Money at 30: The Spiteful Spending Paradox
No one likes to be scorned. Thus, when we feel we’re being wronged, it’s natural to not only want to stand up for ourselves but also stump for what we feel is right. Incidentally the same things can happen in finance, leading to what I’ve dedided to dub “spiteful spending.”
So what is spiteful spending, you ask? In my mind, this action occurs when you, as a frugal person, encounter an item or service you deem to be offensively overpriced. As a result you fully rule that one out and quickly opt for another, cheaper choice — almost as a way to stick it to those gougers behind the offending options. Seems like a sound idea right? Well, in actuality, this emotional reaction can have its consequences.
A perfect example of this concept actually just happened to me. Right this literal minute, I’m on my way to Washington D.C. for FinCon 2019. This year’s event is being held at the Washington Hilton, where I’ll also be staying. It all sounds quite convenient except for one thing: the hotel charges $52 a night for self-parking! Given how egregious this fee is, my initial response was to scrap our road trip idea and simply fly into D.C. instead. However, when I took the time to run the numbers, it was going to be way more for two people to fly — even before adding in airport parking or transportation from Reagan to the hotel and back. Still, had I let my instinct take over, you can bet I would have spitefully spent the extra money just to avoid the Hilton’s parking price insanity.
Another case that comes to mind involves the famously fragile iPhone cables. As anyone who’s ever shopped for a replacement can tell you, the Apple produced cables start at an absurd $19 and go even higher if you want a longer version. Thus, when it came time to replace my cord, I attempted to give Apple the finger by buying a $5 cable at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The problem is that this cable stopped working not terribly long after I bought it. Sure enough, the backup I purchased had a similar short lifespan. Alas, I probably would have been better off just coughing up the $19 in the first place regardless of whether or not it seemed fair at the time (sidenote: I’ve had great luck with the Amazon Basics 6′ iPhone cable).
In both of these instances, I was or would have been better off taking my time to truly explore the pros and cons of each option before throwing the overpriced baby out with the bath water. Just because something is expensive and may cost more than you expected to or wanted to pay doesn’t mean that it offers no value. Furthermore, in the case of my hotel parking example, the overall plan remained solid even though one element hurt my little thrifty heart.
Being frugal — or attempting to be — means there will certainly be times when sticker shock hits. In these cases, your impulse may be to completely shun that option and take the first cheaper route that comes by. However, just as other emotional decisions can hurt your wallet, so-called spiteful spending can serve to work against your top interest. Instead continue to let your savvy and analytical senses lead the way and help you to make the best financial decision.