Overcoming Cheapness

July 6th, 2009 by Steve Pavlina

For much of my adult life, I didn’t have a lot of money, sometimes less than $100 (cash and bank balances combined). I always seemed to be able to afford the basics of life, and I learned to be very frugal financially, meaning that I got used to being cheap.

I bought cheap food in bulk (I used to eat a lot of ramen noodles). When I needed furniture for my home office, I bought the cheapest particle-board furniture I could find and assembled it myself. I bought cheap shoes from Payless. I got hand-me-downs from relatives.

I wouldn’t always buy the cheapest items available, but I tried to get the best value as I perceived it. I didn’t want to overpay for anything.

This felt good to me in general. I liked that I was conserving cash and making my money last. My needs were adequately met.

Even as my income increased and I could afford better quality, this habit continued for a while.

Reconsidering value

One day I was browsing the bookstore, and I came across a story from Donald Trump. He noted that he used to be very value-conscious (i.e. cheap) like me when buying clothes. That was a long time ago, so I’ll paraphrase the story as best I can remember.

Donald thought it seemed wasteful to spend $1000 on a pair of shoes when a $100 pair was just fine. The same goes for expensive suits. But he could easily afford the more expensive items, so one day he decided to buy a pair of those uber-expensive shoes. To cut to the chase, he found them to be of significantly higher quality in ways that surprised him, so much so that he questioned whether they were perhaps the better value all along.

That story struck a chord in me for some reason. It made me curious. I began to wonder if some of the more expensive items I’d been shunning were actually a better value in the long run.

I had to admit that many of the cheap items I’d bought in accordance with my value-conscious mindset often didn’t last very long. The cheap shoes I bought always wore out in 6-12 months. It was pretty impressive if they lasted a full year. Cheap appliances typically broke within the first few years if I used them regularly, sometimes sooner. I ended up throwing many items away and replacing them. Every year or two I had to buy a new wristwatch. I wondered if those cheap items were intentionally designed to break down after a certain while.

I also considered that there were other areas of my life where I wasn’t as cheap, and I noticed that I got better performance in those areas.

For example, one area where I wasn’t cheap was computer equipment. In college I bought the best PC I could afford, a 486-DX 50mhz with a 250MB hard drive and a Super VGA monitor. I think I paid around $2500 for it (cash, not credit), which was a lot of money for me at the time. I could have spent less than $1000 for an adequate machine. I also splurged for the Borland C++ developer package instead of the much cheaper Turbo C++.

When I did contract work as a game programmer during my final semester of college, all of the computers at the game company were slower than my home PC. Thanks in part to my speedy computer, I programmed four games during college, which were published as a Windows arcade pack shortly after I graduated. Between my contract payments and future royalties, I estimate that I earned about $50 per hour for that programming work, which was very good money for a student. My fast PC more than paid for itself. Had I tried to save money and get a better “value,” it would have probably backfired on me. I wouldn’t have been as productive working from my apartment, so I might have missed out on this opportunity.

As I reflected on my various consumer experiences, I began wondering if I was being too cheap overall. Perhaps I was missing other opportunities by focusing too much on saving money.

Understanding lifetime value

Later in life I began to experiment. I figured I could afford to spend a little more money on the basics, if only to satisfy my curiosity about the difference in quality.

Instead of buying shoes for $30 or less, I bought shoes that were $90+. This meant I could afford shoes that were made without animal-derived materials (Vegetarian Shoes is the brand). Those were the most durable shoes I’ve ever bought. I have a pair of tennis shoes that’s around 4-5 years old now, and I wear them often. They’re starting to look run down, but they’re still in reasonable shape. A pair of $90 sandals I bought at the same time still look almost new. I’ll probably get another 10 years of use out of them if not more.

To my surprise these “extravagant” purchases actually saved me money in the long run. If I stuck with the cheaper options, I’d have gone through 5-10 pairs of tennis shoes and probably a few pairs of sandals by now.

Buying what you truly want vs. compromising

How often do you buy what you really, truly want regardless of price? How often do you compromise and sacrifice what you want to get something cheaper?

What would happen if you stopped fussing over price tags and started buying exactly what you wanted regardless of cost?

When Erin and I moved into our current home two years ago, we bought some new furniture. Instead of going cheap or looking for the best possible value, we decided to identify what we really wanted, regardless of price, and then as long as we could reasonably afford it, we’d buy it. Fortunately it was easy for us to agree on every item, as we seem to have similar tastes in furniture.

We didn’t have limitless cash, so we gave ourselves a furniture budget, and once it was gone, we’d be done buying furniture for a while. If that meant we couldn’t buy all the furnishings we wanted, we were okay with that. We figured we’d rather have less furniture and buy only those items we really wanted instead of filling our home with compromises. We could always buy more furniture later once we replenished our cash.

At one furniture store we bought their most expensive dining room set with a beautiful marble table top. We also bought one of their most expensive bedroom sets with the very best mattress we tested. The commissioned salesman who helped us was practically having an orgasm. We overheard him excitedly telling one of his buddies, “These guys are buying all the most expensive stuff!”

This was the first time we bought the type of furnishings that we really, really wanted — without compromising. If one item was $500 less than a comparable item that seemed a little bit nicer to us, we’d spend the extra money and buy whichever item we liked best, regardless of cost.

We couldn’t afford to furnish our entire home that way without depleting our cash to an uncomfortable level (or going into debt), so we left some areas of our home very sparsely furnished. If we had bought furniture using our old value-driven mindset, we’d have easily been able to furnish and decorate the entire house, but it would have been filled with compromises.

This was a very interesting experience for me. When the furniture was delivered and set up in our home, I noticed that I felt much differently about it vs. how I used to feel about all our old hand-me-down furniture. I felt so appreciative of it. I was very grateful for it. Moreover, I used to hate shopping for furniture (or anything else for that matter), but I absolutely enjoyed that shopping experience. The salesman certainly enjoyed it too. :)

To this day when I sit at our dining room table, I can’t help but notice what a nice table it is. Although we bought it two years ago, I never take it for granted. I still comment to Erin about what a great table it is. This surprises me. I’d have thought that by now, my enthusiasm for this table would have worn off, but it hasn’t. You’d figure I’d be accustomed to it by now. Nope. I feel grateful every time I sit down at it.

The same goes for our bedroom furniture. Our bed is so ridiculously comfortable, and I sleep much better on it. It feels great no matter what position I sleep in. We still have our previous mattress in our guest room (a “value” purchase), and I can’t sleep on it anymore. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I still tell Erin how much I love our new bed even though it isn’t new anymore. When we lie down to go to sleep, I’ll often exclaim, “I love this bed!”

As I mentioned in my previous article, we recently bought some more new furniture. Again, we decided to get what we wanted — no compromising! We went back to that same furniture store (it’s RC Willey if you’re curious) and bought a new couch, some recliner chairs, and some small tables. The couch replaces an old 13-year old couch that was falling apart, and the recliner chairs fill in one of those spots that was essentially vacant for two years. At one point we were trying to decide between two different types of recliners. Recliner A was $400 and was comfortable and definitely suitable. I’d give it an A-. Recliner B was $550, but it was a lot cozier to me. We bought two of Recliner B without giving serious consideration to the price difference. It was the very best recliner we found.

We put these recliners in the sitting area of our master bedroom. I just love them. They’re so comfortable and cozy. I smile whenever I walk past them. The headrest can even be adjusted to two different positions. One position is good for relaxing; the other is good for reading.

Similarly we bought the most expensive three-piece sectional couch that the store carried. I appreciate it whenever I sit in it. Erin and the kids really like it too.

When I used to compromise and go for value purchases, I’d never have these strong feelings of appreciation and gratitude when I got the items home. Why should I be grateful for something I didn’t really want? If the item was just okay but not great, I’d end up taking it for granted. It was just a thing to be possessed.

But when I buy what I really want, regardless of how much it costs, I feel a special connection to the item. It feels good to have it around. It gives rise to feelings of abundance. It feels like a manifestation of my desires, not a consumer purchase.

Enjoying abundance

What do you think it’s like to live in a home that’s filled with stuff you really want? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s wonderful. It feels very abundant. Whenever I walk around my home, it’s like the furniture is broadcasting positive affirmations. “You can fulfill your desires.” “You deserve abundance.” “You are successful.” “Life is good.”

Compare this to living in a place filled with compromises. Mixed messages are broadcast instead. “You’re a person who settles.” “You can’t always get what you want.” “You need to save money.” “You cheap bastard!”

Now, do you think it makes a difference which environment you live in day after day? You bet it does.

When I walk around my home and feel those good feelings, it’s very motivating. My life feels very abundant. I feel more creative. I’m more motivated to make a contribution. When I feel that the universe is supporting me so lovingly, I feel naturally inclined to give back.

The old way was more stressful. My home would feel comfortable but lacking. Instead of enjoying what I had, I secretly wished I could replace it with something better. There was this nagging feeling of incompleteness.

My house isn’t perfect. There’s still some old stuff that gives me mixed feelings here and there, but I’m gradually transitioning away from that, and it feels good to do so.

This experience has made me more understanding of why so many highly successful people have lavishly decorated homes and offices. They’re simply creating and experiencing what they desire — no compromises. When they get what they want, it helps them enjoy a more abundant state of being, whereby they can be more resourceful and creative.

On the other hand, if you live and work in an environment that doesn’t match what you really want, you’re sending yourself a different message. You’re proclaiming that life is limited and that you’re powerless to fulfill your desires. You’re settling for something you don’t really want. Is that going to lead to happiness? No, you’ll always fall short.

Years ago I’d have thought that paying top dollar for the very best was extremely wasteful. I had major issues with people who lived like that. How dare they live in luxury while so many other people don’t even have their basic needs met? What a cruel and wicked thing to do! But now I see it in a totally different light. I recognize that compromise is out of alignment with the principle of Love. It’s not the nature of life to deny your desires, but we always have the power to live in self-denial in accordance with our beliefs. To fully align yourself with the principle of Love, you must figure out what you truly want and give yourself permission to connect with it.

Releasing your blocks to abundance

Does it ever bug you that people who live in the lap of luxury are capable of much greater generosity than you are? (This used to bug me a lot.)

How does it feel knowing that such people can donate millions (sometimes billions) of dollars to charity without sacrificing anything they truly desire?

Can you do that?

Do you know for a fact that such people would have achieved this same level of giving if they denied more of their desires? Do you ever claim they should do without certain luxuries so they can give even more?

Did you ever consider that this type of thinking could be a symptom of your own lack of abundance? Have you ever thought that the ability to give so much may be a result of getting past self-denial and compromise? Is it possible to fulfill all your personal desires and become uber-generous at the same time — no compromising? Is it possible that either-or thinking might be sabotaging you from achieving either of these goals?

Desire is a very personal thing. Be careful not to compare yourself to others. Bill Gates may desire a $40 million mansion, while Warren Buffet is just fine living in a modest home. Obviously they can both easily afford any kind of home on the planet, but their desires are different.

How to afford what you truly want

I suppose the big question you might have is, How can I possibly afford to get what I want?

What if what you want costs a lot more than what you have available to spend?

I’m not suggesting that you go into debt and live beyond your means. Here’s what I do recommend:

Make fewer purchases for starters. When you do make a key purchase, be willing to spend whatever it takes to get what you really want. Buy less stuff, but go for top quality.

Raise your standards for each individual purchase. Ask yourself, “What would I buy if money were no object? What would I buy if I could easily afford anything? What do I actually want, regardless of price?”

Get clear about your true desires. Forget about the price tags for a moment. Admit to yourself what you really want. Stay in that higher vibration of fulfillment and abundance, and stay out of the lower vibration of compromise and scarcity.

Instead of buying three items that are compromises, pool your resources to buy one item that you truly want, and do without the other two items for a while… at least until you can afford what you really want there as well.

Suppose you want to buy a new cell phone. Which phone and plan would you select if you won a contest that guaranteed you any phone you wanted with a lifetime plan of your choice for free?

When you’re thinking about making a purchase, forget about the money at first. Don’t try to determine value in terms of features vs. price. Instead, see if you can identify the very best item in accordance with your desires. If you could snap your fingers and have any item you desire for free, what would it be? Sometimes you’ll pick one of the most expensive items on the market, but other times the item that best fulfills your desires will be a simpler, less expensive model.

How can I afford it?

Once you’ve identified what you really want, then take note of the price. If you can easily afford it, go ahead and buy it. It’s what you want after all. Don’t block yourself. Don’t be a cheapskate. What do you think money is for anyway? Do you think you’ll get more joy out of life by staring at your bank balance?

If affording the desired item seems like it would be a financial challenge, then ask yourself, “How can I afford this?” Is it really out of your league, or is it possible that you could earn it? If you come up with a way to intelligently afford the item, then make it so. Don’t hold yourself back.

Could you afford the item by having a garage sale to get rid of some of your old junk? Could you put in a few more hours at work? Could you pounce on an opportunity that you’ve been dismissing? Could you come up with a way to create and deliver more value, thereby boosting your income? Could you acquire the item creatively, such as by bartering for it.

Do NOT obsess over the price of the item. Do NOT worry about whether or not it’s a good value relative to your income.

Obsess over your desire instead. Hold the intention to acquire the item with ease. Imagine that it’s already yours. Picture yourself enjoying it. Feel grateful for it in advance. Think about how much you’ll appreciate it.

If you do this right and avoid blocking yourself, you’ll find that something rather amazing happens. The money you need may simply show up in your life. A new opportunity may present itself that makes it easy to get the money. The item itself may come into your life through an expected turn of events. The item may go on sale, making it affordable for you.

Be watchful for synchronicities related to the item. Follow them.

Desire acts like a magnet. Once you tune into your desires, allow your desires to manifest. Don’t block yourself by returning to thoughts of scarcity. Don’t assume you can’t have what you want. Don’t think about settling for a less desirable substitute. Know that what you want is already coming to you.

As far as the universe is concerned, there’s no difference between a $10 item and a $10,000 item.  The reason the $10K item seems more difficult to manifest is because of your beliefs. You believe it’s harder to manifest, and so it is.

Start small

Begin with purchases that cause you to stretch a little but which you can easily afford. Start with purchases that aren’t going to make a major dent in your finances.

When you go out to eat, order what you really want, regardless of price. If you want an appetizer, drink, and dessert with your meal, get them. Get used to ordering off a menu without even looking at the prices.

When you go grocery shopping, buy what you actually want, even if it raises your bill a little. Stock your kitchen with the healthiest, tastiest foods you can find. Buy less food if you have to, but don’t settle for cheap junk just to save a few dollars. If you go cheap, you’ll likely be eating lots of wheat-, corn-, and soy-based products with different flavorings added. Avoid phony foods that add natural flavors, artificial flavors, sugars, salt, and coloring to make them look and taste better than the mush they’re really made from. Cheap foods create the illusion of variety, fooling you into eating a very limited and unhealthy diet. Spend more on fresh, organic produce to get real variety. Which items would you buy if you had a pre-paid shopping spree?

Cheap items are cheap for a reason. Quality has been sacrificed to lower the costs, and creative packaging makes it look more valuable than it really is. For example, if you buy regular white vinegar off the shelf in a grocery store (the cheapest vinegar you can get), be aware that you’re buying a product that’s actually made from a coal tar derivative. Use it to clean your house, but don’t put that stuff in your body if you have a modicum of intelligence. The same goes for buying cheap products that include “vinegar” on the label such as the cheap name-brand ketchups and salad dressings. Buy only real food. If you can’t afford to buy real food, grow it yourself for pennies on the dollar.

When buying clothes, go for quality over quantity. Get outfits that are durable, that fit you, and that look good on you, even if you have to pay more for them. If you go cheap, you’ll pay for it in the long run.

If you’ve never shopped for top quality before, it may feel uncomfortable at first. Stick with it. It gets easier over time.

As you gain comfort with small purchases, up the ante a bit. Keep progressing to bigger items. Gradually condition yourself to believe that you can afford anything you want.

Appreciation and gratitude

When you get what you want, receive it with gratitude. Take time to appreciate it. Enjoy it fully.

Give yourself the message that you can have whatever you desire. You just have to identify it and claim it.

This is how to live in harmony with abundance.


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