You get what you pay for. As consumers, we've heard that phrase so frequently it's easy to forget there are times when spending lavishly won't necessarily give us the best value for our money. In fact, sometimes you get much less than you pay for. Here are five instances.
Why it's easy to overspend: Michael Levin, an assistant professor of marketing at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, believes many people overspend when buying gifts in professional and social settings. Our egos and desire to impress trump being financially savvy, according to Levin.
"For example, your boss invites you to his house for a dinner party. You decide to bring a bottle of wine. If you do not know very much about wine, then you will spend more for a bottle of wine because you are using price as a surrogate for quality," Levin says.
He says many consumers also go overboard when a large group of people will know they're giving a gift, like at a holiday party. "We want people to think we are successful and knowledgeable," Levin says.
Helpful to keep in mind: You may save money by forgoing expensive gifts and instead buying a gift card, but you may not be doing anyone any favors. According to CEB TowerGroup, a consulting company, approximately $2 billion worth of gift cards that could have been used in 2012 were not.
Why it's easy to overspend: You're in love, and you want to prove it. You've also heard the rule of thumb that the cost of an engagement ring is about two months' salary, an invention of the diamond industry, so you pull out the calculator and begin doing the math.
And it's scary math. The average engagement ring in America costs around $5,431, according to the theknot.com (although it's helpful to remember that the lavish diamonds 1-percenters give their intended pull up that average).
Helpful to keep in mind: Not that your significant other isn't worth spending a bundle on, but you could first see if there's an heirloom engagement ring in the family that a parent, grandparent or beloved aunt might want to part with. There's also a trend afoot in which some brides are receiving engagement rings featuring other stones, like sapphires and emeralds. That's still expensive, but generally less so than a diamond.
Why it's easy to overspend: It's the big day, one you'll remember the rest of your life, whether the marriage is successful or not. Many couples and their parents will also remember the cost for some time to come. The average wedding in the U.S. costs $28,427, according to a 2012 survey from theknot.com and WeddingChannel.com.
Helpful to keep in mind: If you aren't careful, you could easily spend to the point that your marriage starts off deeply in debt, or if you're a parent paying for it, you could find yourself risking your retirement and blowing your present-day budget.
While it's easier said than done when you mix personalities and the opinions of your in-laws, you should start talking about what your wedding budget is as early as possible, and how you plan to stay within that budget.
If you don't, and especially if you begin fighting with your partner over wedding costs, "it can create significant fiscal frictions between the newlyweds, which could lead the marriage to end prematurely," says Stacy Francis, who owns a wealth management and financial planning firm, Francis Financial, in New York City.
"I know about this," adds Francis, who is also a certified divorce financial analyst.
Why it's easy to overspend: Maybe you drive a lot. Or you've been brainwashed by all the car commercials on TV, the radio and the Internet, lulled into dreamily thinking about how wonderful it would be to own a new car (instead of considering how not-so-wonderful it would be to make those payments). Or maybe you're in love with our country's car culture. A new car, even a used one, is a beautiful thing.