When we think about what we spend our money on, it’s always an interesting series of choices, isn’t it? All this came to me as I watched someone at my local grocery store buying $10 lottery tickets from a lottery vending machine. I have this thing about lottery tickets. Why do people invest in a gamble? (You might try and reply that everything is a gamble, and to that, I’d be polite and say nothing.)
All Spending is a Choice
My first eye opening moment in understanding money came from The Millionaire Next Door (affiliate link). In this book, we learn that millionaires are frugal, that they tend to drive older cars, wear less expensive clothes, and have far less debt than people who aspire to wealth. When I first read it, I felt that I understood it. Now, it’s something of an aspiration, to be as smart and as intentional with my money as possible.
People tell me all the time that they can’t afford something. But then I’ll watch their Twitter feed, or Facebook, or Instagram, and I’ll see the reason why not.
Just a Few Quick Numbers
1 latte at Starbucks = $5.
20 a month (assuming you get one on the way to work every day) is $100.
$100 x 12 months = $1200.
So switching out this one luxury gives you a $1200 raise, or $1200 you could spend on an airplane ticket, a trip somewhere, a gym membership, etc.
Buy 1 album on iTunes for $10 or Buy 1 month of all the music you want on Spotify for $10 (or Rhapsody, etc). People tell me, “but not as much money goes to the artist.” If you bought 1 month of a streaming service, you’d have money to buy a tee shirt or paypal it directly to the artist. If you buy more than one album a month, then you’re already saving money with this one change.
Movie at the theater: $12 (average)
Popcorn and a drink: $13
Or, Netflix/Amazon Prime, RedBox and spend $3 or $4 on the experience, plus whatever’s in the fridge.
$25 a month on movies (and this presumes you go solo and to one movie a month only) adds up to $300 a year. Let’s be more realistic:
4 people x $25 = 100 a month = $1200 a year on movies.
The cinema is magic. I go there myself. But I’ve made it a choice. Let’s talk about that next.
My Examples Aren’t The Focus: Your Choices Are
The point of this post is that you are likely doing some habitual spending in some part of your life and that at another part of your life, you’re feeling like you can’t afford something that matters to you. The reality is, if it matters to you, you can find the money in some part of your life (for most folks).
The majority of people who read this blog don’t live at or below the poverty line (except for a few of my homeless friends, and hi to you! This really doesn’t apply, but I’m glad you’re here). Instead, what we find is that most of us live in the muddy middle.
All of it is choice. Your previous choices are still being paid off. Your future choices have yet to be funded. All of these choices are in your hands.
One Way to Make Decisions
I’m trying hard to adopt this kind of mindset: will this grow my capabilities, or is it for pleasure only? That one sentence keeps me on a much better path. I spend when it makes sense, and I try to hold off or not buy at all, when it’s just a “want” without any real obvious value beyond the purchase.
I do still make purchases for pleasure. I’m not saying we should live like monks, but the question above is a great way to shed a lot of useless spending. It’s a way to know whether I should go see The Hobbit or I should buy a book about cultural anthropology.
But that’s my choice. That’s my gauge. Or one of my gauges.
What are you doing? How do you look at money? What’s changed?