One of my favorite pieces of financial advice is this:
Freely spend your money on things you receive a lot of value from, but mercilessly slash expenses elsewhere.
I like this advice because it’s positive. Too many times, financial advice comes across like a list of don’ts. I think that kind of negative advice leads to the thought that to have success with money you need to give up a bunch of things and live a miserly life. That’s just not true.
A little discipline never hurt anyone, but the thought of depriving yourself of everything, every kind of spending, leads many people to just give up.
Who the heck wants to live a life where you’re always buying the cheapest thing, doing without, or not reaping the benefits of your hard work?
I also like this advice because it’s sustainable. There aren’t too many overnight financial successes. You have to stick with it over the course of many months and even years to see real progress.
If you have to deal with any overly-restrictive rules associated with this journey then you’re likely to give up because of fatigue. Just like with your diet, it shouldn’t be a feast or famine kind of thing.
How do you know what you value? Don’t think about it in terms of the actual stuff you are buying. No one would ever say that they value a pack of gum, or a hot dog at the concession stand of a sporting event. Think about it from a high level.
For instance, you might say, “I value time spent with my family, so I’m going to spend the money to take them camping this weekend so we can get away from life’s distractions.” You might also say, “I value my time spent on work projects more than anything, so I’m going to pay a premium to order take out meals instead of cooking.”
Only you know what you value. Just take the time to find out what those things are and then link that to your spending.
What if you value a bunch of things? I tend to have a lot of interest and passions that run simultaneously. If I spent money on everything I was into, I’d be broke. No doubt about it. You’ve got to find a balance with each of your passions and wants. Prioritize them.
Focus on one for a while and then put it down and pick up another. Make sure your spending follows suit, so you’re not spending money in areas where you’ve lost interest. Lost your golfing fever? Consider selling your clubs and investing the money in your new hobby instead of spending new money.
“Freely spend” doesn’t mean ignore price. Just because you “want your daily Starbucks and no one is going to stop you”, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still look for a deal. Find a way to get what you want and spend less. If you’re a frequent customer, be sure to sign up for their membership deals. The same goes with big purchases. Do your research and take your time with each purchase. If you really value it, isn’t it best to ensure you’re really getting what you want for the optimal price?
This is only a framework to help make decisions. Finally, the best way to think about this advice is to consider it a framework with which to check your spending choices. There is no right or wrong thing to purchase. Every spending decision should be weighed against your current value system.
This week I bought a last-minute plane ticket to Missouri to be able to go with my Dad to see the Rangers play the Cardinals in the World Series. It’s a dream series because my Dad is a Cardinals fan and I’m a Rangers fan. I obviously value the time spent with my Dad, especially at historic sporting events like this. So spending the extra money on a last-minute plane ticket and game ticket is worth it to me.
What about you? What do you value that someone else might think is a waste of money?
Photo by Behavior Gap