A couple of days ago, I did something I never thought I’d do: I sold my beloved Super Nintendo. You guys, I loved that thing. I can’t tell you how strong the feeling of betrayal was that I felt as I was typing in the details on Craigslist. It’s like I was listing my best friend to the highest bidder, and the only thing I could think of to describe it was: “It still works!” To make matters worse, I also sold three of my Game Boys (I know) along with a lot of the games to a used game store. Now some snot-nosed kid is going to drag his mom in and get his slobbery fingers all over my childhood memories! If it hurt so much, why’d I do it? Because I didn’t have a good reason not to.
I’ve always been somewhat of a hoarder. It’s never gotten to the point where I needed an intervention or a TV special to get me to go outside again, but Rachel has expressed her anxiety about me opening my desk drawers before. I mainly hang on to electronic stuff. Old phones, games and game systems, cords of every type and length, and computer parts are my weak spots. I’ve gotten extremely good at convincing myself that all these things will be useful again “someday.” I have no idea when “someday” is, but apparently it’s going to be a huge party for slider phones, USB cords, and old-school Nintendo games. Despite the fact that I really enjoy(ed) some of this stuff, it doesn’t really have much of a use in today’s tech scene. The SNES system had been sitting in a box in my closet for the better part of the last two years.
Math Is No Match For Nostalgia
Guess how much I made from the sale of my vintage gaming systems? Over $200! If someone pointed to a box in your closet that you hadn’t opened in two years and told you they’d give you $200 for it, what do you think your answer would be? Well, if you’re me, it turns out that answer is, “Well…. Let me think about it….” Why is that? Why do we make such objectively dumb decisions? As Dave Ramsey likes to remind his listeners, personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. The left side of our brains already knows what the right thing to do is in so many of the situations life throws at us. It’s the right side that gets us in trouble. We attach so much emotion to our stuff, when we know that the things aren’t really what we appreciate, it’s the memories those things trigger. That stuffed bear we got from Nana on our third birthday? We’re not suddenly going to start carrying it around everywhere we go again, but somehow we feel like passing it on for another child to cherish is betraying Nana. We just have to learn to sort out what is truly still useful vs. what is only a reminder of yesterday’s fond memories. It’s crazy to me how much power nostalgia has when it comes to making decisions like this.
We’re Experts at Persuasive Arguments… to Ourselves
Let me walk you through a little bit of my thought process from this morning. I was going through my desk drawers looking for… I can’t remember what now when I saw my original Game Boy. The one with the broken screen. I moved it aside, revealing about 8-10 games that I forgot I had. In a moment of clarity, I realized, “Hey, I don’t really need this stuff anymore. What if I went through all this and sold some of it?” So, I was going at a pretty good pace, rounding up all sorts of games and accessories, making sure everything worked before I put it in the “to sell” pile. And then, it happened. I found the box. Immediately, all sorts of memories from when I was a kid playing on that magical Super Nintendo system came flooding back. I didn’t have all the games that I used to have, and I had picked up a few new-to-me ones since those days, but it all felt magical. Then I started feeling the exact way I think Gollum feels: torn in two. Man, this stuff has been in a box for years, I could sell it, too! Are you kidding? What am I going to show my kids when they grow up? What kids? Psh, technicality, I’ll have kids some day. What if I hooked it up now and played with it some? Well, that would be fine, except I can’t even find the A/V cable for it. Yikes, that’s bad, I have no idea where that thing went. All the more reason to sell it. No, do you have any idea how cool it is that I still have an original Super Nintendo and all these awesome games? Cool to who? I’m pretty sure Rachel married me in spite of the fact that I have this. Why don’t I give it to some other kid, or to some collector who’ll actually use it?
I had convinced myself that having a thing gave me some sort of social status, that other people wouldn’t treat the system as well as I had over the years, and several other reasons for keeping it that all centered around me. Never mind the fact that an extra $200 could pay for the computer certification I’m currently working on, that less clutter would benefit both Rachel’s sanity and mine, or that with the Mini SNES coming out next month, the market for the real thing was heating up again. I knew what the right thing to do was, but I just didn’t feel like doing it.
Follow Your Heart, But Use Your Brain as a Guardrail
I’m not saying that cutting your emotions out of the equation is the key to wealth. After all, we’re emotional creatures! But learning to put stuff in its place instead of letting it rule us is crucial to gaining control over money. Just because I sold my game system doesn’t mean I sold the memories I’d made with it or that I was any less appreciative of my parents for buying it for me so long ago. It simply means that this particular product had served its usefulness in my life, and now it was time to allow it to be useful to someone else. And honestly, I’ll get more use out of that Mini SNES anyway…
What about you? What things in your life do you just not have the heart to part with, even though you haven’t seen or used them in years? How do you make the decision to get rid of something you’ll use “someday” vs. keep something you’ll actually use someday?