Tough Love Financial Lesson 1: If You Can’t Afford It, Don’t Buy It

by Justin Weinger on August 4, 2011

Today I’m starting the Tough Love Financial Lessons series.  It will be spread out over the next week or two, and will cover, as you guessed, tough financial lessons that people might not necessarily want to hear or be told.  Hope you enjoy and, please, provide feedback via comments and emails!

People don’t like to be told no. It is just how we are wired. We want what we want when we want it, and if you stand in our way, you’re just a jerk!

Well, today I am here to be the jerk and tell you no.


I know this is common sense financial advice, but unfortunately, common sense isn’t so common. All too often, people buy things they simply cannot afford. That’s why so many people are in massive credit card and consumer debt.

Whether it is a person’s inability to control their need for instant gratification, a belief that they will have the money “soon enough” so it’s okay to make the purchase now, a complete lack of understanding of their financial situation, or something somewhere in between, many consumers push themselves deeper and deeper into debt by continuing to make want-based purchases with money they don’t even have.

Let’s look at this example:

You want a $2,500 3D TV, but you have $500 in your bank account. If you buy the TV on your credit card at 18% interest and make $175 monthly payments, which is just slightly above the monthly minimum payment, you will have paid off the TV in 47 months and accrued nearly $1,000 in additional interest charges.

(You can do the calculations for yourself using’s Minimum Payment Calculator)

Or you could realize you can’t really afford the TV and not buy it, keep the extra $1,000, and start to build up your savings. Plus, if you want it badly enough, save up money and be able to make the purchase in cash.

You’ll also be surprised to find that if you don’t give into your instant gratification whims, chances are you didn’t even really want to buy the thing in the first place!

So, again, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Or, as a child of the 1980’s would say: JUST SAY NO!

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and, as always, please share this post using the social bookmarking buttons below – especially Facebook and Twitter!


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