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Self-Dealing

Rand Spero

ARE THERE TIMES when we waste too much energy in pursuit of a good deal? I have clients who get so caught up in proving they’re smart consumers that they can neglect their own needs.

One client runs a successful business. She’s saved more than enough to retire early, should that become her goal. She’s an outstanding negotiator. The problem is, her diligence can sometimes cause her stress.

She and her husband have young kids. They could use a new minivan. Amid the pandemic, dealers are demanding far more than list price for the few vans they have in stock. She feels she’d be a chump to buy when prices are so high. The situation is causing her tremendous frustration because it’s unclear how long the shortage will last. While she understands that this “overpriced” purchase wouldn’t measurably affect her family’s savings, her concerns have stopped her from moving forward with the purchase.

An elderly couple that I work with was also having issues buying a car because of today’s tight supply. Their current car had been breaking down, so they had safety concerns, as well as repair bills. The lack of reliable transportation—even to important medical appointments—was nerve-racking. Still, they fretted about “overpaying” for a vehicle that a neighbor had bought for well below list price a year earlier.

It’s clear that ego can influence our buying decisions. This raises some questions that may be helpful to others:

  • Do some of us take such pride in always being smart consumers that we forget that money is only a medium of exchange?
  • Are we so concerned about not getting taken advantage of that we impose unnecessary limits on ourselves?
  • Is our habit of being clever—as opposed to wise—always helpful?
  • Are there situations when we should just accept unfortunate timing and move on with our lives?

Clearly, if any purchase jeopardizes our finances, we should be cautious. That’s just good planning. But if we’re fortunate enough to comfortably afford a purchase, our energy may be better spent being grateful rather than being shrewd customers.

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