Why it’s okay to make a bad financial decision (sometimes)

Road atlas

I was pretty hard recently on people leasing cars. That’s because I feel very strongly about how it’s a decision that can have a significant negative financial effect on one’s life. And not only that, but the implications of and beliefs that underpin the actions—that you should have a new car, that you expect to always have a car payment—matter even more than the actions themselves.

But in this post, I want to backtrack a little bit, not to invalidate all of those points I made, but to talk about why you might want to make a decision that financially might not make sense.

Sense and nonsense

Some decisions just will never make sense.

I know someone who had a great job with a great salary and benefits, a great house, and lived in a city he really liked. But his partner wanted to be closer to where she was from, so he quit his job, sold their house (at the bottom of the most recent housing market crash) and moved to where she wanted to be. He never had as high a paying job ever again (he has since retired).

In terms of financial sense, this decision doesn’t have any.

But here’s the thing: he’s happier.

And why does every financial decision have to make total sense? If you require sense, that eliminates effectively every hobby ever.

I collect road atlases. I love them. Not only do I love the quality and craftsmanship that goes into such a densely printed information store, but reading maps are an endlessly exciting act, each page an invitation to get out and see what’s out there.

I buy a new Rand McNally Road Atlas (the Gift Edition, the one that comes in a plastic protective sleeve) every year, and have done this for years. One of my prized possessions in a 1954 Rand McNally that predates the Interstate Highway System by two years.

All of this has cost me a fair amount of money. Does it make “sense”?

That’s kind of the wrong question, isn’t it?

Joy

Some purchases are done for the sheer joy of them. These may not make “sense”, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have happened.

Money is not just a grim process where only the minimum of money should be spent, and anything beyond is frowned upon. Having money is merely a means of exercising choice. The more money you have, the more choices you have. (And that is not always an easy situation to be in.)

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[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Money is merely a means of exercising choice.[/perfectpullquote]

Now, this allowance for joy in purchases doesn’t give you free reign to spend whatever you want. I would love to buy a flight on Emirates first class (the one where you can take a shower in-flight), but since those flight routinely cost 5 figures, I’m not exactly jumping on the plan.

Accountability

If it feels like I’m acting in the role of naysayer on this site (“don’t do this“, “this is a bad plan“) it’s for a reason: accountability.

If there’s something you want to do, and if it yield a short term gain (an experience, a thing) but puts you in a negative financial situation over the long term, you don’t need a cheerleader. You need someone to say “are you sure you want to do that? Have you thought about all of the consequences?

If you want something to tell you that you should spend more money, the hell with the consequences, I will point you to, well, the rest of the world. Our entire culture is based on getting you instant gratification.

I won’t be providing that here.

I believe that if you put plans in today, have patience, and work hard now, you will eventually be able to have pretty much anything you could want later. But if you want it all now, you’ll never get there, and always be one step behind.

But I understand that not every purchase makes sense, that isn’t a reason not to do it. Just make sure you understand the implications. Your future self will thank you.

But enough about me. What financial decisions did you make that didn’t make “sense” but you are still happy about?

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