On Want

February 01, 2015

I keep going back and forth with myself about how much it's ok to want. I get myself totally conflicted about when it's ok to spend money on something I want. I'm pretty good about not wasting small amounts of money on little things I don't need, but where I falter is on those big ticket items.

I buy clothes rarely - a couple times a year, and only when I really need them. When the time rolls around that I do need something - pants, a jacket, shoes - I generally prefer to buy something of high quality that I know I'll be happy with for a long time. I'd prefer to buy prAna pants for $80 once a year than $20 walmart pants multiple times, because I know I wouldn't be as happy with the cheaper item. I justify it by knowing that not worrying about fit, quality, or features (like stretchiness for climbing) will make me happier over time, and because of increased quality and happiness, I won't need, or want, to buy more for a long time. Even so, I get conflicted, because I know that there is the option to spend a quarter of the money and get something sufficient, if not the best. So in my head I go back and forth arguing about which side should win. Maybe the best option, really is also the most efficient, so it's not bad to spend more. Maybe not.

I've done this three times in the past year that I bought clothes - once for pants, once for running shoes, and once for a winter jacket.

I do the same thing with bigger items, even if they're so big they're basically dreams. I've dreamt for a long time about owning an electric vehicle. I've dreamt time and time again about owning a Tesla. I love that it doesn't run on gasonline, has zero emissions, and is in general just an incredible vehicle - not to mention the fact that it's an American made car, and is helping push forward technology to something more sustainable. I even went so far as to test drive one. I know that I can't afford a tesla in the next 5 years, and maybe never. I want to have a house and kids some day, and starting off my adult life with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt just doesn't lend well to that (especially when my wife is a teacher, and she gets paid a third what she should, for how hard she works, and how important her job is).

I've hedged letting go of my Tesla dreams by hoping and dreaming they'll release a "consumer" model, that is more affordable, but I'm slowly letting those hopes go away, as the second model they have announced gets pushed back and back each quarter. I also realize that even if they do release a consumer version, it'll be scaled down, not quite as awesome as the Model S, and still relatively expensive ($30k minimum, by most estimates, and that's still a lot of money to spend on a car).

Letting that go, I've started thinking about alternatives. I still love the idea of helping push forward (voting with my wallet, if you will) the tech of electric vehicles, supporting an American startup, and having a more eco option than a gas car. A Zero motorcycle has come to fit those requirements. It's more affordable, it's America made, it gets plenty of range to fit all of my commuting needs, and it's really really cool. It's fun to ride, and boy do I love riding motorcycles. I miss my Shadow (but I don't miss the maintenance that came with it - bonus, electric motorcycles require a tenth of the maintenance of a conventional motorcycle).

So, "awesome," right? I have great credit, so I could finance it, I can afford the monthly payment, it would reduce my montly gas bill, help reduce my carbon footprint, and I would enjoy riding it so much. But... do I need it? Not really. I can also afford the gas that I would save by having it. My car runs well, without much maintenance required (albeit some), and I have so much. I have plenty of room in my apartment, I have some of my own climbing gear, I have more than enough clothes, a computer and internet access, always enough food. I have a dog and a car; a TV, an iPhone and an iPad; a nice bicycle, books to read, games to play.

Why do I need this? I don't. It would be nice. It would be fun. It would be awesome. But I don't need it. I want it. It has benefits, but it's really just that - I want it. It would be a luxury. So do I deserve it? I work hard. Not as hard as some. Harder than others. I make decent money, but I have a lot of debt. Despite that debt, I've never missed or struggled to make a payment, and I have excellent credit. So should I reward myself? Have I rewarded myself enough?

Have I earned it? What does that even mean? I donate to charity and I volunteer. I work hard and I'm always honest. I try to be a good person. I try to help those who need it, and give back to the communities that benefit me. I work with my wife to give her what she wants, too. But have I earned it? I don't know. If I pay for it, is that enough? I'm still in debt, so it's not like I've saved enough to get it outright.

Should I set aside this dream and reward and keep saving and waiting patiently for the future dreams, like climbing in new places, traveling with my wife, having children and retiring, instead? How valuable is the happiness of my 20's? Right now, pretty valuable, I guess. In 20 years, will I wish I'd saved more, or will I look back in fondness, glad that I enjoyed myself?

Why do I want this? There are plenty of really compelling reasons, things that make it much more than just a fun thing. But sometimes I wander - why do I always want, and will this be enough? Will the next thing? Sometimes I hate being human.