….questioning our assumptions.

Whenever Micah and I visit Silver Spring, we park in the same garage–directly adjacent an indoor/outdoor mall. Parking garages are strange entities. Like in parking lots, we feel the drive to get the “best” possible spot. It feels like, in garages, the best spots should be on the lower levels, right?

One thing we’ve had to learn at this garage is to head straight up to the 5th level. Often we can find an excellent parking space, close to the elevator (4 elevators, so it’s not a long wait). A good parking space on the 5th floor is much better than being in the farthest back corner on the 2nd.

We spend less time driving around looking for a space and less time walking to the elevator (not that a little walking is a bad thing…).

It’s intuitive to think the lower level are better, but they’re just not.

So what does this have to do with personal finance?

Well, musing on this got me thinking about other choices we make which intuitively seem best but aren’t actually good ideas. Here are a few of them, ranging from smaller to bigger decisions:

1. Buying things we don’t need on sale. Whether they’re things we might need that’ll expire before we use them or things we don’t need at all, this is something we all probably do. We’re trying to be frugal, right? (I’m going to be talking about this on PaidTwice later)

2. Assuming non-generics are better. Now some really are. But much of the time we can do better by buying generics–quality’s about the same and price is better. Micah would like to add that he supports buying Q-tips from Johnson and Johnson. Ok, maybe those aren’t better.

3. Assuming generics are cheaper. Price isn’t always better. Don’t forget to factor in coupons and sales for non-generic items.

4. Assuming that we can beat the stock market. Silicon Valley Blogger got me thinking about this earlier this week. In particular, she quotes the legendary Bogle: “There may be better investment strategies, but the number of strategies that are worse is infinite.” – John Bogle. There may be ways that we can beat the stock market, but I’d say that 99% of us are better off sticking with index funds–especially if we can’t afford to work with stock analysts and the like.

5. [addition] Assuming that a happy Christmas costs a lot of money. In our culture, it’s hard not to make this assumption. But Christmas is what you and those around you make of it!

What are some assumptions you make? Do they really stand up when you think them through?

photo by Omar Omar

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This post supported by:

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Money, Finance and Fancy: The Carnival of Personal Finance #132, Whimsical Christmas Edition
December 24, 2007 at 10:54 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

m December 18, 2007 at 7:01 pm

I have nothing of substance to add to your post–just wanted to say: I used to live in Silver Spring!! Yay, MD, my home state!!

RacerX December 18, 2007 at 7:16 pm

It makes me laugh to no end sometimes. Parking at the Mall during Christmas shopping.

First, shopping during Christmas is like going to the Grocery Store hungry…don’t do it! You will rationalize yourself into a world of hurt if you already have budget issues.

Second, I have been at the mall during these times (easier to take others advice than your own) only to see people that were “parking” when I was, still driving around, because they wanted a “good” spot! At worst what is the longest walk…5 minutes! A total waste of gas, time and money!

I shouldn’t mock the afflicted…but sometimes it is hard to help!

Susy December 18, 2007 at 11:25 pm

I too believe in only buying Johnson & Johnson Q-tip . All others seem too flimsy for me. I get them on clearance at Target though every couple years, so I don’t do too bad on them!

Swamproot December 19, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Thought you might want to know your Digerati link is broken.

mrsmicah December 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm

Whoops! Off to fix.

wealthy_1 December 25, 2007 at 10:55 am

Whenever I go to the mall, I park in the same place. This way I can always find my car. :-)

Another idea people have is that fat-free, sugar-free, low carb, low calorie, etc means the product is healthy. This is not always the case. In fact in most cases it’s not true at all. Compare peanut butter the next time your at the grocery store. Sometimes the regular product costs less than the one being passed off as healthier. Also, if they remove some salt, sugar content is higher. If the remove fat, salt content or sugar content may be higher. It also could be that low salt, fat free means more calories.

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