Note: This is a post from Joan Concilio, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Two summers ago, while visiting an art museum in Washington, D.C., we came upon an exhibit in the process of being installed. Huge letters and swaths of red, black and white covered every square inch of wall and floor.

When I saw it, I took the photo above, hoping it would serve as a reminder to go back and see the finished exhibit and revisit the phrases plastered throughout.




And while I haven’t gotten back to see the final installation of Belief+Doubt (I hope to – it’s on display through the end of this year!) … the phrases have stuck with me, and I’m reminded of them at the weirdest times.


“Where did I get that?”

Like last night. I was balancing my checkbook, a regular weekend occurrence, and I saw a transaction for about $40 that I simply didn’t recall. “What on earth did we buy?” I asked myself…

And earlier in the week, when I was cleaning some clothes out of my closet, hoping to donate a few unneeded things on our next trip to the local Goodwill, I came across a shirt and a pair of pants that weren’t at all familiar to me. “Where did I get that?” I wondered…

I like to think I’m conscious about my spending. If not perfectly so, at least WAY better than when I found Man Vs. Debt at the start of my financial journey, and moreso than at least many of my peers.

Even so, I struggle with the needs-vs-wants mentality. Do I need a new pair of work pants, or a second or third pair of jeans? To see that movie, or to buy that box of organic strawberries? Or are those just wants?

And even when I save and plan and treat myself to a want item, am I really making sure it’s worth it? Or am I in danger of doing exactly what’s plastered on the escalator of that art exhibit?

You want it, you buy it, you forget it?

It’s a common complaint for those of us with children. You know, that loom to make rubber-band bracelets that my daughter had to have, only to have it sit unopened? The same with those silly Littlest Pet Shop figurines when she was 8. Wanted, bought, forgotten.

But you know what? We’re just as guilty of this as adults.

How many times are we sure we have an item that we just can’t find, so we buy another?

How often do we dig into the far reaches of our closet and come out with an item that we didn’t remember having?

That new device comes out that allows us to peel potatoes and stream music at the same time, and we’re positive it’ll revolutionize our time in the kitchen.

(OK, maybe not that last one…)

In all these cases, though, it’s easier than we think to want something, buy it and forget it. Our society tends very much toward the disposable and the replaceable… AKA, the forgettable.

Look, that can be OK. I’m sorry, wasteful or not, I’m glad that I can use paper towels and not cloth ones to clean up after my five cats. Disposable can be good.

But too often, we do things out of knee-jerk reaction. Want. Buy. That’s fine, but if you didn’t put a lot of thought into acquiring something, is it likely you’re going to put a lot of thought into it once you have it?

You want it. You buy it. You forget it.

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and would love to hear your thoughts on in the comments.

Does this happen to you?

What do you do to stop the want-buy-forget progression?