how can sentimental value impact your finances

How Can Sentimental Value Impact Your Finances?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a decision based on emotion.

Okay, put your hands down, and excuse the teacher in me. All joking aside, if this question was posed everyone should be raising their hand, because we have ALL made decisions based on our emotions.

Now, let’s focus our question a little more.

How many of you have ever made a FINANCIAL decision based on emotion?

Again, I would argue that everyone has at some point in their life. How many people have had a bad day and purchased a treat? What about lunch because you don’t feel like cooking? Retail therapy anyone?

While we’ve all made emotional decisions that have a minor effect on our finances, our emotions can become a really big problem when they begin to affect our major financial choices.

Tawnya here, and a recent event in my life got me to thinking about the impact of emotions on financial decisions, and more specifically, the effects of sentimental value on our financial decisions.

Fortunately, sentimental value didn’t stand in the way of a huge financial mistake in this instance, but it sure did pack an emotional punch. Not only did this punch take me by surprise, it made me wonder how many people fail to withstand the punch of their sentimental emotions?

That being said, I hope that the story I’m about to share will help people understand the impact of emotions in their own financial lives, as well as give them some tools to make sound financial decisions despite the presence of sentimental value.

Let’s take a look at the impact of sentimental value on your finances.


What is Sentimental Value?

We’ve all heard someone make reference to sentimental value, but what exactly is it?

Sentimental value is when we ascribe value to an object because of our emotional attachment to it, not because of it’s actual monetary worth. Furthermore, we tend to give MORE value to an object because of sentimental value than what its actual market value is.

Objects become sentimentally valuable to us because of the emotions attached to them, which in turn raises the value of that object in our eyes.

This is the reason families pass down heirlooms, pictures, property, and many other things even when that thing may have no/little other monetary value. These objects become special to us because of the emotions and memories attached to them.

Sentimental value can be given to any object, and most of the time it will probably have little impact on your financial decisions. But what if that object could have serious financial implications?

Next, I’ll recount my recent brush with sentimental value and how it could have spelled serious financial implications had I given into my emotional attachment.


Mufasa the Exploder

You’re probably very confused with the heading above but bear with me a moment and all will become clear.

Several weeks ago, I was with my mom going to drop off my niece at my sisters’ house. We pulled into the driveway and sitting amongst the plethora of broken-down vehicles sat Mufasa the Exploder.

Mufasa is a 1993 Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer.

My heart began pounding just a little harder as I turned to my mom and asked her why the Explorer was at my sisters’ house. She sheepishly and quietly said that they’d (my parents) sold it to my sister and her husband.

Instantly, I was a flood of emotions inside. Anger, hurt, sadness, loss, disappointment. All of it rolled up into one big emotional ball.

On the outside, I just got really quiet. Of course, my mom could tell I wasn’t happy, and she asked me not to be mad, and that they’d done it so my sister could have a reliable vehicle to take my niece in.

Still, I was crushed.

At this point you’re probably really confused about why I would be having such a strong emotional reaction to my parents selling an old beater like the Explorer to my sister.

I get it, it doesn’t make sense on the outside, but when you place the lens of sentimental value on the situation you can immediately see why I had that reaction.

Let me place that lens for you.


The Long History of Mufasa

Mufasa wasn’t always Mufasa. That name came much later.

Mufasa, or the Explorer, was purchased new by my grandparents in 1993. Being the special Eddie Bauer edition, it had all the bells and whistles of the time.

I was 6 years old in 1993, and I can still remember riding around in the Explorer with my grandma. My sister and I spent Monday-Wednesday after school, or all day in the summer, going places and doing things with my grandma.

Wherever we went, the Explorer took us.

Fast forward to 2002, and my grandparents were looking to upgrade. The Explorer was then given to my parents, and it became my mom’s daily driver.

Fast forward a few years to 2005 and I was preparing to go off to college. My parents were thinking of selling the Explorer, but instead offered it to me for my college car. I drove the Explorer full-time for the next 5 years, and all through college.

It was in college that the Explorer was lovingly given the name Mufasa the Exploder by my circle of friends because of its red color and solid and reliable nature.

Mufasa, along with the Vank (a heavy-duty Mazda van driven by another friend) were the primary work-engines of college. Slick roads, Mufasa to the rescue. Need to haul something? Throw it in the back of Mufasa. Trip to the beach or the mountains? Mufasa had plenty of room for all of us and our gear.

During that time, I worked my school breaks at Mt. Hood Skibowl, and the Explorer got me safely to and from work up on the snowy mountain. The Explorer is the perfect snow vehicle because it’s heavy and handles really well.

In fact, if you can’t get somewhere in 4-wheel drive in that Explorer, you’d better not go.

Fast forward to fall of 2015 and I’d just bought my first house. My parents were again looking to get rid of the Explorer, but I bought it from them for $1,350 as an extra vehicle to haul my dogs in.

Mufasa was getting a little run down by this time. It had over 230,000 miles on it, the AC didn’t work, and you constantly needed to top off the coolant because of a leaky radiator. You had to go easy on her, but the Explorer still did the job.

Then, in early 2017 disaster struck. Mufasa needed some hefty repairs totaling around $1,500, which was more than what the vehicle was worth. I agonized over what to do, but finally decided that it was time to retire Mufasa. This was when I purchased my Silverado and began trying to figure out what to do with the Explorer.

Then, salvation!

My dad’s health had been declining for a few years due to MS, and he was having trouble getting in and out of the vehicles my parents had (a truck without running boards and a car). He asked if I could keep the Explorer parked until he had the money to repair it.

Of course I would.

I kept Mufasa parked at my house for almost 6 months. Then, when the time came I spent an entire day cleaning it inside and out, then drove it to the shop to be repaired.

The Explorer once again had a job to do.

Now, just a little over a year later my dad’s health has continued to decline. At this point he is unable to stand on his own and getting him in and out of the Explorer is a chore.

A few months ago my mom bought a lift van, which is a much better option for driving my dad.

The Explorer has once again needed repairs, and with 3 other vehicles besides the lift van my parents had a choice. They originally wanted to sell my mom’s car because they could eliminate that payment. Instead, they chose to give the Explorer to my sister.

Mufasa once again has a job to do.


Why All the Hurt?

With all that history it’s easy to see why the Explorer has sentimental value to me. What’s not so easy to see is why I was so upset that my parents gave it to my sister. On the surface, it seems like Mufasa has been given another job, and a longer life.

So why am I so upset?

Here’s the thing about my sister and her husband: they don’t take care of things.

Remember my statement at the beginning of the article? The Explorer now sits amongst the plethora of broken-down cars, the lone running vehicle. They literally have a small junkyard at their house.

Why am I so upset?

Because I know my beloved Explorer will soon be nothing more than a heap of rotting junk sitting in their yard.

With over 240,000 miles on it, the Explorer needs to be babied to keep running in good working order. This is not something my sister and her husband have a good track record of. When a car quits working, it sits forgotten with the rest.

I know Mufasa’s time is close at hand, and it isn’t worth it financially to keep her running forever. I knew that she would be donated and likely parted out eventually. That I could accept.

What isn’t so easy to accept is Mufasa being driven into the ground and then left to rot.


The Power of Sentimental Value

To you all, the Explorer is just an old beater, but to me it represents 25 years of memories.

What I found amazing was just how strong of an emotional reaction I had to finding out it would likely be destroyed.

I literally cried over a car!

That’s the power of sentimental value.

After withstanding the emotional tidal wave, I began thinking about how others might react in a similar situation, and how sentimental value might drive them to make poor financial decisions.

You see, I had to resist the urge to go and buy the vehicle back from my sister, which would have been a serious financial mistake. Despite my emotions, I know to wait until I’m in a more rational state to make decisions, as well as how to realistically evaluate the situation.

I know how to stem the emotional tide and move on, but what about others?


How to Minimize the Impact of Sentimental Value on Your Finances

Sentimental value is a real and powerful thing, but it doesn’t have to control you.

First, you need to determine whether you’re being impacted by sentimental value. Here are some warning signs that you are being impacted by sentimental value:


  • You feel the object is worth more than its market value
  • You experience strong negative emotions when you think of parting with the object
  • You have held onto the object even if it has no use to you


Once you’ve determined that sentimental value is impacting your judgement with an object, there are some steps you can take to avoid letting your emotions lead you to a serious financial mistake.


  1. When faced with strong negative emotions about the object ride the wave out. Don’t make any decisions about the object at that time. Instead, focus on the emotions and why you are feeling them.
  2. Decide what the true market value of the object is. Once you know, you will be able to make more informed decisions about whether to keep it, sell it, or repair it.
  3. Talk through your options with friends and/or family. We’re often so caught up in our emotions we can’t see things realistically. During these times it’s important to get an outside opinion from someone you trust.
  4. If it doesn’t make sense to keep the object, make plans to let it go. If you’re selling it, make sure you’re only asking for its true market value.
  5. Reward yourself for making a good financial choice. Don’t go crazy, but it’s okay to indulge in a minor splurge, especially if the decision was particularly painful to make.


Moral of the Story

Sentimental value is real, and very powerful.

The reason for this power is that the object isn’t just an object, it’s a memory bank filled with strong emotions.

I was recently faced with the pull of sentimental value when my parents gave my beloved Explorer to my sister, where it will likely break down and be left to rot.

The Explorer isn’t just a car to me, it’s a 25-year-old memory capsule filled with some of the best times of my life.

Having a strong emotional attachment to an object is perfectly normal, and no one should feel ashamed for that attachment.

However, it’s important to not let that attachment push us to make unsound financial decisions. In my case, I couldn’t let my attachment to the Explorer drive me to purchase a vehicle that would just sit and collect dust. I’d never get my money out of it, so I had to accept its imminent demise and move on.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let yourself feel the emotions and relive the memories. Once the emotional rush has passed, try to evaluate the situation realistically to see whether it’s worth keeping/repairing the object. Seek out advice from trusted friends and family to help you, as they’ll be able to offer an opinion unclouded with emotions.

If you determine that it doesn’t make financial sense to keep/repair the object, make plans to part with it. If it’s a vehicle on its last legs, consider donating it to charity so that it can go to a good cause.

Remember, an object is a symbol, a representation of memories. Although it’s hard to let it go, the real memory holder is and always will be in your heart.

Talk about Money Saved.


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Tawnya Redding

Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night. She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer. Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.

5 thoughts on “How Can Sentimental Value Impact Your Finances?”

  1. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    I think another key element in avoiding financial mistakes inre: sentimental value is to sit down and figure out the root of the sentiment. Most of the time it’s going to be memories, which you don’t need that specific object for. You’ll always remember the good times you had in the Explorer, and you don’t need the car itself to recall them.

    1. That’s a very good point Abigail. You still have the memories even without the object, although I think it’s the physical nature of the object that’s so hard to give up. Memories exist only in your head, but you can’t necessarily see them and touch them. Pictures may be a good substitute for the actual object in these cases.

  2. Tons of great points in this article regarding sentimental value. This is also the beginning of a possible hoarding problem where you continually refuse to part with things. Eventually accumulating stuff that actually brings more unnecessary stress to your life.

    1. Thanks for you comment. This item was very unique for me in how attached I was based on 25+ years of memories, but I’m normally not hit so hard by parting with things. However, sentimental value could definitely turn into a larger problem if an individual isn’t able to part with anything, or begins collecting items that are clearly trash.

  3. Pingback: Common Causes For Broken Auto Glass – Blog – Crystal Glass

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