Featured, Financial Psychology, Personal Finance

Where Your Spending Falls On The Spectrum of #WorthIt

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Have you ever spent money on something then thought later “That totally wasn’t worth it”?

Our buyer’s remorse operates in an unfairly black and white manner. While the “me” that’s making a purchase at the time operates on a spectrum.

It’s NEVER just “it’s worth it” or “it isn’t worth it”. If it were, we would all be budget masters who would point at something we want and say yes or no!

We all have a #WorthIt threshold.

The #WorthIt threshold is the point at which the pros outweigh the cons enough for us to say yes and pull the trigger on saying bye bye to our money.

We also all have different factors that contribute to this mystical mental #WorthIt number. And these different factors all have different weights.

Earlier this year, my 11 college friends wanted to plan a great summer reunion (outside of our official 5 year reunion). Half of us live on the West Coast and the other half on the East Coast. Last year we flew out to Atlanta which was pricey time and money-wise for us West Coasters so we settled on Portland this year.

Because this year has been crazy for a lot of East Coast friends, 3 of them are making major city moves because of graduation or starting school, the original plans fell through for 5/6 East Coasters. The trip ended up being 5 of us on the West Coast and 1 friend from East Coast. So that begged the question, is it still worth it?

My intuition started wavering from a “Definite Yes” to a solid “Ehhh, Maybe?”

Then I realized the reason why I was suddenly wavering is because initially I had an intuition that saw the situation like this (Blue being all the pros working towards a “YES!” and red being cons working against the yes):

Disclaimer: I did not make this chart nor do I visualize my decision like the chart above when I’m actually making decisions! This is more of an interesting thought experiment 🙂

Every financial decision has cons or at least some tradeoffs, so my #WorthIt threshold is usually around 75% pros leftover after subtracting the cons. Writing this post hilariously makes me feel like I treat decision making like budgeting…

With the pros being 100% of the reason why I would absolutely pull the trigger on the trip, and the cons being the 18% of reasons against the trip (mostly just necessary overhead in this case)! I was totally gung ho about it.

Then suddenly every email coming through was like “Can’t make it!”, “Flights are way too expensive from the East Coast now!”, etc. Then it was down to just 6 of us, 5 from SF and 1 from NY. My mental picture started looking more like this:

I realized that the whole time, I had seen the most worthwhile part of the trip as spending time together with the friends I rarely see. Without them, nothing would be the same!

So what happened? Well, I ended up telling everyone I wasn’t as excited to go as before, but would still be willing to go (because at the end of the day, my word is still more important than my changing mental picture). Thankfully we all converged on the idea of our one friend visiting us in SF and making a weekend out of great nearby trips to Napa or Big Sur! I guess no one else valued going specifically to Portland either?

Before making a decision, we have to make our best attempt at:

  1. Evaluating our value system
  2. Evaluating the priority level of each value
  3. Evaluating the trade offs involved
  4. Knowing the point where the trade offs still preserve our ultimate values and priorities

This way of thinking is way more useful to me than a traditional pro/con list. Mostly because sometimes with things we’re super indecisive about, we tend to keep adding teeny tiny pros or cons that then make it seem like there are more of one or the other, but they don’t really accurately represent the things we ultimately care about!

How do you think about cost tradeoffs vs benefits from a purchase? How do you decide if something is #WorthIt?

Jing is currently a software engineer based in Oakland, CA. She left her job in New York, moved to San Francisco unemployed, and more than doubled her salary in 4 months.

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