Last month, I was sorely tempted to pick up Mario Kart Wii. Mario Kart has been my favorite video game series of all – I played it for hours and hours with my friends in high school on the Super Nintendo, then burnt countless hours in the college dorms playing it on an N64. Even as recently as last Christmas, I stayed up most of the night playing Mario Kart DS wirelessly against my wife’s family at their Christmas celebration (one person had a cartridge and several of us had DS units – that’s all we needed).
I made an agreement with myself that if I hit a number of very high personal finance thresholds by the end of May, I’d get the game – otherwise, I’d just skip it. I already had Wii Fit preordered (from a Christmas gift certificate) after all, so I didn’t particularly need a new game.
Well, I hit those goals on about May 4, so I went ahead and picked up Mario Kart Wii. I got home, opened the box…
And I felt guilty.
You should have saved that money, my mind told me. Why didn’t you just snowflake it instead? Why not play another game you have? Why not do something else entirely?
I played Mario Kart Wii for a while and even quite enjoyed it, but at the end of each session, that same guilty feeling came back. I spent money on something I didn’t need and, in the end, something that I no longer feel like I deeply wanted.
You could have snowflaked that $50.
You could have used that cash to buy an LED bulb.
You could have invested that cash to save for the dream house.
You could have put it in the new car fund.
You let yourself down.
These are the things that my conscience was telling me, right or wrong. Instead of seeing Mario Kart Wii as some sort of reward or symbol of my success, I instead saw it as a symbol of my failure.
There are many of you who will respond and say that I’m being unfairly hard on myself, that life isn’t living without those little perks, and so on. I agree with the idea that one shouldn’t deny oneself of things that bring happiness.
But sometimes those things bring guilt along with them as well. Sometimes we wind up feeling as though we’ve made a mistake in spending money, even if there are reasons to justify the purchase. Sometimes the bad outweighs the good, and sometimes we’re left with guilt.
When I bought the game, I felt a little tug in my conscience that I shouldn’t buy it, but I shrugged it off. After all, I had plenty of reasons and justifications for making that purchase. In the end, though, I should have listened to that little voice in my head, because most of the time, that voice is right – it cuts through the excuses and stories we tell ourselves to justify things.
If you’re about to buy something and that little voice in your head starts whispering don’t, stop. Your heart is probably trying to tell you something, a message that you’ve tried to pave over with incomplete reasoning and false excuses.
Instead, walk out of the store and do something financially positive with that money. Not only will it bring a financially positive result, but it’ll make you feel better about your situation, too.