The Economics of Emotions

Shopping is a Mind Game

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We may think of ourselves as savvy shoppers, but emotions play a bigger role in our spending habits than we might realize. From stress spending to FOMO, here’s a closer look at what’s happening in our brains when we shop.

Money can buy happiness

Do you use shopping as a mood booster? You’re not alone. Over half of Americans say they’ve participated in “retail therapy”, and studies have shown shopping can have a lasting positive impact on our mood. It can even reduce feelings of sadness, and help us feel in control when we’re overwhelmed.

Of course, that’s not the whole story…

The thrill of the hunt

Shopping floods our brains with dopamine, just like hearing your fave song or seeing your crush. But here’s the secret — it’s not the purchase that’s getting you hyped, it’s the build up. That rush can be addicting.

So, use your brain’s love of anticipation to your advantage! Saving up for a major purchase actually feels better than buying it right away on credit.

Say no to FOMO

Giving ourselves more time to anticipate a big purchase doesn’t just feel better, it also helps us make better decisions. Whether it’s a limited-time sale or hot meme stock, the idea of missing out sends our lizard brains into everyone-for-themselves mode. Back in the day, this helped our hunter/gatherer ancestors stay alive.

Today, it’s a recipe for buyer’s remorse.

Stress encourages us to impulse buy

Oh, and what’s the #1 source of stress? Money. Ahhhhh. So, stress-spending can get you caught in a feedback loop of impulse purchase → guilt and regret → more stress. Next time you’re feeling stressed, opt for a healthier outlet, like meditation or exercise. See if you’re still even thinking about that panic purchase once you’ve distracted yourself with something else.

Don’t Do shop angry

This doesn’t mean you should Hulk up before hitting the mall, but shopping while angry made it easier for research participants to stay focused on what they were shopping for, making them more satisfied with their purchases as a result.

Look, but don’t touch

Handling an item lets us take it out for a mental test drive. It also makes it difficult for us to imagine letting go. The takeaway here: don’t take it away 🤣

When you’re out shopping, keep your hands to yourself!


SpongeBob’s Road to Real Estate

A Pants-Wearing Sponge Cleans Up in the Housing Market. Here’s the Takeaway.

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Against all odds, everyone’s favourite sea sponge is doing quite well for himself: he owns his own home! Say what you will about SpongeBob’s fashion, food, and career choices, this kid’s captured a milestone that’s a dream for many. And he’s not just captured that milestone, he’s slayed it.

SpongeBob’s hollowed-out pineapple home is allegedly worth $18 000 000 — almost 3X what Drake paid for his Toronto manse. Consider the view: “This post-modern tropical gem features 360-degree ocean views and three stories of nautical luxury,” boasts a  video on SpongeBob’s official YouTube account. 

Okay, so how did he do it, and what lessons can we soak up from this real estate rockstar? 

Millennial Bob: A fiscally savvy thirtysomething

Thanks to a glimpse fans once got of his driver’s license, we know SpongeBob was born on July 14, 1986 — so, he’s a millennial at age 35. Those who grew up watching SpongeBob SquarePants may find it hard to believe that he’s been more disciplined with his finances than the majority of us, but hey, crazy things happen under the sea. Let’s consider that Bob may be a financial wizard, and deconstruct his money moves.

He’s a famously devoted fry cook — some say the world’s greatest —  at the Krusty Krab, Bikini Bottom’s favourite fast-food joint. Work ethic? Check! Income? … inconsistent. In one episode, according to Spongepedia, Bob claims to make under ten cents a year. In another ep, we learn that he pays his boss, Mr. Krabs, $100 an hour for the privilege of working. We’ve seen him pocket an envelope of cash on payday, so he does get the occasional haul, but really Bob’s the original gig worker. 

The Takeaway

He’s been side hustling since he was 12— jouster, chef, lifeguard, lawyer, the list goes on. Bob started early, put time to work in his favour, and probably learned a thing or two about compound interest along the way. 

Is he investing? Probably. He’s sure invested a lot of time over at Mrs. Puff’s Boating School, where he’s failed to get his boating license 1 258 058 times. Silver lining? He’s saving money on gas and boat payments, and likely making that money work for him in the markets.

And finally, Bob knows a deal when he sees one. Submerged “land” is considerably cheaper to buy than its above sea equivalent. In Canada, a man recently listed  two lots, “presently underwater,” for the bargain price of $99,000. 

Is this the investment property to sink your savings into? We prefer drier. But hey, location, location… floatation!


If I Had a Million Dollars…

Could I Even Afford the Things in this Song?
Wealthie investigates.

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Let’s get right to it. A million dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. Or does it? We look at the lyrics and break down the numbers to see how this Classic BNL hit has aged.

A House


The average cost of a Canadian home in 2021 takes up almost the full million smackers. That’s about five times higher than it was in 2000 ($163,951) and more than double the 2019 average ($339,030). 

A nice chesterfield*


The Sven couch by the Canadian design company, Article, gets a great review in Architectural Digest. Here’s to buying local!

*Or an ottoman


The matching ottoman goes for $529

A K-Car


The Chrysler vehicle (and all around “nice Reliant automobile”) made history as the cheapest car in the compact class. Even adjusted to today’s dollars it’s pretty affordable.

A tree fort


The US national average for building a treehouse is $7000, but you can get that cost down with a little DIY.

A little, tiny fridge


The Frigidaire Retro Mini looks like a reasonable size for a tree fort.

Pre-wrapped sausages


That’s for the Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage. (Just a thought, but aren’t all sausages technically “pre-wrapped”?)

A fur coat (but not a real fur coat)


This snazzy faux fur from Zara is neither prohibitively expensive or creature cruel.

An exotic pet, like a llama


This is for an untrained, untamed llama, which frankly sounds like a bit of a nightmare (but slightly more affordable than the alternative—an emu chick runs for around $1000).

John Merrick’s remains


John Merrick, aka The Elephant Man, died in 1890 at the age of 27, suffering from a condition called Proteus syndrome. In 1987, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, offered to buy this particularly significant bag of bones for $1,000,000. He was turned down by the London Hospital Medical College, which said that a sale would be “quite wrong on ethical grounds”.

A limousine


Sure, it’s indulgent (and not great for the environment) to take a limo to the store. But, can you put a price on grocery storage space and legroom?! (Yes, actually, you can!)

Kraft Dinner


One box of KD, no butter, no milk.

Expensive ketchup


In the song they wonder why there is no Grey Poupon (or fancy) version of ketchup, which is a question that has been pondered by some of the great intellects of our time. Turns out Heinz has a solid grip on the market.

A green dress


Obviously there’s a wide range here. The world’s most expensive dress is a red chiffon number by a Malaysian designer worth $30 million. (Now that’s cruel)

Some art… a Picasso (or a Garfunkel)


The cheapest work by one of history’s most celebrated artists will run you around $120,000. Which is cheaper than Art Garfunkel’s booking fee (apparently around $350,000). 

A monkey


The cost of Justin Bieber’s pet Capuchin was about $6,000 (not including the $10K in fees he had to pay when trying to illegally transport it across the border).

Total: $1,936,392.86*

*This figure includes the million dollars towards John Merrick’s remains. Assuming the medical powers that be adhere to their ethical stance, we leave out the million, and the new tally becomes a manageable $936,392.86. This leaves a balance/contingency of $63607.14 to buy “your/their love” — or to boost the house bid, since that may be necessary in this seller’s market. 


The Cost of Being Batman

Running the numbers on this Caped Crusader. 

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Yes, Batman’s got a lot to juggle, keeping Gotham safe from the Riddler and Penguin. But, that’s not all that’s on his mind. Like any business titan, running a multi-billion dollar enterprise while moonlighting as a caped crusader, Batman’s got to stay on top of his budget. 

Wealthie looks into the BatWallet to investigate how this superhero stays in the black.

$13.04 billion: Total net worth

Ten years ago a group of econ students (and obvious DC Comic fans) at Lehigh University estimated Batman’s wealth at 11.6 billion USD, ($13.04B in today’s dollars). It’s mostly the result of inheritance after his parents’ brutal murder. But, B. Wayne deserves some credit, too. He’s put his money to work at Wayne Enterprises. Being mega wealthie is actually Batman’s superpower. He doesn’t have superhuman strength, x-ray vision, or even spider powers. He just knows how to make every buck count.  

$137 million: Market value of Wayne Manor

Bruce inherited his 42,500 square foot, 11 bedroom, luxury lair from his parents when they died. Since then, it’s been destroyed several times by various enemies. 

Without considering the costs of all those rebuilds, here’s what Batman budgets annually:

$1.6M: annual upkeep

$37,000: property taxes

$27,000: house insurance (and that’s monthly!)

$41,250: The Batsuit

This is what the costume worn by Michael Keaton in Batman Returns fetched at auction. If you’d prefer a functional memory cloth polymer cape (the kind that stiffens to facilitate flying from building to building), that’s going to set you back $40,000 on its own. 

$11, 588, 928: Annual life insurance policy

It’s not cheap being a batguy in the big city. According to Vantis Life, a US insurance company that scores factors like dangerous situations, exposure to firearms, and alcohol consumption, Batman is one of the most valuable clients in Gotham or anywhere.   

$1.5MM: Salary for Alfred Pennyworth

The starting salary for a butler is around $30/hour. However, the highest paid butler on the planet — a guy named Gary Williams, who works for a billionaire in Miami — rakes in a reported $2.2 million a year. Keep in mind that Batman’s right hand has a fairly extensive job description, and some top shelf job experience.  Alfred’s LinkedIn page includes stints with British spy agencies MI5 and MI6. He spends as much time supporting his boss in special ops as he does delivering tea. He’s also been on the job since Bruce was seven, so we’ve factored in a few substantial raises.       

$12.3MM: Estimated Price to Buy the Daily Planet 

That’s right, Batman is technically Superman’s boss, having bought the newspaper where Clark Kent works as a bespectacled reporter. It wasn’t cheap (and print media is a risky investment these days). But the cost of owning the competition: Priceless. 

Financial advice from Batman’s nemesis:

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

– The Joker, ‘The Dark Knight’