For me, the best personal finance lessons are the ones I learn first-hand. When I actually experience something, I get a lot more out of it than simply by reading about it.

Last week I flew to San Francisco. To kill time on the early morning flight, I browsed the SkyMall catalog. Big mistake. There’s some cool stuff in there — cool stuff that I don’t actually need. Before I knew it, I was dog-earing pages for things like:

And, of course, the piece de resistance: the Arcade Legends full-sized 100-game system, which features dozens of my childhood favorites like Asteroids, Centipede, Tempest, Berserk, and Missile Command. I was giving serious consideration to this $3700 monstrosity before I realized what an idiot I was being.

It sometimes frustrates me that I’m tempted by gadgets and toys still. I want not to care. I want to be able to walk into a store or browse through a catalog and not find myself longing for things I know I do not need. Fortunately, I’m usually able to remind myself of my goals. And none of my goals involve owning an Arcade Legends video game machine.

I put away the SkyMall catalog and I read a book instead.