Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mandatory Waiting Periods

One method of gun control is mandatory waiting periods - particularly for handguns. 10 states in the USA require waiting periods before a handgun can be legally purchased. The idea is that, if someone gets angry and decides to kill someone, they can't just run out and buy a gun. They have to wait a certain number of days (usually around a week) to make sure they really want the gun (and all of the implications of owning a gun). Hopefully, by then, the fires of passion and revenge will have faded for most people.
The merits and efficacy of waiting periods for handguns is debated. I, for one, see absolutely no rationale for eliminating waiting periods. However, I would like to propose another kind of waiting period.
We need mandatory waiting periods for our purchases. The larger the purchase, the longer waiting period we need. We often make our purchases with a similar run of passion as angry people buying guns. Many of the big-ticket items that wind up in our baskets or driveways would still be at the store if we had waited.
Give the passion and the consumeristic urge time to die down. Walk away from the store. Get out of the advertising zone. Ask yourself a few questions.
1) Do I really need this?
2) Why do I actually want this?
3) Can I really afford this?
4) What will this cost me? (Think in terms of maintenance, physical space, emotional space, time, etc.)
5) Will I really use this? (Really, for years to come?)
6) Is this the best price, model, and value available?
If you can't answer these questions with clarity and without that nagging conscience, then you are not ready to buy.

Let me suggest a few benchmark waiting periods:
More than $50,000 (as in a home): 6 months.
More than $5,000 (as in a car): 2 months.
More than $500 (as in a computer): 1 month.
More than $50 (as in shoes): 1 week.
Around $5 (as in that cup of coffee because you just happen to be going past a Starbucks): 5-10 minutes.

Obviously the larger purchases deserve more time and consideration. We should use the waiting period to talk to friends, comparison shop, research on the net, and (maybe even!) pray. For the smaller stuff - the price of a cup of coffee - it can still be worthwhile to take a few minutes to consider whether we really want to spend our limited resources on this.
Food for thought.
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