One of my fond memories from growing up was eating at my grandmother’s house. She made the best homemade noodles and homemade bread I have ever had. She was one of those cooks who made things by simply tossing in a little of this and a little of that and intuitively just knew what to do. Sadly, most of her “recipes” died with her.
Most of us have those comfort foods that take us back to a happy time from our past. For some, it’s a big pot of home-made macaroni and cheese. Or, perhaps it’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or maybe a package of oreos or a big pot of chili on a cold wintery day. We all have certain foods that we love as much for the feelings they give us as for the actual taste and nutrition they provide.
I was thinking about the idea of comfort foods the other day and the emotions they elicit in us and it occurred to me that sometimes we use spending to fill a very similar role.
If I’m feeling a little down or I’m upset about something, those comfort foods make me feel better.
But I also know in the past I have used a trip to Best Buy for a very similar effect.
There is a short-term rush that we get from buying something we think we want.
- The boss chews us out when it wasn’t even our fault and we stop by the mall on the way home and buy something to soothe our frustration.
- A friend lets me down and a few “1-click”‘s on Amazon.com and the pain starts to fade.
- The trip I was looking forward to gets cancelled, so I find a way to “treat” myself.
I call it comfort spending. We try to medicate our hurt with stuff.
The problem with comfort spending
There’s a problem with comfort food though. Generally speaking, comfort food isn’t that healthy. Maybe there are a few of you reading this who look on carrot sticks and bran muffins as your comfort food, but I’m betting there aren’t many of you.
While that loaf of warm Italian bread might make me feel good while I eat it, if I indulge in a steady diet of my comfort food, my waistline will suffer the effects. Ultimately, if taken to extremes, my health will suffer from my attempt to cheer myself up with my comfort foods and I will regret my choices.
The same thing happens when we buy stuff to make us feel better. In the short run that new gadget or those new clothes may indeed provide happiness. But it doesn’t last. So then we buy more stuff and more stuff. At some point we look around and wonder what we were doing.
Worse yet when the bills start to arrive and we realize what we bought and the money we spent that we didn’t have those happy feelings are long gone.
You really can’t buy happiness
I admit spending money can be fun, but that fun is temporary. Real happiness never comes from stuff. We may temporarily feel better, but in the long run the issues that caused our unhappiness remain and in the process of trying to mask them we can do a lot of damage to our financial situation.
When is the last time you bought something to make yourself feel better?
Photo credit: g23armstrong (creative commons)