Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Do I REALLY want?

In some circles, saving money is all about deprivation. If one can justify this with a feeling of noble satisfaction, so much the better. But not all of us do deprivation well. Count Grace in that number.

Back in the early eighties, when my weight mattered more to me than my finances, I read Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue. One particular recommendation in that book has always stayed with me. Susie suggests that when we have a craving for a certain food, we make every effort to eat that exact food and to resist the temptation to settle for something else. For example, if I want a Snickers, and it is 3:00 a.m., either get up, get dressed, go to the nearest 7/11 and get the Snickers bar, or wait till morning to get it (if I still want it). But the key is NOT to settle for less, not to substitute the ice-cream in the freezer or the dusty Hershy bar in the bottom of my purse.

It turns out that this works for money as well. I find that monitoring what I REALLY want at any given time rather than settling for something out of habit does save me money.

Take morning coffee. First, I DO have to have coffee in the morning. If money is no object, I grab coffee and a pastry at one of the local coffee shops on my way from the bus stop to my office. Exit $3.50. On week-ends, I take the daily paper and drive to my favorite bagel shop where I linger over both my coffee and the paper.

Needless to say, I cherish my week-end mornings over coffee. I WANT those quiet times out of the house.

But the weekday coffee expense is more of a habit--I need the coffee but I don't really need it to be as expensive as stopping at the coffee shop makes it.

So on most weekdays, I now brew coffee at home and bring it to work with me. I also bring pastries from home. Even counting the costs of coffee and pastry from the grocery store, I'm saving at least $10 a week.

But I have not given up my week-ends at the coffee shop, nor do I intend to. If I did, I would definitely feel deprived.

Just as Orbach suggests being thoughtful about food, it is important to become thoughtful about money. The object is not to stop spending money, but to stop spending money on things that ultimately give us little satisfaction or pleasure and weren't really what we wanted in the first place.


Beany said...

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about this especially recently. I've realized that I like good cheese (which is usually expensive), good (and fair-traded) coffee, and melt in my mouth chocolate that uses quality ingredients. This is the stuff that costs me money and often quite a bit of money but I am willing to use grey water to flush the toilet if it means I can have that one type of cheese.
Additionally, some people don't seem to understand why I dislike microwaves. I happen to like cooking and I want to be completely present when I am preparing my meal. Its a savoring experience. So I could save a few pennies by tossing things in the microwave...but that isn't something important to me.

mariam said...

I am definitely not a frugal pf blogger but I do recognize the need to cut back on debt. It's a necessity.

However, there is such a thing as enjoying life and I can't help but think that people are just trying to squeeze blood from a stone. At one point, there's nothing more to give and the debt still hasn't been paid off - people feel discouraged and deprived and end up spending more money on the rebound.

Personally, I'm more for wealth generation or creating other revenue streams but I guess we all need to start somewhere. However, let's not cut to the bone.

tracyho said...

Great post ,

Happy to read your tips,

Tracy Ho

Sharon said...

I really liked this post. Knowing what you value is helpful in how you spend your money..guilt free.

Lisa said...

I find that it's the little dollars like these that can really eat away at my bottom line. I think just becoming aware of how frivolously I was spending saved me a bunch. In January I started really working at it, and tracking it as well. To date I have saved $592.19. I get tremendous satisfaction out of tracking it.


Donna said...

I like the way you think, Grace: Spend the money where it really counts. Certainly those "little dollars," as Lisa put it, do add up over time. But there's definitely wisdom in finding balance that lets you enjoy coffee out on the weekends in exchange for brewing your own on the weekdays.
This is especially true if you're concerned about retirement and the market, as you posted recently. The dollars you save will make a difference, if only to bolster your emergency fund.
Thanks for a thoughtful post.
Donna Freedman
Smart Spending, MSN Money