The Urge to Collect

by John White


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I sometimes think that humans must be born with an urge to collect. I'm afraid I have a bit of the urge myself. When I was a kid, the thing I collected was comic books. At one time, I had over 2,000 of them. I stored them on this massive shelf that occupied one entire wall of my bedroom. I kept the "special" ones in protective plastic bags. I had them categorized and stacked in neat little piles. It gave me a great feeling just to look at them, knowing they were mine.

Adults collect things too. Barbie dolls, Beanie Babies, Longaberger Baskets, Coca-Cola items, the list goes on and on.

I think many people rationalize their collecting behavior by thinking it's an "investment." Something along the lines of: "These Barbie dolls are worth a fortune, I could sell them and be sitting on a nice little pile of money." But, how many people actually sell the things they collect? And of the ones who actually sell, how many made money off the transaction? My guess would be not many.

If you collect something, at least try to be honest with yourself. What do you really think the chances are that you will cash out some day? If the answer is probably zero, then what you are doing is not investing. Instead, it's feeding a habit. Maybe this realization will help you stop or maybe reduce the amount of things you collect.

My wife's weakness is tablecloths. She must have more than fifty of them. We have an entire shelf in our laundry room devoted to tablecloths. Just the other day, she brought home two more. Thankfully, she either purchases them used or buys inexpensive ones.

My weakness is books. I rationalize this behavior to myself because I constantly refer back to them. I reread sections of them periodically. Did you notice I used the word rationalize? Can I really justify the expense of the books? Could I live without them? Well, yeah. But, I like my books. So what I'm trying to do is reduce the amount of money I spend on them. I have almost totally quit buying books new (Notice I said "almost."). I purchase many of them on the Internet via abebooks.com or www.Half.com.

The message here is if you find it too difficult to quit collecting something or you just don't want to stop collecting, find a way to cut down on the cost of collecting. You just might find out that you have a little bit more money at the end of the month.


Excerpt taken from I'm in Debt, Over 40, with No Retirement Savings. HELP!

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