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Rational Or Rationalized: When Is It Okay To Buy Something?

by Gip Plaster on November 29th, 2011

Sometimes, buying things is genuinely necessary. That’s hard for a frugal minimalist simpleton like me to accept, but it’s true. In a consumerist world, when is it okay to join the herd and buy some things?

When something important breaks or wears out, buying a new one may be a necessity. And it may not be. It may be good idea to replace things that aren’t yet faulty too. But how can you decide if you’re being rational or just rationalizing?

Food Storage Containers And Crock-Pots And Things

I’d like some new food storage containers and a new slow cooker. While I’m not raking in the big bucks or even always bringing in enough writing income to make ends me, I sometimes have a few extra dollars in the bank. And I’ve delayed replacing some things that need to be replaced.

As I told you in last week’s post about “letting things go” meaning two things, I’ve been a bit of slacker recently, at least in relation to household cleaning, maintenance and decluttering.

Careless, reckless spending saps the soul from a life, and I need all the sap I can maintain. So am I justified in replacing a few things around the house that need replacing but still function fairly well?

Our old plastic food storage containers are scratched and stained, and since we no longer use a dishwasher, glass ones would be easier to wash. I’m also concerned how sanitary the old plastic ones are. When leftover food molds in a plastic container, can you ever really get it clean? The glass containers are a bit expensive and also not completely necessary since the ones I have still work, but would they be a good idea?

My Crock-Pot, as another example, only hold three quarts and the plastic lid is starting to crack, so isn’t it justified to buy a more modern one with a glass lid and a size that makes it easier to actually make a meal in it? Still, the one I have works fine.

Being Rational vs. Rationalizing

Making a purchase has very little to do with whether you have enough money to do it or not. If you don’t have money, you shouldn’t spend, but spending money when you don’t have to or need to is reckless. We all do at least a little careless spending, however, and we all lose a bit ourselves when we do.

Deciding when spending is necessary means reaching a mental compromise between rationalizing and being rational.

Being rational is doing something in accordance with reason or logic. Rationalizing is attempting to explain or justify something with plausible reasons, whether the reasons are true or not.

Deciding you need a new washing machine because the one you have doesn’t work is being rational. Deciding you need a new washing machine and then listing out all the small flaws with the one you have as justification for the expense is rationalization. But what if your washing machine makes a small noise and the spinning sometimes doesn’t turn off. Would buying a new one then be rational or rationalized?

I don’t think spending money for the sake of spending it is an intelligent idea, no matter how much of it you have. Do you?

Here’s a bigger question though: Is most of your spending rational, rationalized or simply reckless?

I think it’s okay to replace things even if they have a little life left in them, but as each new item comes in, its predecessor needs to go out. Keeping something in case you need it when it has been replaced by a newer model is hoarding and cluttering, and those are very bad ideas.

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10 Comments
  1. Megyn @Minimalist Mommi permalink

    Wow, this is PERFECT timing! We too are considering buying something although it is not absolutely necessary and the current one we own is not broken. However, I also hate to look at the thing & often want to take a bat to it. I can’t decide if it’s more rational to such up the horrible aesthetics and lack of comfort to save a few bucks or spend a couple bucks to get something we love! In this case, I’m talking about our sofa. We found an Ikea sofa we love and even found the same one we want on Craig’s List for about a $200 savings overall. I figure with the money I just raised selling my silver coins, a pet-sitting gig I picked up over Thanksgiving, and what we could sell the old sectional for, it should even out; thus not spending any of our savings. I’m unsure of what to do!

    In your case, you could justify the glass with the fact that it will last longer and is generally safer than plastic. To save money, you can also just re-use glass jars that other foods come in. We’ve done that, and it’s worked out just fine!

    Overall, I’m a rational spender with moments of rationalizing spending. When I have rare reckless shopping trips, I tend to return the majority, if not all, that I buy.

    Such a great, thoughtful post!!!
    Megyn @Minimalist Mommi recently posted Victory Is…

    • Something like a sofa is used so frequently that a bad or ugly one can really impact your life. I could easily justify a new sofa. Ours is in terrible condition. From what I’ve seen of IKEA sofas, I’d be concerned about the quality, however. I like their prices, but I’ve never seen a sofa there that seemed to be very good quality.

      I tend to momentarily regret any large spending spree, but I rarely return anything unless it’s broken or bad.

      I think the key is to think about what you’re doing. If you still want a sofa after lengthy consideration and you can afford it, then you might as well do it.

      Gip

  2. Hey Gip,

    You always have some great perspectives. OK, I’ll stop massaging your ego now.

    Seriously though, it’s good to think about spending and purchases in a rational way. It’s also smart to get yourself in replacement mode. Many older items can be sold to get your “deposit” for the newer item. If not you can donate them to keep them out of the landfill loop. We forget that we can replace items this way…keeping them for posterity, does us no good.

    Want to rationalize? Apply the 30 day rule to every non food purchase? Do I really need this item? After 30 days…boom you know the answer.

    Simple rule…item in, item out. I actually try to get rid of two items for every item I get.

    I also still look for a quality used option. Recent example I needed a gas can but didn’t want plastic. I went to the army surplus store and got one that will last me “forever” for $25. You can probably use Freecycle or Kijiji to find the items you need. No purchase money needed.
    simply stephen recently posted simply show up and your efforts will count

    • The 30-day rule and always looking for a used option are both very good ideas. Thanks for commenting on this neglected blog post. Either everyone’s away for the hloidays or this post just doesn’t make sense to some people. I think it’s important nonetheless.

      Gip

      • Gip…you’re always worried about how many comments you get. I think you do well with them and you even get threads going. I’ve had a couple tech issues and my comments have dropped off the face of the earth!

        Everyone seems to have the crux here “owning what you need” with nothing more and nothing less. I always find a replacement home for old items when a new one comes in! Taking extra time to find the “right item” is so worth it.
        simply stephen recently posted keeping your holiday green and simple

        • I should probably stop worrying about comments. I do wonder, however, why some posts get lots of comments and others don’t. Sometimes, I’m sure the content is involved and other times I hope it’s just the timing. When the people who usually comment don’t comment, I wonder if they didn’t like it. I’m probably too attached to outcomes though…
          Gip

  3. Robert Wall permalink

    Regarding the glass containers, if they have rubberized lids (as opposed to glass ones) I’ve found that the lids develop cracks over time and no longer provide an airtight seal. Replacement lids aren’t available, so instead of throwing away a $0.50 plastic container you’re contemplating pitching a $8 glass one.

    I use this brand http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/item.aspx?itemid=24843&catid=574 They’re available at the local hardware store for $2 a pack, the lids from the pint, 1.5 pint, and quart size are all interchangeable, and they’re pretty durable.

    And get a crock pot with a glass lid, definitely. 🙂 I have a cheap 5-quart with a glass lid and a manual dial (not electronic). I had to replace the handle on the lid when it broke off; I replaced it with a $1 bolt and nut combo from the hardware store. 🙂

    I think one of the big questions that determines whether you’re being rational or rationalizing is whether or not you felt the need for the purchase before you knew about the replacement product.

    If you see something at the store and say “yeah, my existing (product) is junk”, but you never complained about your existing product before, you’re likely rationalizing.

    By the same token, if you’re complaining every time you have to use your crock pot because the lid is melted, it might make sense to get another one.

    Another interesting question is the matter of replacing a part or the whole. Sometimes you can replace one part for substantially less than the whole unit (like my crock pot lid, for instance). If you’re not wanting to do that, why? Is it because you want something shiny and new, or is it because the new model really provides enough extra value to be worth it?

    Lots of questions to think about. 🙂 Great post Gip!

    • Great comments, Robert. Thanks! I’m sure I’m also supposed to be worried about what chemicals are getting into my food from the plastics, but I’m not really. I’m sure Gladware containers or the Ziploc equivalent are just fine too. I have several of those that work fine.

      I think I’ll get the new Crock-Pot and replace my aging plastic containers with… new plastic containers!

      Gip

  4. I wasn’t neglecting this post, Gip. I just discovered it, recovering from a week of connectivity issues.

    There’s nothing wrong with replacing or upgrading things that really need it. You just have to be sure you are being honest with yourself as to the reason(s) and the cost vs benefit of the replacement or upgrade.

    WIth your crock pot, for example – I’m sure you could just replace the lid (maybe evn upgrading to a glass lid), but you also mention that the size is not correct for the dishes you’d like to prepare in it. In that case, maybe a whole new one is worthwhile.

    The ultimate goal should be owning just what you need – nothing more, and, just as important, but often forgotten, nothing less.
    Mike | Homeless On Wheels recently posted Invisible Shoes: Minimalist Footwear Review And Comparison

  5. You’re exactly right about nothing LESS. Thanks for commenting.

    Comments on this blog always seem to slow down at predictable times of the year, but it’s nice that I can count on some of you to offer your thoughts.

    Gip

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