Saving Yourself to Death!
A couple weeks ago, I came across a social media post that stated: "If something cost 1000 AED, but is on sale for 750, and then you decide to buy it, you didn't save 250 AED, you spent 750 AED." This is a hard truth for many people who love to shop. Sales, according to American neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre, are designed to activate our amygdala and limbic system, the parts of our brain that trigger emotion, and cause them to short circuit our more rational cortex and pre-frontal cortex, which are rational, logical centers. The word "sale" can get us swiping our credit cards before we even have a chance to process the realistic outcomes of our actions and their effects on our finances. Before we know it, we have a nice shiny shopping bag and a new doodad, but significantly less in our bank accounts. We feel good for a time, but usually, by the time the next day rolls around, that excitement is gone and we're back to our normal selves. Often we use this fact that it's "on sale" to help rationalize the purchase not only to ourselves, but to our spouses who weren't there to see the giant red "SALE" sign which triggered the less evolved parts of our brain. Not only are we harming our own financial well-being by impulse spending, we are harming those of our entire family, and letting them get tricked through our own mental weakness.
This is just one way that we can "save ourselves to death". And death is used in a variety of ways here, financial death where we stay beholden to the credit card companies, unable to leave jobs we dislike, and often even literal death, as we'll later examine.
Here in the UAE, we are repeatedly faced with shopping festivals and special holiday offers, and other purchasing opportunities that advertisers are certain to tell us that are ABOUT TO DISAPPEAR FOREVER, and then we will have to pay even more for that thing we've suddenly decided we can't live without. But I have the inside scoop, and I'll let you in on a little "retail secret". See, before I was "The Happiest Teacher", I worked retail in the US. What most people didn't realize was that many items in the store (and I worked at several stores) were ALWAYS on "sale". Sure, the price might go up and down a few dollars every now and again, but no matter what, that sale sign was always on. The "sale" sign itself was the marketing tactic, making you imagine that the offer would be gone before you could come back, creating a sense of urgency. That sense of urgency is what the store is counting on to keep you from going somewhere else to get it, or wait until you realize the truth about the price. I haven't worked retail here in the UAE, but I can imagine that this process is still used, because IT WORKS!
This is why it's so important to be an informed consumer. If you take the time to research and track the price over a series of months, you will realize that that amazing deal that we can't pass up actually happens quite frequently. It's also why stores love it when we AREN'T informed customers, because that's how they make their profits.
Another way to "save ourselves to death" is when we purchase the cheapest option on the market, whether it's shoes, a car, a mattress, or any other thing we frequently use. Sometimes it's unclear why one option is costs so much less than all the other ones, and it seems too good to be true, because it is. In America, we call these products "lemons", and they frequently fall apart very quickly, becoming terrible headaches and things that need to have costly repairs far too often. You certainly don't have to buy the most expensive version of whatever it is, because that's usually a rip-off too, but when you just buy something because it's super cheap, often you'll have to just replace it with a more expensive version later on. This is why people say "the poor man always pays twice" because not only does he buy the inferior product that breaks, because he felt he couldn't afford one that was more expensive, but then he has to buy a second, more durable replacement. He would have been better off buying the slightly more expensive but much more reliable item in the first place. Some extremely cheap items are cheap because they contain dangerous chemicals that can even give you cancer.
The final way of terribly saving money, and the one that can even kill you, is putting off going to the dentist or doctor. While there is a lot of debate as to the usefulness of a yearly physical, especially for those under 50, what doctors and scientists do agree on is that you need to go see them when you are feeling ill or have family history of an illness. Many people try to power through their symptoms and sleep off conditions that don't go away, just to save a few dirhams. Ignoring or suffering in silence during a sickness can lead to far more serious problems that end up costing you huge amounts of money to fix later, if you're lucky! The unlucky version is that you die.
While I am all about saving money, please make sure you're doing it in ways that contribute to your financial and physical health. Your future depends on it!