I have a friend who thinks the more expensive an item is, the better it must be. Her perceived value is forged by advertisers, marketers, and in part, it has to do with the way she was raised. She is the type who will shop at the grocery store and pick the most expensive jar of peanut butter because she figures it must be the best. She researches nothing and does the same thing with clothes, insurance companies, cars, shoes, and electronics. She is what makes the consumerism train roar ahead at full speed. Marketers love her because she can be easily swayed and her mind can be molded like a fresh piece of clay. If she just did a little research before making buying decisions she would save SO much money. I have been telling her this for years with no effect. I just can’t convince her to change her ways.

Example: The $500 Coach Handbag

Some people perceive that a Coach handbag bought for $500 is a better value than a $25 handbag bought at Target. Their perception is based on the handbag being a status symbol they can show off to their friends as well as to strangers that pass them by in the shopping mall. Some consumers are willing to pay a premium for items that carry the perception that they are the “best” money can buy. My take is that they both carry my stuff, and neither have holes in the bottom. Why would I want to buy more than what is reasonably needed? This concept is lost on so many people who are struggling with debt and wondering why they can never get ahead. Look at your lifestyle, you may not be to the extreme of the $500 handbag, but you probably pay $50-70 a month on cable, buy $3.50 cups of coffee, or spend $75 a month for cell phone services.

I especially find the premium for concert tickets an interesting example. Growing up, I can’t remember how many times I sat in the Bob Uecker nose-bleed section, looking down on the people in the first few rows, and said to myself, “Man, I wish I could afford those seats”. My perception was that those seats would increase my happiness. Today, I am content with the seats I have in life. I have realized that wishing I was in somebody else’s seat only detracts from my current happiness. Not worth it! Live within your means, find the real value in “stuff”, and sleep well at night.