On Friday, my wife and I were making our plans to go to Costco so that we could stock up on our food. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been too busy to go to Costco and we finally had a free evening. We did what everyone would do: talk about what we want to eat, what items we needed to get, and finalize our list. We grabbed a few bags and headed out.

After we had dinner at the food court (can you say cheapest date ever?!), we were walking through the aisles. I remembered seeing a solar-powered generator and my prepare-for-anything mentality kicked in. I had seen this generator before and had already been thinking about how we are likely months away from another week-without-power storm (if the last two years are any indication). I started to think about how nice it would be to have a generator that could run our refrigerator for a couple hours each day, how we could charge our electronics, among other things. The common theme running through my mind?

I “need” to buy this.

How to Say, “No!”

Mrs. 20s could see my mind turning as I inspected the features of this unnecessary item. Before I could formulate my argument for getting this generator, my awesome wife was there to set me straight. She didn’t hesitate to hit me where it hurts: our financial goals. She immediately brought up the point that we were saving for a down payment for our home. Her words were something like, “We can’t afford to buy this if we want to buy a home anytime soon.”

And she was right. I knew this, but somehow had momentarily convinced myself that I didn’t care – that this was more important. I had a moment of failure, a relapse, if you will.

In many ways, I wish I had a better story for you. A story where I dug down deep within myself and found some way to convince myself that will power was more important than my self indulgence to consumerism… But I don’t. The main reason why I don’t own a solar-powered generator right now is because of Mrs. 20s. She was and often is, the voice of reason. And that’s okay.

What Young Adults Need to Learn

If someone were to ask me what’s most important to financial success for young adults, or what young adults need to learn most, it would be self-control – the ability to resist consumerism. The priority of learning this life skill over others is based on a number of reasons:

  1. Spending less is the easiest way to increase your cash flow. We all know it’s not easy to earn more money or get a raise at work, but the thing you can control is how much you spend. It’s not easy, by any means, to reduce any part of your budget, but it is within your own power to do so.
  2. Spending less money also means you need less to live on, less money for retirement, and many other things. This take a lot of pressure off of you and your family. The last thing you want to do is to create pressure for yourself by having a high-cost of living.
  3. Young adults, from my experience, spend more time online, watching tv, and ultimately as a result, exposed to ads. While we like to convince ourselves that we are not swayed by advertisements, the truth is that they influence our decisions when we see them often.
  4. Young adults have the option to create habits, good or bad, that will change the rest of their lives. While older people should still work on changing their habits in a positive ways, young adults have more to gain by learning this lesson now.

Learning to control your urges to spend money on unnecessary items is a difficult skill to learn. I do, however, believe an important element is creating financial goals – things that can keep your energy focused on something positive.

Readers, how have you learned to control your urges to spend money?