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.