Rob Stock: The toxic allure of 'better'

Rash spending can prove toxic for your finances.

Rash spending can prove toxic for your finances.

OPINION: I've had my eye on a lovely, shiny "poisons" cabinet for the garage for months.

My poisons, toxins and noxious substances are stored out of reach of the kids in a large plastic crate.

How much better the garage would look, if they were stored in a shiny cabinet.

Better. Everybody struggles with better because it is so hard to tell false better from real better.

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Deep down, I know the shiny cabinet isn't worth it. The amount of "better" I will get for my $300 just isn't enough.

People are hard-wired to want better.

We want to improve our lots in life, and our living spaces.

It's a force that drives us to strive, and to shop, often recklessly. It can prove toxic to personal finances.

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The false forms of better are all about us.

In its most extreme form, it is ludicrous. I read recently about the launch of designer nappies so hipsters' babies can look as hipster as their parents.

Often, it doesn't seem so outright silly.

Better is putting waterproof speakers in the shower. It's upgrading the car every three years. It's mag-wheels. It's a new car stereo. It's refusing to drink the free coffee in the office kitchen and instead treating yourself to cafe coffee each day.

It's another pair of shoes. It's the paleo diet. It's the unnecessary extra present at Christmas. It's the magazine-ready home. It's a $45 haircut. It's a barber shave. It's the 22nd Beanie Boo your daughter owns.

Undeniably, better-looking nappies make for mildly more eye-friendly babies.

There is a modest betterment from being able to hear Sia sing Chandelier in the shower than trying to hit the top notes yourself.

But there is another form of better. Actually, it is a better form of better.

It's called savings.

Having money is better than not having any.

Having a debt-free home is better than having a mortgaged one.

Having the choice to work less, retire early or tell your boss you won't do something unethical, is better than the alternative.

The false forms of better can easily crowd out the better forms of better.

Now to tips for distinguishing false better from real better.

I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers. I'm prone to putting off buying something until it is well overdue.

I once went a year before replacing a broken fridge, though in my defence it was before the kids were born. I get called mean sometimes (horror).

In my humble opinion, real better has these characteristics.

It brings a deep, calming happiness rather than a shopping-thrill kind of rush.

It doesn't rob future you of comfort, stability and choice.

It's about keeping up with your plan, not your neighbours.

And each year ends with you wealthier and closer to independence than you started it.


- Resist the allure of false better

- Identify frivolous spending

- Never judge your spending by others' values

 - Stuff

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