How To Buy Expensive Things Without Having A Panic Attack

This is my way of saying my headphones died this morning.

Photo by Dzenina Lukac from Pexels

As I plugged in my noise canceling headphones this morning, fully ready to participate in my daily meditation, instead of the calming strip mall spa music I expected to hear, I heard nothing but the deafening silence of my next expensive purchase. My headphones were dead, it was time to replace them, and I felt the familiar internal heave of financial concern that I’ve been all too familiar with my entire adult life. But this time, instead of listening to it, and letting it lead me down an endless path in search of the cheapest possible headphones that still actually worked and were not just intended for use on dolls, I just bought the fucking headphones, and moved on with my life.

You know the kind of purchases I’m talking about, the ones you never want to make. These purchases most often relate to technology, for example a new laptop, monitor, or router, things you actually need in order to do your job, side hustles, or hobbies but that are nonetheless pain in the ass chunks of change. For some reason, it is easier for us all to buy 20 lattes in a month than one Amazon Echo in a year. We fear big purchases, and this has got to stop.

It’s wasted energy, the worrying. The pre-purchase anxiety that stresses us out for as long as we let it, despite the fact that we know we need the thing and will definitely eventually buy it. It’s almost nonsensical, as if worrying in advance somehow makes the price go down. It’s the reason we all have digital shopping carts full of stuff right now. We’re waiting for the day we’re not afraid anymore. My whole thing is, if we just buy the thing now, we save ourselves the days or weeks of stress, and the absence of those toxic energies from our lives is literally priceless.

So here, let’s be better. Let’s stop stressing about buying the thing and just buy the thing we know we’re going to buy. I’m not talking about reckless spending, this is a podcast microphone or a NutriBullet I’m talking about, not a goddamned Shetland pony.

I for one am tired of the old big-purchase-panic-attack song and dance. I’m reclaiming control of the way I feel when I spend my own goddamned money. The fear of spending was bred into many of us from a young age, as a way for our parents to feel like they were raising responsible children and to make it in and out of Target without one of their offspring causing a scene. But we’re grown now, it’s our money, and it’s time to shed the story that spending it, especially on things we need, is bad.

1 — Has a purchase ever actually destroyed your life?

Despite their best efforts, I haven’t been brought down by an Apple product yet and I’ve no intention of ending that record. Every single purchase I’ve ever been afraid of has failed to bring about the financial ruin I was so certain was coming forthwith.

There’s logic and reality that can typically be applied to most anxiety-riddled situations, some are happening in the present, but my favorite ones refer back to everything that’s already happened in the past. Did the world end the last time you bought a television after yours finally gave out? Were you unable to pay rent? (If so, pay rent before buying tech gadgetry, obviously this essay is being written from a privileged place and you’re also reading it from one, we can both afford the internet.)

The thing is, if everything has worked out okay in the past, no matter what you’ve had to buy or replace to continue living life as you want to, it’s very unlikely that the situation will change. You were okay last time, you’ll be okay this time. You can replace your dead microwave, it’s fine.

2 — Do you use the big purchase all the time?

Remember: I’m speaking specifically about expensive purchases that we know we’re going to make, but that cause us stress nonetheless. This most often occurs when we use the thing all the time. Think of your mattress. Mattresses are expensive as hell and a HUGE financial freak out to buy. But you sleep on it every single night. You will spend a third of your life on it. Where would you spend your money if NOT on things you both need and use constantly? If we don’t make these purchases, we can look forward to constantly thinking to ourselves how much we need to make these purchases, and I don’t know about you but that’s now how I like to spend my time. Free your brain of these nagging reminders, and add to cart.

3 — Are you generally a responsible person?

Are you worried about yourself? Do you have a history of blowing your money on bullshit? No? Then I think it’s probably fine. The next time you have to make an expensive purchase, remind yourself that this is why you work—so that you can. We earn livings so that we can take care of ourselves, and buy the things we need when we need them. Sometimes, those things are pain-in-the-ass expensive, but buying them doesn’t make us reckless. Quite the opposite. The pure ability to buy them should remind us how responsible we are for working hard, saving our money, and being able to still be okay when shit hits the fan.

4 — What do you actually value?

Me personally? I value things that work when I need them to. I also value my mental health and sense of wellbeing. And if, to wake up tomorrow morning with technology that works and no need to fish out my emergency Xanax I have to spend a cool $79.99 on a pair of headphones so that I can keep making my podcast, so be it. I value how I feel, and I see no value in spending days or weeks fearing a purchase I know I need to make. We’re taught to value money more than anything else, but it’s okay to value the way you feel, too, and to recognize that spending your time stressed out over a purchase is too emotionally expensive.

We don’t have to be afraid of things all the time. For those of us with anxiety, especially financial anxiety, almost any purchase can stress us out, but especially the ones that cost more than like $43. Obviously don’t buy the thing if you can’t actually buy the thing. But if you can, and you’re still stressed, ask yourself if the way you think about spending money is due for an upgrade.


Shani Silver is a writer and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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