People often associated vices with the usual suspects—cigarettes, booze, illicit drugs and the like. But, vices can also take the form of frivolous, guilty pleasure purchases and, let’s be honest, most people if not all has some vice purchase they grapple with on a fairly regular basis.
I’ll be honest with you: one of my vice purchases are vintage shoes—and if they’re Italian then all the better. I’ve gotten pretty good at finding them cheap, but as anyone who likes to bargain shop knows, whether you spend $50 on five pairs of shoes or on just one pair, you’re still spending money. And, as good as I am at finding the deal, I’m equally as good at concocting a half-baked justification for continuing to spend.
What truly makes my shoe shopping a financial vice is that, in true form, each purchase gives me a temporary sense of euphoria that eventually morphs into feelings of guilt, regret or shame. The euphoria comes from knowing (or, at least convincing myself) that I’ve uncovered some sort of royal gem of a shoe that not many will have; the shame soon settles in when, months later, I’m still looking at the shoe in the closet admiringly, realizing that the day I purchased it was the first and last time it’ll adorn my foot.
More recently, I was forced to confront my shoe vice head on. One day I decided that I didn’t have enough room to keep all of my shoes and decided to sell a good amount of them. Yes, I did make a decent amount of pocket change in the process, but I was also left with the feeling that I’d lost more than I’d gained. Not necessarily because of some strong emotional attachment I had to any one pair of shoes I ended up selling, but because I was literally left with less money in hand than what I’d originally spent to purchase the shoes.
Let’s face it: vices aren’t always bad. Heck, some people have even managed to turn the concept of vice into a successful investment vehicle. Yet, without the proper restraints, they can stifle your growth—be it financial or otherwise. In that case, an intervention could be in order.
How Do You Identify Your Financial Vices:
Identifying the fact that my love of shoes was a financially destructive vice wasn’t difficult for two reasons. For one, my bedroom had become a sea of unworn shoes taking up more room than I could really spare. I just couldn’t seem to get away from this vice—I felt suffocated.
My somewhat disappointing shoe sale was another red flag: after that sale, I recognized that if I continued to purchase shoes I’d eventually find myself in the same position at another point down the road: selling shoes that had yet to be warn for cents on the dollar from what they’d originally been purchased for.
Getrichslowly.com’s Adam Baker defined financial vices as any expense one includes in their budget that “appears extreme, bizarre, or down-right ignorant.” My shoe vice was extreme because, like I said, I was beginning to feel like Imelda Marcos. It was bizarre because, really, how many shoes does a person need? And, it was down-right ignorant because it was ridiculous of me continue with this pattern of spending and selling that was eventually going to see me even further in the red.
A note at the end of Baker’s article also caught by attention—the idea that vices are things that can’t be controlled. While I can’t speak for everyone, I’d say that in my case that this was probably very much spot on. When I realized that I could justify any purchase I made regardless of my specific financial situation at the time I realized I was allowing my vice to control me.
So, how do you take control of your financial vices? That would probably depend on the individual. For some, the answer could be conscious spending, as Getrichslowly.com’s note suggests. Recognizing your affinity for something can give you strength in that it also allows you to identify when that attachment is spiraling out of control. On the other hand, the answer could also be cutting yourself off from your particular financial vice completely (be it for an extended amount of time or even permanently) in order to get your financial house in order.
How do you control your own financial vices? Let us know in the comments section.
Carolyn Okomo is a personal finance writer and the Tuesday columnist for MyBankTracker.com. You can follow her tweets @CarolynMBT.