Curbing the “it’s out of my budget!” kneejerk reaction

Guest post by Dootsie Bug
By: Paris on Ponce & Le Maison RougeCC BY 2.0

Different people react differently to things they find that are out of their budget, and that reaction tends to intensify the further something steps out of a possible price range.

Some people get a sad. Some people shrug. Some people lament. Some people have a straight up OMG freak out moment, wherein they can’t believe anyone would ever spend that much money ever on anything, ever.

It’s normal to have a little sticker shock now and then, but it’s so easy to go from “eek!” thoughts to feeling completely awful for hours or accidentally contributing to someone else’s feel-bad pile-on.

You can’t stop yourself from your immediate internal reaction, but you definitely have control over what you do afterward. Here are some coping tips for the “it’s out of my budget!” freakout…

Put it into perspective:
This is out of your budget. But not everyone has your budget. What’s “holy crap expensive” to you is a fair and reasonable price to someone else.

Consider why the price is what it is:
Something that’s one-of-a-kind, artisan made or carefully crafted from luxury materials is obviously going to be higher in price than something that’s mass manufactured from inexpensive goods. Take a second to appreciate the work that went into what you’re seeing.

Treat it as an art object:
If it’s truly unattainable to you, you may as well get some use out of it! Examine its beauty closely. Enjoy looking at it. Be glad that something like it can even exist!

Learn from what you like:
If you find yourself coveting the object, take a second to consider what you can take away from it. Find an element of it that you can incorporate somehow into your own décor or style.

Do not dwell:
If you find yourself having lots of feels about an item and its price, try to shake it off. Take some time to count your gratitudes and spend a little time with the wealth you have. Take time out to focus on yourself, your life and ways you’re making your corner of the world a better place.

But when to kvetch?:
There are some things that are meant to be talked about. Sundaes with gold leaf, multi-million dollar homes, jewel-encrusted pens. If it’s intentionally created to make your eyes pop out of your head, it’s okay to say “Holy wut!” Just keep the conversation moving forward rather than ruminating on how far out of reach this is for you.

Comments on Curbing the “it’s out of my budget!” kneejerk reaction

  1. This is excellent. Especially with certain events in my life lately, I’m noticing more and more how much things cost.
    I’m also reminded of the song from ‘White Christmas’ that Bing sings to Rosemary: “When my bank roll is getting small/I remember when I had none at all…When I’m having trouble trying to sleep/I count my blessings instead of sheep.” Something like that, too lazy to google.

  2. Great article! I think someone could easily write a spin-off article about taking the time to think about why things are higher and maybe compare it to what you would miss out on cheaper alternatives. Maybe even explore how to coach yourself into spending more on the things you prioritize as important, but have trouble reconciling the cost.

  3. Great post! One thing I want to add: Stop telling artists their work is too expensive.

    I mean, I went to art school and I’m critical of the lack of education and even bad advice we got their about pricing our work. My best friend lives off her work and we regularly discuss the pricing of the work of others, often critically – but neither of us would ever give our solicited opinion to another artist. The reason why, is that artists know whether or not their prices are working, and the way they know if whether or not they’re selling enough of it for what they’re putting into it.

    If you think something costs too much: don’t buy it. If you think it’s beautiful but don’t want to buy it: tell them it’s beautiful. If you want to make what you think is a reasonable offer: make it. But don’t tell them how much you love it but would never buy it because you think it’s too expensive: that’s not useful or productive.

    • As a crafter and the wife of an artist, I am totally with this. I now understand exactly why those handcrafted silver earrings I liked but thought were perhaps overpriced at $18 cost that. I get it. And my husband regularly values his work really fairly but he still gets paid well for commissions. Why? Because people will pay that price and he isn’t intentionally ripping anyone off.

      My other suggestion if you see something that you love but feel you can’t afford, find out how much work it would take to do your own. I am not advocating “Duplicate it Yourself” but it’s worth knowing just how much paint and canvas cost, how much silver or gems cost, how much time it takes to knit something. It helps with appreciating what you find.

      • I discovered this when looking into wedding invites. I figured I’d just make the fancy ones myself so they’d be cheaper. But with the cost of all the paper and vellum and whatnot, it wasn’t any cheaper than something I could buy.

      • There is the money, how much do the materials and tools cost and then there is the skill. How long did it take that artist to be that good. You may think you can could do it just as well but in most cases not so much.

        • Yes! I love this one quote (but can’t remember who said it).
          It may have only taken me five minutes to draw it, but it took me twenty years to learn how to draw it in five minutes.

          Paying for the knowledge as much as the actual work.

          • I think this is what you were thinking of:

            “Actually, you were asking me to design a logotype which would have taken me a few hours and fifteen years experience. For free.”

            My favorite response/dialogue about people asking you to do work for free 🙂

    • Oh my god, a million times this!! Seriously, I am an artist and an antique dealer, and I have spent a large portion of my life admiring art and antiques and being too poor to afford them. I try to keep my prices reasonable, so that “my people” can afford to buy my work or the pieces in my shop. As far as antiques go, I know how much I have in each item, and I’m always open to bargaining and even bartering, if it means that something awesome goes home with the right person.

      I have tried to keep my art reasonably priced, too, because I know how it feels to covet a piece that you will never be able to buy. However, I’m a sculptor who reworks vintage dolls and other bits and pieces into 3d assemblage dolls. Each piece takes anywhere from 18 to 72 hours of work to complete, more if I fuck something up and have to start again from scratch. I hand build armatures and rework each and every piece that I use in some way. Factoring in time spent, materials, and spilled blood, I barely make minimum wage for the pieces that I sell. And yet, I have people bitching about my prices and trying to talk me down on art in a gallery like it’s a leather footstool in my antique shop. I’ve bargained with the “right” people and I’ve even bartered. But it is insulting to an artist to imply that their work is somehow not worth the price. It really chaps my butt.

      • It’s not just consumers, though. It’s stores, too. I do hand-painted clothing items in series (OBH+L ad coming soon 🙂 🙂 ), and I had a conversation with a store recently about wholesaling my stuff. I got a very bitchy response on the phone, and a dismissive “just send me some pictures”. I did, and the emailed response was, “Yeah right, I could get these for $3 from my suppliers- these are just basic leggings with a pattern printed on them.” No, they aren’t, and no, you couldn’t. For so many reasons. But ok- we clearly shouldn’t work together.

        Just like the customers in the marketplace (a woman literally walked into my store and up to my items and asked if they costed a dollar, I laughed at her “joke” and told her the price, she threw a fit about how “nothing in this market is a dollar”, I reminded her it’s a HANDMADE MARKETPLACE, and she stormed out). Although handmade is coming back as a viable and desirable means of production in every area of life, it hasn’t quite caught on everywhere yet.

        Just keep in mind that handmade supports local artisans, will last longer than that cheap manufactured stuff, and includes an extra dose of love and potential customization you won’t have elsewhere. Oh, and many of us DO barter!

    • “Stop telling artists their work is too expensive.”


      When I’m smitten by an artist’s work (typically paintings), I look to see if he/she does small pieces that are likely to be more nearly in my price range (and easier for me to live with, move, etc.).

      It’s not like I expect all artists to do that, and some sorts of art don’t scale well — but it’s a win-win if such works exist and I like them at that size.

  4. I like it. My household has experienced a recent shift in funds. Yet we still understand and appreciate why things cost what they do. Our solution when we really, reeeeaaaally want something pricey? Focus on the things we want, and save for them. (Or we do layaway! No credit debt.)
    I like a sale or a bargain, but I also think it’s okay to have refined or expensive tastes, and to cultivate them without descending into class war or a shame spiral. I have, over the years, saved up for special things that I know cost money but that I also know are worth it because of the quality and the use I will get. And as an artist, I also appreciate when people value my work as worth spending money on because they can see I took the time to make a quality product.
    For everything else, there’s Pinterest! Hurray for digital hoarding!

    • Speaking of Beretta as an artist… Can I take this as an opportunity to show off the amazing work she did for my husband’s birthday gift? This was worth every penny:

    • I just have to say I love the positive way you phrased “my household has experienced a shift in funds.” I will have to keep this in mind and think of things in these terms when I’m in my slower times (such as January). Thank you for this!!

  5. Our budget is limited but I have definitely learned the value of buying nice things occasionally. There are many things I can happily find in cheaper versions and a often do. My dude does not need expensive jeans when he’ll get paint and charcoal on them and likes them distressed. My cat is happy with a plastic fork and does not need expensive toys. I don’t need all the most expensive crafting tools ever.

    But I had no problem shelling out for the awesome winter boots I just bought. Because they are going to last me for a long time and I live in the land of ice and snow. We have expensive dishes because I am tired of our cheap ones cracking and breaking. My dude uses Moroccan Oil on his hair because otherwise he has curly straw.

    Investing in good stuff when it is something that matters to you, that is high quality or that is by someone you want to support, is worth it. You just need to align purchases with your values. And remember that others have different values.

    And just be honest. If you had a different budget, would you totally buy it? Then don’t knock someone who is able to buy it just because they have the means. Feel free to say you love it. Feel free to say you hope you own something like that someday. Feel free to admire.

    • “And just be honest. If you had a different budget, would you totally buy it? Then don’t knock someone who is able to buy it just because they have the means.”

      This! So often I think “That is so expensive! Why would anyone pay that much for that.” And then I think about it. If I had effectively limitless funds, I would just buy the stuff I liked with out looking at the price. So this particular item, while possibly not on my “worth saving up/eating ramen for” list, may very well be on my “I’m rich and I like it” list – if I had such a list.

      • I like to IMAGINE I’d still look at and consider the price of stuff if I were a bajillionaire, but honestly, I’d have a personal shopper at that point, so why would I care? Haha
        But really, when someone spends a lot of money on something, they’re putting money in the pockets of a LOT of people along the way, especially when they spend it locally. One of my favourite stores in town here deals in pricey artisan goods, many of which are locally made, most of which I can’t afford. I stop in for intricate and amazing little gifts, but my budget can’t keep that store afloat. It’s the people who spend CRAZY money who do, and I really appreciate that someone else can do that.

  6. For me, most of what is out of my budget is also ”out of my values”. I don’t mind paying for things I love and value, but I hate spending my money on cars, plastic products and sweat shop clothes I could have done myself. 🙂

    • I agree with “out of my values”
      There are things we will spend more for and things we will go without instead of buying a crappy version and there are things we purchase thrifted. Now for the first time in my life I have lovely furniture and I spent a bit more for my amazingly comfortable pretty couch and I STILL heard “You paid HOW much for a uded couch? I could fill my living room 3 times with that much.” then I think “Yes I have seen your living room it looks like it all cost 1/3rd of my couch and yes More importantly you will replace everything 3 or 4 times before my couch shows any real wear”

      We recently moved to house from an Apt complex that had become overly full and never had decent parking (a need with bad knees) it isnt a fancy house BUT we have parking off st, we have a huge Garage, and we live 2 houses away from my aging grandma but it costs us a bit more to live here and we are having to budget like never before BUT the apt had stopped being worth the money we spent to live there and the house is part of my values (renting from an individual and being near family)so we will make adjustments and we will do like the old Depression Era saying says:
      USE IT UP
      MAKE IT DO

  7. Now that I’m trying to make a living through writing my reaction to anyone complaining about the price of books (as a justification for downloading pirated copies) is to run down the production costs for both ebooks and paper – plus the time it takes to actually write the damn things.

    As a result my ‘not worth it’ bar for ANYTHING that an individual human being made is set WAY higher than it used to be. It doesn’t mean I can afford it, but it does mean I no longer assume can’t afford it = isn’t worth it.

  8. I’m a budget babe and non-artistic, so this article hits home. Regarding art, I was in an art shop a few months back, drawn in by this pretty cool Universal Monsters drawing turned 3-D. I went in to ask about the price, and the counter was manned by the Exacto-wielding artist themself.

    What I saw: a moderately impressive drawing (subject matter meant more to me than the drawing talent itself) that was cut out in places, someone glued some foam behind the cut out pieces to make it more 3-dimensional, and a memory when I did a similar art project in 4th grade.

    What the artist saw: a $4,000 work of art.

    I politely talked it up, then high-tailed it out of the store as eloquently as I could before my facial expression could gave my sticker shock away.

    I know how much art means to the artists who create them and Jeebus Be With those who have the talent I don’t. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about the business end of asthetics, it can be hard for the general non-artistic person to rationalize giving someone 6 month’s rent (or insert other numeric comparison here) for a picture, sculpture, etc, even if you know that person depends on that sale to pay their own rent. Art is a broadly defining term, and at least in this country the stigma is that artists are either starving or hobbiests. There isn’t a whole lot of sympathy to be had for those who struggle to make their living in the creative field. Not saying it’s necessarily the right attitude, just making an obvious observation.

  9. I am an artist and I know that sometimes people have sticker shock over my work. That is ok, as long as they are not rude about it, I know that they are not my customer.

    Most artists are very happy that someone likes/loves their work even if they can’t afford it.

    I lust after some art that I can’t afford but I am polite and appreciative of their work.

    If someone wants to know why my prices are that high I can explain to them the approximate time I have put into a piece and because I am a glass artist the cost of my materials are quite high as well. So when I explain to someone that a dish I make in glass will usually have spent at least 40 hours in a kiln for firing time and cool down not including cost of materials and time I put into cutting the glass and designing the image, they generally understand my pricing.

    Rather than being rude if you cannot afford something appreciate it and realize you will either have to save for it or maybe you are not their customer, it is ok, most people are living on a budget.

    • Yeah, I remember looking at an artists piece on Deviant Art where she was talking about how long it took her to make it, etc. The price was a couple hundred dollars (out of my price range), but when I broke it down – she was asking for $10 an hour. Given the exceptional quality of the work, the price suddenly seemed way too LOW.

      • The time thing is a big issue. People assume that just because something was made by you, it doesn’t have value. (I’ve gotten a few “Oh man, that’s so cool that you made that. Can I have it?” from acquaintances. Um, no, WTF?) Yes, supplies can range from expensive to cheap, but the time and the training costs money too.

        There’s a reason I have a day job. (Besides paying off my BFA…) It’s near impossible to compete with people who make things as a hobby, who charge cost. (Even if the quality is different. Not that all hobbyists do crappy work, some people who are self-taught are quite good, though they undersell themselves. Some are crap, like any other thing, though.)

        Which is why I urge people, please appreciate artisanship and be willing to pay for skill. And people who do it for funsies, please don’t sell your stuff for cost or less for the sake of selling more. It makes life harder for the rest of us.

        • what is with the “Oh you made that??!? can I have it?” thing?
          I have never ever walked into someone’s house and saw something and said “Oh you Bought that? Can I have it?”
          Now my friends know that if I craft or paint something and they like it to let me know that is the kind of thing they like, I LOVE knowing that come their birthday, wedding, baby shower what have you I could give them something similar as a gift. But it is not the same, I also dont mind detailing to friends how I do a craft or how a painting was done, I figure if they have the skill to duplicate something similar they have the know how to look at it like I did something and say “Oh hey maybe this isnt how they did it but I could try to get this effect by doing ____”

        • “It’s near impossible to compete with people who make things as a hobby, who charge cost. (Even if the quality is different. Not that all hobbyists do crappy work, some people who are self-taught are quite good, though they undersell themselves.”

          I have that same problem as a web designer. Somebody’s nephew offered to do their website for $50, so they can’t figure out why my estimate is so “unreasonable”…

      • When I sale art work or crafts I figure out how long it took to make and how little an hour I am willing to work for (depends on the type of work and how hard it is) and the cost of supplies and cost of where it is being sold (If it is a booth I went in for and it is a fun event and I can afford it I maybe add 10%, if it is a shop that will take 50% and I never get to interact or have a good time then yeah I cover that 50% in the cost)
        These things are part of the work
        Also if it is a craft that the info is out there for doing, if it is not an original take on it and you know you can Duplicate It Yourself…keep that info to yourself, it is rude to tell the artist you plan to duplicate a piece even if it is pouring resin into an altoid tin to make a belt buckle

    • “I know that they are not my customer” Yes, this, totally!

      I work at an upscale barbershop – our prices are not what you will find at Great Clips, but the quality of our services is also higher/worth what you’re paying.

      Sometimes people come in, take a look at our prices, and hurumphf their way right back out the door. Initially I always feel bad, but then I just think, “this just isn’t our customer, and that is OK”.

      I believe our prices our right in line with what we provide, and our loyal customers agree.

  10. Like most people on the planet, I have to prioritize my budget. While I admire the beauty of some things, I simply cannot reconcile the price with my own finances. That does not, however, mean that I don’t think the item is worth the price. As someone who makes a living at least partially off of things I made myself, I understand needing to get paid a fair price for your work. And if I ever won the lottery, I too would buy the things I love without thinking about the price, at least in some instances.

    The one thing that I really don’t understand, though, and can’t ever bring myself to shell out for (even if I did win the lottery) is clothing that carries a high price just because it is “designer”. Someone gave me a gift card to a swanky department store for Christmas this year, and I went a couple days after Christmas with the idea of getting myself some pretty new clothes on super sale. But even on super sale, I couldn’t do it. I can’t pay 20 dollars for a sweatshirt that was originally 75 dollars, just because the label carries some big name, when the label also tells me that said garment was manufactured by slaves in some horrible sweatshop in Bangladesh.

    I think the difference between shelling out 1200 bucks for a table that someone handmade vs 100 dollars for a dress that is of the same quality as a 20 dollar dress but costs more because of the label is pretty big. And I know this is slightly off the topic, but I have a torn rotator cuff and am on some happy pills so my brain isn’t working as well as it should right now.

  11. I live in a neighborhood where I own a small condo, but a few streets away is the longest stretch of mansions on a single road in the US. These are mansions or condos in mansions, that I will never afford, but I am glad they exist, and I’m glad that someone can buy them and maintain them. It somehow adds beauty to the world, and it’s part of why I love where I live. I can’t really explain why, but being surrounded by history and beauty makes life better.

    • This is exactly my situation, too. We’re in a one bedroom condo one block from a stretch of old million-dollar homes. We could never afford one (jesus, nor would I want to MAINTAIN one), but it certainly makes for lovely neighborhood walks!

    • Me too! I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in my city, in one of the cheapest apartments (per square foot) in my city. It’s an incredibly safe neighborhood, I live next to the grocery store and I’m surrounded by gorgeous, gorgeous homes. Me kneejerk is always to grumble at them (they won’t let anyone put in a gas station, even though they let them put in a liquor store… they clog up the streets in winter with their outlandish Christmas light displays… they water their lawns when there’s a water shortage… the campaign signs on their lawn make me barf…) but in the end, I’m so in awe of their awesome homes and in love with the charm of the neighborhood.

    • My friend lives in a kind of ugly high rise across the street from some beautiful old villas. We always joke that he has the better view! 🙂

      Also – this is like the opposite of that great George Bernard Shaw quote:
      “In an ugly and unhappy world the richest man can purchase nothing but ugliness and unhappiness.”

      I guess it’s more like, in a world filled with beauty and beautiful things, all us poor folks can still enjoy them even if we can’t afford to own them. 😉

  12. I think there’s also something to be said for not dwelling on a price tag even it is something you will never agree with (like the designer stuff). This is uppity but I’m so sick of shopping with out of town friends in the large city I live in be NON STOP “OMG WHO PAYS THAT” “OMG LOOK AT THIS PRICE” specifically going into places like Burberry just to comment on how ridiculous it is. It’s embarrassing and in my opinion a waste of emotional effort. It’s fine to browse if you want to admire it but it’s almost done maliciously. And yes- those prices are still insane for the product quality and no I would never buy a scarf for $600 but there’s just no reason to act like an idiot and get all crazy about the prices that you KNOW you’re not going to agree with when you walk into a store like that. Am I crazy? It just gets old and depressing after so many times of playing hostess in my city. Great post, it really hit home for me.

    • Absolutely! It also sucks when you feel like you have to play along. I went shopping once for boots with my friend. I’m tired of buying cheap on-sale boots that fall apart after a season of wear, so I’m contemplating saving up for one really nice (but hella pricey!) pair. After seeing my friend get sticker shock for a pair I really liked, I sorta pretended I had it too, but we spent the whole day not liking anything cheaper we tried on. Later she confessed to me that she ordered a nice, expensive, custom pair online, and I admitted that I was looking for something nicer too. 😀

      It reminds me of how exhausting it is to do the one-lowmanship game. If it doesn’t make you feel better or learn anything, save your energy.

  13. I learned the lesson of “you get what you pay for” through clothes shopping when I figured out that the cheapo jeans from Target were falling apart within a few months – while the ones I spent a bit more money on, are still going strong after a year and a half. I don’t have the space or extra funds yet (law student!) to really start investing in pieces for my home, but as an art luvahhh, I really love checking out all the beautiful things that are out of my price range.
    And then I plot for the future when I will be a RICH AND FAMOUS LAWYER (a phrase I use often despite knowing I am likely going into the non-profit area, which will never result in Scrooge McDuck style pools of gold), and will buy a Matisses and Warhols to put in my bathroom so I can admire them while eating my ice cream sundae with gold leaf on it.

    This comment is best accompanied by “If I had a Million Dollars,” by Barenaked Ladies.

  14. And, when in doubt, wait until you find one aat a thrift shop and buy it for a more reasonable price. (Or unreasonable in the wow-that’s-way-too-cheap—Mine. kind of way)

  15. My health insurance costs just quadrupled because of an ill-advised health insurance vote at my work, but I make skiing and food a priority. Some things, like designer clothing and shoes, are just not important to me and I can just as happily get my wearables at Target as I can at the mall. Therefore, I’m spending much less on clothing and I can buy lift tickets and healthy food instead.

    Though I do buy certain clothing items (like jeans and boots) that are more expensive, but they’re the type of clothing I wear them ALL the time and thus don’t have to replace them for a very long time.

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