“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28–30, ESV)
I have a confession to make. I bought something for myself during a holiday sale. It was a new and shiny Apple iPad. I had my eye on it for some time. I was watching the prices. One day it was being offered for $200 off the full retail price.
I snatched up the offer and have been enjoying my new iPad ever since. I am a heavy user of my iPad. I do most all my reading on the iPad. I buy books to read on the Kindle app. I borrow electronic books from my local library. And I use the Bible App for my daily devotions. I also do video editing and lot of my writing is done on this iPad. I strive to get my money’s worth.
But there is a twinge of guilt for buying it. It was a lot of money and there were cheaper iPads I could have bought. The truth of the matter was that I already had an iPad. Yes, it was an older iPad. It did not have a large screen. The battery life was getting short, so I was finding that I needed to recharge the battery more often. The keyboard I used would sometimes miss the letters I was typing. I could find reasons to justify my new purchase. But the old iPad was sufficient. I didn’t “need” a new one. But I still bought a shiny new one that was expensive.
You have probably bought a few things that you didn’t need. Maybe you feel a bit guilty about it. Maybe you have some buyer’s remorse. But I want to offer some thoughts on how you might avoid regret and buyer’s remorse this holiday season:
Sleep On It
I did not make this purchase in the spur of the moment. I contemplated it for several weeks. I examined the benefit compared to the cost. If you have a big purchase to make, take the time to sleep on it. Don’t rush it. That too-good-to-miss sale will come back again. You might even happen upon a better sale. camelcamelcamel.com is a great website for tracking the historical price of an item on Amazon. You can get an alert for when the desired item might drop to your desired price. Patience is rewarded. By waiting, you may realize that you don’t want the item as much as you thought you did which leads to the biggest savings. Not making the purchase at all!
Don’t Finance It
I had the money for the purchase. I did not need to finance it. I did put it on a credit card and got 5% cashback on the purchase. But I also made sure to pay the credit card off immediately so that I would not be charged interest. This was not something I went into debt to buy. I also sold my old iPad on eBay to help supplement the cost.
There are financing deals available everywhere that allow us to bring home our new items today. But such financing locks us into the bondage of debt. It is another example of how our possessions often possess us. If you don’t have the money to buy it outright, don’t buy it.
Make It the Exception
My wife tells me this is my iPad is my Christmas present, my birthday present, and my anniversary present. And that is true. A purchase like this is a splurge but is something special that will not soon be replicated. Which ultimately, causes me to treasure it more. The more we have the less we will treasure and enjoy our individual possessions.
Consider Your Motivation
Think about your motivation for a given purchase. Why do you want it? What value does it offer you? There is a quote that has been attributed to several different people. I am not sure where it originated. But it goes like this:
We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.
So many things are purchased to signal a certain status. In the community where I live, there are many people who drive luxury cars. What I see when I see someone with a new Mercedes is someone who probably has a tremendous amount of debt and lacks contentment. I am quite happy and content with my Honda with 90K that is fully paid for. For me, a car is a mode of transportation and not an indicator of my self-worth.
What Is Your Investment?
When you have a purchase to make, ask yourself what you will get back?
- I will not get back my money for the iPad. I will likely sell this iPad a few years from now for much less than I paid for it.
- I get joy. I find delight when I turn it on. But the pleasure I have in turning it on will probably wear off after a few months. It will become just another tool in the belt. And there are certainly other things I could find that would bring me joy.
- I will get efficiency. It is a tool that helps me be more productive in my work.
- I will get better organization. I strive to live a paperless lifestyle. I try to eliminate as much paper as I possibly can. I scan and store documents electronically and use the iPad to access them.
Jesus tells us to store up treasures in Heaven. He points us to deeply consider the investments we make. Are we being good stewards of the wealth he has entrusted to us? In the end, I determined that I believed the efficiency and organization that I would receive from my purchase would be worth the investment.
The holidays are a time of the year when we often grow weak in our stewardship. But this is a time when we need to be even more aware as we are bombarded by the consumerism of the season. Maybe I did make a poor investment with the purchase of the iPad. Time will tell. For all of us, the lesson is that we are called to be aware of our stewardship and accountability to God in all the ways we spend the money he entrusts to us.
- Have you bought or financed something you soon regretted? What are the lessons you learned from making that purchase?
- How do you examine your motivations and consider the investment you are making when you make a purchase?
Lord, you have blessed us with more than we need. We are able to buy things for enjoyment and pleasure. But we are easily tempted to be wasteful and make purchases without the proper motivation. Give discerning wisdom to count the cost of everything, that ultimately we would spend less to live more fully. Amen.