Please Tell Me: Why Do We Make Such Dumb Purchases?

By Brian Vaszily, Founder of

At seventeen I blew several years of what little money I had saved on a giant amplifier, bass guitar and microphone. That’s because one day, inspired by Alice Cooper I believe, I decided I was indeed going to be rock star too. And I needed top-notch new equipment to get me there. A few months later I changed my mind and decided I would instead be a movie star. I had no savings left, but a really big bass amplifier to store my dirty clothes on.

I’d love to proclaim that I learned my lesson, but this horrid economy has put in sharp focus for me – perhaps along with you – that I really did not.

Like virtually everyone else, my finances are really tight. This of course prompts me to put into full play for myself all of the lessons about dealing effectively with stress, staying focused on what really matters, feeling fear and going forward anyway and all the rest that I share with others here in the free newsletter.

It has also prompted me to see with new eyes. I look around my house today – in part because I have been thinking about having a big garage sale – and I realize that even as an adult, even as someone who was in the marketing business and has tried to expose the more sinister marketing tactics to you in some of my writings, I’ve been quite prone to blowing my hard-earned money on impulse and indecision.

Chuck Norris

I can give you a long laundry list of the stuff I’ve bought over my adult years that is the equivalent of that spur-of-the-moment rock star purchase in my youth. But I’m not in the business of boring you.

By way of example, I’ll just tell you that several years back I purchased one of those Total Gyms that the actor Chuck Norris hawked on late-night TV. First of all, it is actually a worthwhile workout machine. But I already had both a health club membership and an elliptical machine and free weights in my home and they were all working just fine.

I purchased it because I was entering “middle age” and I decided one day -- within a half-hour, actually -- that I was going to have a rock-hard body like Chuck Norris, now in his young sixties, still has. I might have also toyed with the idea of starring in kung fu movies within that half-hour, but I won’t admit that here. Needless to say, the Total Gym has been almost as useful as the bass amplifier was for storing my clothes on.

And I think, out of the many other examples in my home, that is all the example I need to give you. (If you want to buy a Total Gym at a marvelously reduced price, by the way, write me via the Contact Us button on this page!) For someone who has long prided himself on not being materialistic, my home and garage are awfully cluttered with a bunch of similar stuff I bought on a whim and barely ever used or appreciated.

So Please Tell Me

I can of course sit there on my couch and lament all the waste and how I wish I had the money versus this stuff now. But as you’ve heard me say before if you’ve been following the newsletter for awhile, the past serves two useful purposes: the happy memories and lessons we can use in the only place we can go: forward.

And so, inspired by this horrid economy, I intend to practice considerably more temperance in how and where I spend my hard-earned money. Less stuff, even more transformative and enjoyable (i.e., “intense”) experiences that truly contribute to me being happy and stay with me a lifetime … that I know for sure.

With that noted, the point of this piece is not to announce a garage sale (though if you live in the Chicago area and are interested, write to me and I’ll let you know when it is!) The point is to invite you to participate in the Lessons Learned from a Horrid Recession Project by telling me:

1) What are one or two of the dumbest things you’ve purchased as an adult? A car whose payments were beyond your means? A waffle-maker? Every Chia Pet ever made? Please share it with me and everyone else, because laughing about such things is so much healthier than lamenting it!

2) Why do you think we’re sometimes prone to make such dumb decisions with money we spend so much time and energy earning? I have my theories (of course), but I’d really love to hear yours!

Please head to the Intense Experiences Discussion Forums right now at If you’re not a member it is free and is very quick and easy to sign up. You will see the link to submit your answer front and center on the page; feel free to bookmark that page to periodically check out what other people are saying too.

I'll be practicing my kung fu moves as I look forward to your reply!