MoneyTracker Tip: The “IT’S ONLY SYNDROME” impact on your Budget

Have you ever noticed how many times you say “It’s only” during your personal financial buying decisions? Notice what that money  amount is that fits in the “only” section. Is it under five dollars?  Is it under $50? Does it depend on the purchase? Recently, I just heard “It’s only $10,000” .  For some people perspective can be a matter of the number of  zeros!

 There’s nothing wrong with the phrase “it’s only”, however, be aware that on some subconscious level, these words are triggering a flow of other thoughts, emotions and reactions. Consider the following:

 “Permission” – Because the cost of the item is below some magical dollar number you believe is expensive, this “only” amount may set up a permission to spend without your usual discretion during buying decisions. 

 “Dismissal” –Somewhere in your mind this figure seems so insignificant that it doesn’t warrant the usual evaluation and comparison used for other spending decisions.  

Myopic” – Granted $50 or $20 or even one five dollar bill by itself may not be significant at the moment when making a buying decision.  However, this is the catch. Are you keeping the bigger financial picture in mind in terms of the budgeted needs for that pay period, that month or the next few months?  When that “it’s only” dollar amount is factored in with all the other fixed and variable and upcoming expenses and priorities, does that item still hold the same sense of bargain value as before?

 Would that $50 spent on some “it’s only” bargain have served you better if it was applied to some credit card balance, or the outstanding dentist bill or deposited in your emergency savings account to help your overall budget?

 Is your financial situation flush enough that you can easily manage these extra lattes, electronic downloads, pair of bargain shoes without even having to think about the cost? And if so, in the expanded view ( a few years of spending this way) could those amounts have better served you if they had been directed toward some assets, retirement, or emergency savings?

 This concept is not directed as much at those super bargains that come along at the right time, and do often make sense to buy if you have been monitoring the prices for a long time for something you’ve really needed or wanted.   Instead, I’m talking about being aware of a very subtle mental and emotional distinction.

Next time you use the expression “It’s only”, when hearing or seeing some particular  price tag, notice if there is a sense of permission, dismissal or myopic thinking. Just notice. 

3 Responses

  1. judylawrence

    Sounds like a great way to make more meals at home and spend less money eating out.

  2. Katelyn A. Ratliff

    When asked why they are offering this refund, Amazon customer service has given several different reasons, the most common is problems with content. THERE IS NO PROBLEM WITH THE CONTENT OF BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and it makes no sense for them to encourage a refund for a book that has already been read and enjoyed 6 months later, but that is the only information I have for now.

    • judylawrence

      Katelyn, you just never know what the real story is behind some decisions. Plus consumers have their share of asking for refunds in situations that make no sense. Ahh, human nature is always fascinating.