Have you ever bought something and justified your purchase because you “deserved it”? Worse yet, have you ever gone on vacation under the guise that you work really hard so you deserve it?
I was guilty of using this line of thinking back in high school and college, but thankfully, now I know better.
Spending with the justification that you “deserve it” is a dangerous place to be in. Using the vacation example, you can easily see it will get you into trouble. Most people work hard. Most people want to go on vacation. Most people deserve to go on vacation. This has nothing to do with whether you should go on vacation. So, the title of this post is slightly misleading – you probably do deserve to go on vacation. The problem is that just because you deserve it, doesn’t mean you should go.
Let’s explore what it means to deserve something.
What It Means “To Deserve”
“Deserve” means that because of actions, merit is due. So, if you take a test and get all of the answers right, you deserve a 100%. Similarly, if you are paid $20/hr and you work 20 hours, you deserve to be paid $400. This breaks down to the following equation: If you do A, then you deserve B.
The Logic Behind This thinking
This logic is similar to what they teach for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).
Equation: IF A, THEN B. IF you work A, THEN you are paid B.
What is NOT true
IF you work A, THEN you should go on vacation.
You’re missing an additional equation.
What is true
Equation 1: IF you work A, THEN you are paid B. (If A, then B.)
Equation 2: IF you earn enough money, THEN you can afford to go on vacation. (If C, then D.)
See how these are two completely separate equations? Your equation regarding what you deserve to be paid for working is “If A, then B”. And your equation for going on vacation is “If C, then D”. When you say “Because I worked really hard, I am going on vacation”, you’re essentially saying “IF I work hard, THEN I should go on vacation”. This is “If A, then D”, which is not true.
So, why do we say “If A, then D” if that equation isn’t true? The answer is that we feel entitled.
What Happens When You Justify Your Spending: The Entitlement Attitude
“Entitlement” means that you have a right to something. It’s feeling owed something. In my current example, because you work hard, you feel owed a vacation.
The problem is that you cannot pay for vacation by the hard work that you’ve done. If you could buy your plane ticket and book your hotel by showing how hard you worked, then this equation would work. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You go on vacation by paying for vacation. Whether you should go on vacation is determined by whether you can afford it, not whether you deserve it.
So, spending under the justification that you “deserve it” leads to problems because it doesn’t look at whether you can actually afford what it is you’re buying. Over time, you could get your finances in a mess if you spend based on what you think you deserve.
How To Change
If you are someone who makes purchases with the justification that you deserve it, you can change.
To change your habit of justifying your purchases because you think you deserve them, do the following:
- Acknowledge your “I deserve it” justification as soon as you have it.
- Do not purchase whatever it is you were going to buy.
It’s that simple (notice I did not say easy). After you begin acknowledging that you purchase things based on the rationale that you deserve them, you’ll begin to think about money differently. Instead of buying things that you think you deserve, you’ll begin to buy things based on whether you can afford them. After doing this, it will become a habit. Before you know it, you’ll think about your purchases based on the money you have, not based on how you feel.