When To Pull the Trigger On That Magic Purchase

I try to live my life, as much as possible, by heuristics. I'm not sure if that's the right word, because I'm not quite sure I understand what the word means, but the sense I use it in is, like, rules of thumb, or a personal programming for my brain to process all the decisions that I really don't want to devote time to analyzing each time they come up. 

For example, I'm a big music lover. I have 3578 albums in my iTunes and that number grows each week. I also live in New York City where there are easily 3 or 4 concerts every week that I'm interested in seeing. Part of me wants to see all of those shows. Part of me doesn't want to leave the apartment. I used to spend some of my precious brain-time debating whether I should see each individual show or not. But then I came up with a simple heuristic. Some shows are can't-miss shows, and there's no debate about them. For everything else I ask: Do I have more than two albums by this artist and have I never seen them in concert before? If the answers to both of those questions are "yes," then I go see them. This is boring, I know, but I'm trying to make a point.

The problem with being smart is you spend too much time thinking. Oh, how I wish I was dumb. I pray for adult-onset muttonheadism. When you're smart you try to optimize every decision. When you're dumb you just react to your environment like a fucking scallop. Having a bunch of heuristics you live by -- and I have 100s -- brings you closer to that scallop non-mentality.

I only want to think about 4 things:

  • The people I love
  • Creative ideas
  • Women
  • Things and activities that give me pleasure (This could conceivably include the other three.)

Everything else, from mundane things like laundry and dish-washing, to important things like money and health, I try to automate (either in reality or at least in my mind).

So, with all that established, I end up having a number of magic heuristics too. The one I want to discuss today is the rule I use for when to buy a magic item. Since I adopted this a couple years ago I have had no regrets on my magic purchases. It's a simple algorithm that is customized to you and the item you want to buy. If you use this you will save a ton of money and garner more happiness from the money you do spend. You won't end up using this, of course. I'm just saying that if you did, that's what would happen.

First, we need to establish what your impulse price point is. How much can you waste on a magic purchase and not have it bother you? If you wasted $1000 on something, that might eat at you for a few weeks. If you blew $50 on a magic product, that might bother you for a day or so. But if we keep ratcheting down, eventually we come to an amount that you could spend and if it was a waste you would just say, "Oh well," and move on rather quickly. Maybe that's $1, $2, $5, $10, or $20. It could be anything. It all depends on your financial situation and your temperament towards money. So decide what that price would be for you.

Now, the formula is simply this: Divide the cost of the item you want to buy by your impulse price point. That is how many days you need to wait after the first real review comes out for you to order the item. So if you want to buy a $35 trick, and your impulse price point is $5, then you would need to wait 7 days after the first real review to order the trick (35/5 = 7). 

A "real" review comes from someone who paid for the item. Reviews don't come from friends of the person who is releasing the product (that's just mutual backscratching). Reviews don't come from people who own magic shops (those are commercials). 

During the time you're waiting, one of these things will happen. All of them are better than if you just bought the item when it was first released.

-- You'll lose interest in the item.

-- The reviews will begin to pour in showing the item is a piece of junk; or that it only works from one angle in dark, noisy environments; or that you have to wear a vest over a winter coat to do it; or something else that turns you off from the product.

-- It will come up for sale second-hand.

-- Or, on rare occasions, it will get good reviews and the praise will grow over time and you'll wait a couple weeks or months before you finally end up buying it. This may seem like a failure of the system, but really this is the best possible outcome. You get the effect/book/dvd and you get the bonus of anticipation, an emotion that is in short-supply in adult life. 

Please refer to this as The Jerx Purchasing Principle and use that term liberally in threads on the Cafe if you want to get on their watch-list. For example, something like,  "Not only do I not do pre-orders, I always apply The Jerx Purchasing Principle to every item I buy. It has saved me a fortune! I really appreciate him for coming up with it. And so does my pocketbook! Uhm, I mean my wallet, of course. I'm no sissy. You believe me, guys, don't you? Please... PLEASE! I beg of you... don't tell my wife. Things are going so well. We just got a tandem bike. Aw jeez.... what have I done now. It was just a gag. A gag, I tell you! I don't carry a pocketbook. And I don't wear lipstick. And I didn't spent 40 minutes trying to get a tampon in my urethra last night either, if that's what you're thinking." Or words to that effect.