I’m a minimalist at heart, so when I consider buying something, I ask myself “is this an investment?”
When I say “investment” I’m not talking about the stock market or a retirement fund. I’m thinking of anything that increases in value over time. Things like your skills, reputation, and relationships.
When I was in school, I spent nearly $500 on an Adobe software bundle at academic pricing. I wasn’t a design student… I was studying engineering. It was a want, not a need, and compared to my student lifestyle, it felt like so much money. The reason I did it was because I was interested in learning how to use the tools. I got a couple books, put it some time, and learned some basic graphic design and the ability to build simple websites. Those skills qualified me for a fantastic desktop publishing job that paid for my remaining 2.5 years of school. It indirectly led to my current career as a web developer. Where would I be now if I chose not to invest in those skills?
When I buy lunch for a friend, or go on a date with my wife, I like to think of it as investing in a relationship. If you genuinely care about people, paying for them is a simple way to show them.
There are many others ways you could invest in yourself. You can look professional in the way you dress. Bolster your confidence (by working out, public speaking, improving your wardrobe… whatever the case might be for you). Print business cards. Put up a personal website. Most of these things cost money, but they help people understand who you are and allow them to find you when they are looking for you.
In these situations and more, I always ask myself, “is this an investment?” If the answer is yes, then I don’t think twice.