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Photo Joseph Siebel

I have a problem with wanting and buying things I really can’t afford. If it weren’t for my husband’s good influence for the past 23 years, that trait would have run amuck in my life with dreadful results. He’s kept me in check and trained me into better ways of thinking, and I’m grateful for that.

More recently, though, I’ve been brought to a greater sense of responsibility for my lusts by something other than a practical spouse. Witnessing the consequences of foolish choices, made by people I love, has been sobering—not that I’m in a position to judge, especially when I reflect on my own poor choices.

When I have these lapses in judgment, I have a better response than I did in my youth. I no longer say, “Oh, well.” Instead, I try to fix it as soon as possible.

Case in point: a pair of Josef Seibel Women’s Caspian Sneakers in silver leather. I bought them to wear to New York City next week—and regretted it as soon as I wrote the check.

It’s true that they were the perfect on-trend choice for comfort and style. Sadly, they were $129.00. I left them in the box for five days while I thought about my buying rationale: I didn’t want to look like a country bumpkin when I hit the streets of New York for the first time.

There’s nothing evil about that, but I must admit that insecurity is a poor reason for an unnecessary purchase. I considered the expense of next week’s trip, and the things I might want to buy while I’m there.

Meanwhile, two incidents humbled me into a decision about the shoes.
As I was packing my groceries into my car, a young man approached me, asking for money to buy food. Two days later, I was throwing my golf clubs in the trunk when I lady drove up beside me and asked for $18.50 to buy a pump for her car.

In my mind, everything in the world conspired with a message: buying a pair of shoes I didn’t need felt wrong when so many people lack the necessities of life. I returned my Joseph Siebels and felt immediately at peace. If only every mistaken choice could be fixed so easily.

More often, I feel ambiguous about what’s right and what’s wrong in life.
Here’s how I’ve learned to judge the difference when there is no clear guidance. If I’m still second-guessing and justifying any action for days afterwards, I figure I’m probably wrong. On the other hand, when I lay my head down at night without a trace of remorse, I feel reasonably sure that I have done the right thing.

It’s reassuring to think that the wealthiest people do think about their impact on the world.
This week 250 of the world’s wealthiest people met in London for the Inclusive Capitalism Conference. Together, they represented $30 trillion of the world’s assets. I loved this quote by conference organizer Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who runs E.L. Rothschild, a major investment firm. “It’s true that the business of business is not to solve society’s problems,” she says. “But it is really dangerous for business when business is viewed as one of society’s problems. And that is where we are today.”

Their conference was addressing the problem of greed, which originates corporately and individually. Buying less and buying second hand goods whenever I can is one way to be a little less greedy. Do you ever see yourself as greedy, and if so, how do you put a lid on it?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.