The Value of Pre-Made Decisions

The Value of Pre-Made Decisions January 3, 2024

Day three of Mag 90, and let me tell you about Costco.

My gosh, that *place*.

I mean yes, we knew it was the land of the impulse buys. But what a difference the experience is when you’ve decided to follow a plan of no unnecessary purchases.

You just walk in and buy the one thing you dropped by for on your way home, and the two other things you remembered you’re getting low on and they are actual-need items (a food and a med), and that’s it.  

No wandering the aisles for entertainment, no seeing if there are Good Deals You Just Can’t Pass Up!, no debating whether you should lay in one of these or a pack of those for some later unspecified moment of possibly going to want this.

Breaking Out of the Scarcity Loop

Earlier this fall I listened to an Art of Manliness podcast on the power of “scarcity loops” and since then I’ve been building my awareness of how I get sucked into that feeling of desperately needing to stock up on an item or an experience . . . when there is not actually a desperate need.

I say “experience” because one of the scarcity loops I get sucked into is this: The house is empty! You may not get peace and quiet again until who-knows-when! Quick, read a book! Scroll Twitter! And instead of using that opening to accomplish something higher on the priority list, I get sucked into a time-waste.

–> The solution there is to say: You know what, people need quiet time! It’s okay! That’s a valid need and therefore put a mechanism into your life to get that quiet time. Regularly. As a planned thing! You shouldn’t have to wait to lap it up like a starvation victim.

Another experience-based scarcity loop is eating favorite foods, and the holidays got me hard on that. If you don’t eat it now, it will be gone! You’ll have missed out on your _________ that only comes around at Christmas! And of course you should enjoy the feast within reason, but also in reason is, in my case, quite a lot less then people like me tend to rationalize.

Likewise it’s scarcity-thinking that can’t stand to waste food, and I maintain that this is a virtue when properly applied. But, small hitch, those of us in wealthy nations glutted with an overabundance of food tend to have too much on offer, especially at the holidays, and especially of things that aren’t that good for us.

Planning vs. the Random Reward

Another important part of the Costco experience (or the Aldi impulse-buy aisle, or thrift-store shopping, or that great sale dropped in my inbox) discussed in the AOM podcast is the random reward.  You’re not guaranteed to find the thing.  Maybe you’ll get an amazing deal, maybe you won’t.

Humans are wired to prefer random rewards over predictable rewards. (So are other species, it’s not just us.)

It’s a wonderful adaptation if you’re checking the garden every day to see what’s ripe, or even as a shopping-behavior if you are sticking to a strict budget of only planned purchases, and you take your time comparison shopping and then holding out for the genuine deal.  Not a great survival instinct to leave unsupervised to run loose.

Rewiring the Way I Act

But here’s the thing: Being aware of the problem, trying to combat the problem . . . sometimes it’s not enough.

So I’m really grateful to have landed on this plan of just not being in charge of all the micro-decisions for a few months.  There was a time when impulse buys just weren’t on the menu.  Not an option. We didn’t have that kind of money.

And I’m grateful that we can afford to not be super strict about every single purchase anymore. But that freedom had gotten a little chaotic.  It wasn’t working for us as well as it should. So I’m glad this thing just dropped into my life that makes pulling back and cleaning out the brain a possibility.

Doing it on my own, without the help of God and my minimalist big sister and her ultra-minimalist daughter? Wasn’t happening.  Trying? yes. Happening? No.

So even if I only get one totally-changed Costco trip out of this experience, it’s been worth it already.

Cover of Magnify by Kaylene Brown

Some other random updates . . .

About the book: Kaylene Brown got in touch with me after seeing this pic of my copy of the Magnify book, and even though I thought I was ordering the newer Imprimatur-edition of her book from Amazon, it turns out I got the earlier edition. She tells me she’s done a lot of updating after getting feedback from women doing the thing, but honestly what I’ve read of the original is really quite good. But I might get a review copy of the new version from her, and maybe have some comments on that, or not.

How to reach me:  FYI, I’m always hard to reach, that’s a feature not a bug. However, I’m even harder to reach during the current break from Twitter, the last of my social-media presence.  Best way to contact me is to subscribe to my substack evangelization newsletter, and then you can reply via e-mail to any edition of the newsletter in your e-mail inbox. I can’t commit to answering all reader mail, but I do read it and pray for your intentions.

Wait, what are we doing here? Yes, yes, I know: Magnify 90, as with Lent, isn’t just some secular self-improvement plan. But probably God would like me to become a better person, and that is in all parts of my life, not just the Jesus-branded parts.

About Jennifer Fitz
Jen Fitz is a regular person. You can read more about the author here.

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