Buying Too Many Toys?

Gary has a great job and money in the bank, but he likes to buy toys. He doesn't need what he has but wants more and compares it to a drug. Should he be worried about it or not think about it?

QUESTION: Gary in Denver is single and 53 years old. He has a great job and money in the bank, but he likes to buy toys. He doesn’t need what he has but wants more and compares it to a drug. Should he be worried about it or not think about it?

ANSWER: There are three lenses through which we can look to answer this question. Let’s look through each of them.

The first lens is the financial lens. Are these toys causing you to go broke? The answer is no. You’re living within your means, feeding your toy habit with cash—not debt. You don’t have any debt. You have a good job. The only problem financially I see is basically the only assets you own are things that go down in value. Financially speaking, that’s a little weak. You haven’t got much money for a guy who makes $90,000. It’s not panic time over these toys, but you probably just need to, financially speaking, mathematically set a toy budget and then invest a bunch so that you have some money to retire with because I’m not going to count just on the teamsters for retirement. That’s a bad idea. It’s not that I’m slamming them. That’s not my point. The point is you need to have an account that you’re in control of. You start something like a Roth IRA. Put $5,000 a year in that. In the next 10 or 15 years, you throw $5,000 a year into that thing, into a good mutual fund, that’s going to help you have a little bit better nest egg. And you ought to have an emergency fund built before you do that of just cash sitting over that you never touch except for emergencies, three to six months of expenses. That ought to be about $30,000. I want you to do those two things and then buy toys after that—financially speaking. That’s one lens to answer this with. You’re a little weak financially but nothing to panic or yell at you about. I just don’t like the fact that the things you own go down in value.

You don’t have to buy a home. One thing you could do is try to buy something like a fixer upper or a foreclosure or something that you buy in order to make money on it. You buy it, live in it, and flip a year or two years later. You could just hire somebody to do the rehab. I buy stuff, but I don’t go swing a hammer on it. I have somebody else do it. You don’t have to. It’s just an idea if you’re going to be moving anyway, it’d be kind of a fun thing to be making a little money on it as you move.

The other two lenses, and I’ll just combine them to talk about it, are the spiritual and emotional lenses. You buy something, you get tired of it, you seem to always want more… There’s a little bit of that that’s good. We all ought to always want to do better, right? That’s just achievement. That part’s a good thing, but that level of dissatisfaction or lack of contentment that you just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff is a little bit scary the way you phrased that. That’s kind of a matter for prayer, a matter to kind of think about emotionally and ask yourself if you’re chasing something that a car will never give you. I’ve got nice cars and stuff. I’ve got toys, too. I’m not against toys. I just want to make sure I financially and spiritually and emotionally own them and that they don’t own me. That’s just a question you have to ask as the sun’s coming up in the morning with the Bible laying in your lap.

I think it would be a good idea to start being a little more of a saver than you are. You certainly make enough money to enjoy some toys. There’s no question about that. I’ve got no issue with that. But while you’re doing that, let’s save some money so we can be sure you retire with dignity, and then you can address the other issues as we go forward.