This is a review my own condensed notes of the book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.
She is the Professor of Social Psychology at the University of British Columbia, he is the Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and together they merged psychology and money, with the aim of answering the question: how to buy happiness.
I’ve tracked my expenses for many years. This means I log the amount plus some notes in one of 13 categories after every purchase. One of those categories is simply called ‘Misc Wants’ – ie things I didn’t strictly need, but simply wanted.
‘Misc Wants’ is kind of like that random drawer in your house, the one you just chuck random stuff in. Unlike ‘Misc Needs’ – another expense category meant to track things I really did need at the time – purchases under ‘Misc Wants’ tend to be more varied in motivation. I could be bored, stressed, sad, excited, depends. As long as they’re ‘technically unnecessary purchases’, I lump it in there.
In this article, I’m going to share with you some of my ‘Misc Wants’ purchases. I’m looking at data all the way from June 2014 (I have earlier data, but not as comprehensive). As I’m writing this in August 2018, that’s more than four years’ worth of data.
If you’re a regular reader here at Ringgit Oh Ringgit, you know that I share my monthly expenses every. single. month.
The reason why I prefer expense tracking rather than budgeting is simple: it just works ridiculously well for me. All I have to do is record all my expenses and suddenly my financial life is just better, more organised, data-driven.
I don’t have to stress about keeping my expenses in one particular category under a certain amount, because I know that as long as it averages out okay in the bigger picture, I’m good.
(Example: Buying groceries in bulk will increase my groceries expenses in that month but lower them in subsequent months.)
Look up any commentary or news piece about poor Malaysians and the (sad) state of our finances, and you can find discussions about our self-control. Apparently, some of us lack self-control so much that we simply can’t help buying all the H&M clothes and trying out all the Starbucks drinks against our better judgement. That, said the commentators, is the reason why many of us complain too much about the cost of living, so stop complaining and just buy less lah!
This shallow reasoning makes me angry.
Are we simply going to ignore decades worth of behavioural economics research that is used to influence our purchasing behaviour and habits? Or do we just not take into account thousands of people employed in big companies whose jobs is to develop and execute sales, advertisement and marketing strategies?
And you expect me, a mere individual, to be able to resist all these combined efforts and temptations, 100% of the time? And tell me I lack willpower?
I’m a personal finance blogger. I am NOT a personal finance advisor. Have to make this clear, because the former is (too-err-is-to) human while the latter is a collective of best practices taught in an educational setting.
In this post, I thought of a way to show you guys that I make stupid decisions when it comes to finances too: I’ll show you my own. Hopefully you’ll show me yours in the comment, make me feel a bit less stupid.
Here are some stupid purchases I’ve made between January to June 2017.
But I’ve never written a post-Raya spending post-mortem, so that’s what I’m going to do. 2017 was my first Raya where money wasn’t an issue, so I was curious how it compared to previous Raya spending experiences. This is what I spent on this year.