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I’m working to pay off $70,000 of student loan debt and I need a new phone. What should I do?

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Dear Dave,

My husband will be finishing physician assistant school in December, just a few days before our first baby is due. We’ve got about $70,000 in student loan debt, and we’re trying to get everything paid off. Both our cell phones are pretty old, and I’d like to get a new one that costs $350 so we can have really good pictures of the baby. My job is the only income we have right now, and I’m making $45,000 before taxes. Is this a silly thing to do in our situation?

Jamie

Dear Jamie,

This is an important question. It’s not important because $350 is a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it’s important because you’re making a judgment call as to what you’re focusing on and what you value.

If you’re focusing on your husband finishing school, so his income goes up and you’re trying to get out of debt, that fine. I love it when people are willing to work their tails off to have better lives. But if that’s your focus, and at the same time you’re trying to rationalize buying something you don’t really need, that’s a bad thing. You don’t need a new cell phone for a camera, especially if the camera is the only reason you’re buying it. You can find decent digital cameras everywhere these days for $50 or less.

I understand the joy that goes along with having a child. I have three kids, and we were absolutely ecstatic each and every time one was born. And, of course, we wanted good photos of them all. But right now, I think you’re trying to rationalize a phone upgrade based on the emotion of a new baby. As an exercise of your value system, that’s a tendency you need to break. This is a test, Jamie. What you’re talking about here is a luxury, not a necessity. Rationalization is one of the prime causes of overspending.

Please understand, I’m not picking on you and I don’t mean to be harsh. We’ve all flunked this test at times. But this is an important moment where your judgment and values are concerned. It’s your call, but you really don’t need to blow $350 on a new phone right now.

Dave

Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 16 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

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