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What ‘Final Fantasy’ taught me about finance: Use it or lose it

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Hoarding doesn't do much to help you enjoy Final Fantasy or life

My first foray into the world of Moogles and Magitek goes as far back as elementary school. In fact, I’ve been playing “Final Fantasy” so long that the game may have actually been the origin of a bad habit it would eventually help me recognize: holding onto things until they’re no longer useful.

In “Final Fantasy,” as with all role-playing games, you wind up collecting myriad items along your quest. And I’m totally cool with that; when I find the Atma weapon, you better believe I put on my Genji gloves and dual wield that sucker with the Illumina.

My problem is with finite supplies. If it’s depletable, I avoid using it as much as possible, regardless of what it is, thinking I’ll need it for some unusually tough boss fight that never happens. Eventually, I’ll reach the final boss, and the precious supply of items and all the money I’d been so miserly with are rendered pointless, my fortune of Gil depleting only when I delete the save file.

It wasn’t until college that it dawned on me how much this habit had materialized in my life. After stocking my fridge via care packages and trips to the grocery store, instead of eating it all like a normal person, I’d try to ration it out, thinking, “I have to make this last as long as possible,” as if I’d survive some sort of meteor-filled apocalypse and be left with nothing else.

I might eat or sip a bit, but I’d come up with any excuse in my mind to convince myself there’d be a better opportunity to have the rest. Of course, anything with an expiration date would inevitably expire, and by semester’s end, I’d find myself trying to eat everything in my freezer, making enormous food combinations “Epic Meal Time” would be proud of. As you may have noticed, none of this habit is particularly healthy.

Since recognizing the habit, I’ve been working on breaking it, both in games and in life. Now when I play a game, I try to see my item hoarding for what it is — pointless — and wouldn’t you know it, it’s actually pretty fun to incorporate these items into a strategy and explore new play styles. I’m also trying to see my real-life item hoarding for what it is — wasteful and expensive — and wouldn’t you know it, food you pay for is pretty good when you don’t just throw it out en masse every few months.

One technique that has worked for me is to think in terms of saving, rather than hoarding. While it’s an excellent idea to stash some cash at a bank or invest it as a safety net, try to set some fun goals to save toward as well. Plan to go on a vacation in a year, invest in a new hobby, get yourself a new game console — anything you find exciting enough to set some money aside for. Otherwise, sure, you’ll have an impressive amount of wealth eventually, but it’ll all be pretty worthless (to you at least; your heirs may disagree) when that save file you call life gets deleted.

The same applies with food. Instead of haphazardly throwing whatever looks good into your shopping cart, look up some recipes, use them to create a shopping list, and try to schedule those dishes out until your next shopping trip. That way, instead of hoping for some vague “right moment” to eat, you’ll have some killer meals to look forward to.

“Final Fantasy” taught me to enjoy finite supplies, be they shuriken or steak, before it’s too late. Do you find yourself doing the same in games or IRL? Have video games taught you anything about finance?

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