How I Asked for Help and Accidentally Found A Blind Spot
My favorite personal finance blog, by far, is Financial Samurai. In fact, it’s the only personal finance blog I regularly visit to catch up on posts I’ve missed. The posts are often more philosophical than financial, and that’s where I find satisfaction as a reader.
Recently, the author (who goes by the pseudonym Sam Dogen) pointed out common blind spots of people trying to achieve financial independence. He pointed out his own, which was that until recently, he never stopped to think whether his wife, who seems perfectly satisfied with their standard of living, would like to splurge on more, since they can now afford it. His quality of life is increased by his wife’s happiness, so he of course would want to provide her with those splurges even if he is carefully watching the family’s finances.
It got me thinking about my financial blind spots. One is my willingness to settle, which I think comes partially from my adaptability and resourcefulness, but also because I get frustrated when I can’t get exactly what I want, and my emotions cause me to settle for something that’s not quite right, but available.
An example is in my still ongoing car purchasing experience. I’m currently driving a 20-year old car. It’s a well-built car, so it runs well, but it needs some repairs. I’ve been casually looking at cars for a couple years, and seriously shopping for over a month. I finally settled on a car that I think is both practical (i.e., comfortable for driving long distances; not a sexy sports car) and has a lot of my “nice to haves” (i.e., luxury options).
Now, the problem is that the car doesn’t exist yet. I will have to special order it. The other option is to settle for having a slightly different car than what I wanted. If I want the exterior and interior colors I want (which I can no longer compromise on since being trained as a personal stylist and image consultant--color is more important than you think), then I will have to settle for a different body style (still same model), slightly different interior color combination, and missing some of the options I would like. The dealer pushed hard for me to settle. I’m also feeling pressure because my 20 year old car needs some repairs and maintenance, and because I’ve spent 6 weeks reading about, watching youtube videos about, looking at, and test driving, cars.
I went through my “must have” and my “like to have” lists for the car, and determined that the available car has most of my “must haves”. And since I am adaptable, I determined that I could get used to the one “must have” the car didn’t have (the body style). I was ready to let my dad negotiate.
[I am fully aware that I *should*, at my age, be able to negotiate a car purchase, but my father is an experienced and successful negotiator, so I asked him for help. It also makes sense because he has little to no emotional attachment to the outcome.]
The next day, instead of calling the dealer, my dad sat me down for a talk. He knew the car was not really what I wanted, but what I was settling for. A car is a major purchase, and I can still drive my 20-year old car, so why not wait the few months for a special order? He explained that if I’m going to spend so much money, I should not compromise. He correctly pointed out that if I ordered the car I want, I would walk up to my car every day and admire the lines, but if I compromised and chose the available car, I would just slowly get used to seeing the car and learn to like it. These are two very different feelings, and will have an effect on my everyday life and outlook.
Wow. I never expected my frugal and practical dad to tell me that I should go for the beautiful things in order to feel good every day. And I also saw that this is the second time this year that when making a major purchase, I settled for something I wasn’t fully excited about. A dangerous trend, for sure.
I am grateful my dad caught my mistake, and that I was able to see my blind spot, but these types of mistakes are unsettling. I’m so glad I asked for help.
Have money blind spots? Here are some resources that can help:
Michelle Masters’ Money Magic book