The Good Feeling Doesn’t Last

Posted on November 26, 2007 by Eric 
Filed Under Psychology, Reflection

Who doesn’t need a solid gold A/C knob?  C’mon!I heard this great quote the other day. It really spoke to me and describes how I’ve felt about new cars and many other purchases.

The quote is from Professor Barry Schwartz. He’s talking about the feelings we get when we purchase something we’ve desired for a long time. You know, the stuff we believe is the “absolute best”. In this case, it’s a Mercedes convertible:

The good feeling doesn’t last. We get used to having the Mercedes.
It’s spectacular. It’s better than sex the first week.
It’s better than a meal at a great restaurant the second week.
It’s pretty damn good the third week.
And after that it’s just your car.

To me, this spoke volumes. This quote has to do with a lot more than just cars!

Imagine, if you will, how much more you could save if you had just bought a car instead of a fancy car with all the trimmings, especially when the good feeling usually fades. Is spending thousands of dollars more to get that car you’ve been dreaming about worth it when, in the end, it’s really just going to become “a car”?

To some folks, it may very well be, and I see no problem with that. If it’s been your dream to own a Mercedes, and you honestly feel it’s a smart financial decision, then it’s important to try and realize your dreams. I know Melissa still loves the knives she has even though she could have gotten cheaper versions for the same job. Perhaps they aren’t as exciting now as they were at one point, but she still loves her knives, babies them, and they are critically important for her cooking.

I think the moral of the story here has more to do with keeping in mind that something that may seem exotic or unattainable, or something you’ve attached a lot of desire to, can become mundane after a short time. Personally, I’ve had this feeling with regards to things other than cars. My first DVD player I went all out and got a very expensive model that could take two DVDs at once and had a lot of features that I thought would make for a crisper picture. In the end, I’d probably have been just as happy with a plain jane model. I would have saved a lot of money, too. It didn’t really play movies any better than the cheaper DVD players.

You have to do what’s right for you, but I think the next time I consider an expensive purchase that I’ll think whether or not it’s worth the money to get the bells and whistles (or prestige) in the long term, not just the short term. That will come in handy as we continue to find more things we need for the new house.

Image Source: Mike Babcock


13 Responses to “The Good Feeling Doesn’t Last”

  1. Brip Blap on November 26th, 2007 9:33 pm

    That’s pretty much consumerism in a nutshell, isn’t it? Even a nice set of dishes is more than we NEED. That clever pattern that looked nice in the store ends up just being another plate to wash a few months later.

    I wish I could harness that thought process and control my present self, but I’m like everyone else – I really hope that next purchase will be IT! The purchase that, this time, really makes me HAPPY! It’s never the purchases that do it, though, with a couple of very minor exceptions… for example, the Moleskine I bought is still worth it :)

  2. Elizabeth on November 26th, 2007 11:46 pm

    Interesting article, Eric. Honestly, I can think of more examples where I later regret not “buying up” than examples of things I’ve bought and later regretted. I love my iPod Nano and use it in one form or another almost every day but I underestimated how quickly I would fill it. Which reminds me of another Apple purchase I made and should have “bought up.” I bought an Apple Mini and figured there was no need to pay more for the version that would right as well as read DVDs. I was wrong.

    I guess there’s a line somewhere between buying something with enough room for growth and not buying something you’ll never use.

  3. Elizabeth on November 26th, 2007 11:48 pm

    Oops. Meant I wished my Apple mini would WRITE as well as read DVDs. ;-)

  4. plonkee on November 27th, 2007 6:18 am

    A lot of my purchases for my house actually improve my happiness for quite a while. I love having things that match and real colour schemes, and I try to make every little purchase fit into my overall plan.

    Thinking about it, I should probably put this mentality to use elsewhere in my life.

  5. Eric on November 27th, 2007 9:04 am

    @BripBlap – It is definitely the definition of consumerism. I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent. And as you point it out, it’s not all bad. I still appreciate my TiVo even though it’s certainly *not* something I *need*.

    @Elizabeth – I definitely see reason to buy up if you think you will use it. To me, it’s going to come down to how much more it will cost, and how much I will use it. Nothing is ever black and white.

    @Plonkee – We did the same thing in our house. We bought a more expensive refrigerator so that it would match the appliances in the house. If we had bought something that didn’t match at all, it would have affected how we felt about the kitchen because we would have always noticed it. So in order to make that purchase better, we searched for the best price, and got the most reliable fridge we could. There are times when it makes sense to buy up, or to buy something for less than purely functional purposes. To me, as long as you don’t let the emotions completely rule it in lieu of logic, then hopefully you understand why you are making the purchase. To some extent, it’s another extension of living more aware.

  6. Jen on November 27th, 2007 4:01 pm

    The trick is to rent a car every week for a day or two. If your work rental isn’t as nice as your regular car, your regular car stays amazing day in & day out.

    I have noticed though, that my favorite shirt is only my favorite until I get a new one, then its just an old shirt.

  7. David Dunn on November 27th, 2007 4:34 pm

    Yeah I’d tend to agree with a lot of what this post has to say. However, I’d still probably purchase a car like an SLR or a Ferrari as it has always been a dream of mine.

    Obviously that will be WHEN I become a millionaire :D

  8. Eric on November 27th, 2007 9:15 pm

    @Jen – I didn’t think about renting until you mentioned it. That’s a good idea! I actual remembered, after you jogged the memory, that a friend of mine did this (not every week, but once on a business trip). He decided after renting the car that he had been researching that it wasn’t worth it and stuck with his current car. Good suggestion!

    @David – Have you maybe tried Jen’s suggestion and rented one of those first? If it’s a dream, and you really want one, then saving up for it might make sense. I think I’d want to be a pentamillionaire before I’d buy a Ferrari or an SLR but I sure would like one. Maybe one day…

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  10. Mrs. Micah on December 4th, 2007 10:21 am

    I saw Ratatouille on our honeymoon, right after getting some nice knives as a wedding present. I think that inspired me and helped me love them more.

    Most of the time, though, I grow into a purchase.

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  13. Eric on December 7th, 2007 10:15 pm

    @Mrs. Micah – Certain tools, like kitchen knives. are worth a little extra money if you’re going to use them regularly. Did you get some particularly good knives for a wedding present? I think Melissa got some of hers for wedding presents as well.


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