December 15th, 2011
Lessons on Buying Clothes and Cheese
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I’ve been reading personal finance blogs for a while now, and I’m always intrigued by the frugal bloggers who suggest that the answer to financial woes is to cut back on frivolous expenses, like your $4 morning latte. As for my stance on this issue, I’m a flip-flopper. Sometimes I’ll indulge in a delicious Blue Bottle latte (cost: $3.75), but I rarely head to work without my brown-bagged lunch.
I’ve learned a couple of lessons from my flip-floppiness. Let me explain.
Lesson #1: Enjoy small indulgences….
I believe in indulging in small things that make you happy, assuming they don’t break the bank. For example, I love cheese. Like, really love cheese. And while I can demolish a whole block of cheddar in one sitting, I appreciate the taste of high-quality Manchego even more. Let’s do a quick comparison. On Amazon (you can find cheese there!) one pound of Manchego cheese costs roughly $20. A pound of extra-sharp New York cheddar cheese goes for $12, which is 60 percent the cost of the Manchego.
Now, the frugalista in me stops to think, “I could eat a whole pound of cheddar* for 40 percent less than the Manchego.”
But the cheese snob in me thinks, “Manchego is much tastier.”
So I’ll purchase the Manchego, which I’ll eat slowly and indulgently. Rather than spend more money over time on the less-exciting cheese, I spend more money up front on the yummier cheese that brings me greater happiness, knowing that the more expensive Manchego will last longer than the mediocre cheddar.
Lesson #2: …But don’t nickel-and-dime yourself out of something great.
I seem to forget my cheese philosophy when I’m browsing the sale racks at my local Gap(shopping’s great for burning off Manchego calories). I’ll comb the racks for a gem: a dress marked down 60 percent or a sweater on sale for $15. While I typically plan my cheese expenses, I rarely plan for clothes shopping indulgences. Naturally, I end up buying two to three items, rationalizing, “But they’re on sale!” (My mom taught me well.)
What’s wrong with my little shopping spree? Nothing, except for the fact that I’ve been wanting to save for specific, quality items: a good pair of leather boots, a nice trench coat and some designer denim, to name a few. While the items on my quality list of clothing would probably last me for years, my sale items will likely survive for a season or two before being cycled out of my wardrobe.
To bring it full-circle (or cheese wheel), I spend less money on a few items, just because they’re on sale, instead of saving and spending more on one high-quality, longer-lasting piece.
The Bottom Line
In the end, my flip-flop frugality doesn’t destroy my finances, it just holds me back from making more purposeful purchases. After all, as Ramit Sethi says, “You can’t out-frugal your way to rich” by buying the cheap cheese. But you can cheat yourself out of something great, like a pair of designer jeans.
Have a Karmic day!
Bethy Hardeman, Social Media Maven
*I would never actually eat a whole pound of cheese in one sitting. Unless, of course, I was REALLY, REALLY hungry. Or if I had something to go with it, like a couple slices of bread to make a grilled-cheese sandwich. Or if it weren’t a weeknight. Or if it accompanied a holiday movie marathon…