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The “Wow” Factor: Do You Overpay For It?


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One of the great things about buying new gadgets and toys is that you get to show it off, right? All around me people are buying a new iPhone, iPad, and other things that begin with “i.” I hear the words “my new <insert your favorite gadget here>” all the time.

Suppose I bought a brand new car and then went to each of my co-workers and asked them to come down and see it. They might say something like “Wow, David! That’s a cool car! Congratulations, you deserve it!” This would make me feel good…for about a day or so. Once the “newness” wears off, I might start to regret spending so much money on something I didn’t necessarily need.

I’m not saying that it’s bad or wrong to buy nice things, but if you’re buying them to impress others or to boost your ego, there are some fundamental flaws in those motives:

1) Ego boosts are short lived – You get only one “WOW” from each person you know; rarely does someone come back to you a second time and say “You know that thing you bought a week ago, it’s awesome!” Very soon you’ll be left wanting to buy something else to get another reaction…it’s a never-ending cycle.

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2) Things go obsolete quickly – It’s great that you were the first person on your block to get the iPad, but the next model comes out around Christmas time. Can you always be the first person that gets everything?

3) Your neighbor has a bigger one – That 48 inch big screen is awesome for football games, but when everyone goes to John’s house to watch the game because he’s got a 52 inch 1080p high-definition TV with “NFL Sunday Ticket,” you’ll be left feeling inadequate.

4) Clothes go out of style – This one’s for the ladies. Keeping up with the latest fashions can be very expensive. How often do you wear that $199 jacket or carry that pink leather purse (or handbag)? When the items are out of fashion, they get demoted to the closet, sometimes forever.

5) People don’t stay impressed for long – The term “yesterday’s news” applies to your purchase, whatever it is, no matter how much you spent on it. It’s not worth spending a ton of money to impress your family and friends, who might secretly be thinking you’re wasting your money.

Do you really want to impress someone? How about giving them the money! That’s right, figure out how much the item costs, then divide that by the number of people you intend to show it to, and give the money to them for no reason whatsoever. How long would they talk about that!

Okay, all kidding aside, we need to realize that it’s not worth the “wow” factor to spend money in order to impress others. Most of the time, the purchase eventually gets stuffed in the closet after it looses the desired effect. The problem becomes an even bigger issue when you’re taking on debt to pay for your purchase.

Dave Ramsey, author of the bestselling book, “The Total Money Makeover,” puts it this way: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Fortunately, there are many ways to impress people for free just by being a person of character.

Impress Others With Your Character and Thought

1) Underpromise and overdeliver – Instead of telling people what you “will” do for them and fail to do it, instead do something for them that they don’t expect at all.

2) Plan all the details of an event – Instead of sitting back and enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor, be the one who “took care of it all.”

3) Bring things others might need – If you were about to help someone move out, bring some water or extra boxes.

4) Say the thing everyone else is thinking – At meetings or group gatherings, an awkward moment can arise and no one speaks up. Be bold and say what’s on everyone’s minds; they will be glad you did!

5) Point out something personal about yourself – This is being humble and trusting. When you’re an open book and have nothing to hide, people respect you and are impressed by you.

Or why not kill two birds with one stone and impress others while making significant accomplishments in your personal life?

Impress and Inspire Others While Accomplishing Personal Goals

1) Paying off your mortgage – After you make your last payment on your house, throw a huge party and invite everyone. Make a ceremony out of it and burn the mortgage loan papers into dust and embers. Then, announce to everyone that you are without question, 100% debt-free.

2) Renew your marriage vows – Celebrate 10, 20, 25, or 50 years of marriage with your spouse with a vow renewal. Let everyone around you know that marriage is hard work, but it is worth all the effort.

3) Retire early – After paying off the mortgage, build some wealth. After you have reached your target nest egg, transition from your day job into something else that’s more enjoyable for you. Early retirement doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at home all day. To me, it means living a life of purpose, enjoyment, and giving back.

A life well-lived will have truly have everyone saying “Wow!” for a long time.

So tell me, do you buy more than you need to impress others? When someone tries to impress you, are you genuinely impressed?

(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)


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David Bibby currently lives in Palm Bay, FL with his wife Catherine and two daughters. David is a Christian, writer, and programmer. He became interested in personal finance at age 20 while working for a credit union. He owns and operates numerous websites on topics ranging from finances to marriage help.