In my closet, I have every issue of MAKE Magazine ever produced.
I really enjoy reading issues of MAKE. The magazine is all about technology-oriented do-it-yourself projects, like making your own homemade musical instrument and wiring it up to a homemade soundboard so you can record the music you make or making a homemade remote control helicopter with a video camera attached so you can do neighborhood flyovers. You get the idea.
Part of the reason I’m subscribed to the magazine is because I enjoy the idea of making such things. Part of the reasons I keep back issues of the magazine is because I tell myself that “someday” I’ll work on some of those projects.
In truth, I’ve only ever made two projects out of MAKE and they were both pretty small ones.
For me, MAKE is an example of what I call “spending money on a someday.” You spend money on something because you like it in some way and you keep telling yourself that someday you’ll find time for it, but you never seem to really find time for it.
The items you buy for “someday” are usually the items that end up filling up your closets or your garage. Those items are loaded down with good intentions and self-promises, but they wind up being pushed aside for other things.
Golf clubs. Treadmills. Scrapbooking materials. DVDs. Musical instruments. Gardening equipment. Skis. Books. Magazines. Camping equipment.
All of those things are often “someday” items. They’re things that we don’t actually use, but we tell ourselves that we will use “someday.” Learning to identify them before you spend that money is a big key toward getting your finances in order.
So, how can you tell that something you buy is going to be a “someday” item? Here are a few tell-tale signs.
One, does the item require you to set aside time to use it? With MAKE, I’d have to set aside some time to work on a project. With golf clubs, I’d have to set aside time to go golfing. With musical instruments, I’d have to set aside time to practice.
Two, is your schedule already pretty full? Do you actually have much spare time? Many adults are already overbooked as it is.
Three, do you have active interests that are already starved for time? Do you have hobbies that you’re already lamenting because you don’t have the time to invest in them? I certainly do.
Four, could I find a way to try out this activity without buying this item? You don’t need $200 running shoes to begin establishing a morning jogging routine, for example. You don’t need high-end golf clubs to take up golfing – in fact, you don’t need any at all to dabble in it. Figure out if this is an activity that is going to become a regular part of your life before you dump money into it.
Whenever you’re about to buy a non-essential item, ask yourself those four questions. Chances are you’ll find yourself realizing that the item you’re looking at isn’t really something that fits into your life.
Dreams are a wonderful thing, but a successful person can separate dreams from reality. Knowing when to put that item back, even if a big part of you desires the item and the activity that goes with it, is a sure sign that your spending is on track and you’re headed toward a bright future.