk ourselves into buying it.

Sure, this is another “want versus need” situation, but it’s worse than that. Once that “perfect” solution is found, tunnel vision will often set in and other solutions aren’t even seen, let alone considered.

How do you stop that?

For me, the first method of breaking the cycle is simple. Can I find the same product for a better price elsewhere? Even if the item is basically one-of-a-kind, you can still look around and see if you can find someone who can make you the same thing locally.

This first step is a good one because it doesn’t introduce any compromise on the item itself. All I’m doing is looking for ways to have that exact item at a lower price.

What inevitably happens as I shop around is that I see similar items at much better prices. For example, with the above table, I asked around with a local woodworking group and a few people pointed me to a local woodworker who looked at the designs and said he could make me a duplicate of the table I was looking at for about 30% less. He also pointed me to something similar he could make that would cost about 70% less than the desired table just by losing a couple minor features. It’s still basically the same table, but it would cost 70% less.

I’ve also found success when simply browsing for ideas. Not too long ago, I went to a furniture store and found a table that was surprisingly similar to the table I was looking at for about 75% less. I wasn’t particularly looking for a table, but I was surprised to find such a similar one.

I found several options that will save me a mint essentially without compromising on what I liked about the table.

I’ve gone through the same process with many items: computer tablets, work desks, and work chairs, to name a few. I’ll find an item that’s “perfect” and, for a while, I’ll get “tunnel vision” with that item. The first step is to simply shop around for that same exact item, but in the process, I almost always find similar items that are functionally equivalent. By doing that, I usually end up saving a ton of money and wind up not compromising on the aspects that matter.

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