Imagine my delight when I flipped open this month's issue of O Magazine (another purchase that I could probably do without but refuse to) and discovered an article on exactly this subject. In The Joy Dividend, Martha Beck waxes poetic about her love for ridiculously priced coffee beverages from a little international company that will remain nameless. In an effort to save, she invested in one of those at-home numbers and now watches it collect dust as she heads out for a "mochaspressomacchiatoccino." She'd rather fork over the cash in the coffee shop than fuss with a machine at home. The psychic value of an item (or experience) can far exceed the actual value and its up to the individual to make that determination. Here's a simple matrix to go by:
- Top Dollar Items: "I really NEED it and I really LOVE it."
- Bottom Dollar Items: "I really NEED it but I don't really LOVE it."
- Remaining Dollar Items: "I don't really NEED it but I really LOVE it."
- No Dollar Items: "I don't really NEED it and I don't really LOVE it."
Spend bottom dollar on the things you must have but don't really care about one way or another. Buy generic, clip coupons, seek out sale and clearance items, whatever you need to do to spend as little as possible on necessities. That frees up cash for category three.
Once those things are out of the way, then you're free to go after the things you don't necessarily need but absolutely love, my bi-weekly manicures for example. And category four is important primarily as a reminder. If you don't need it and you don't love it enough to marry it, put it down and back away. Purchases like this--mindless, heat of the moment grabs--are what cause us to have packed closets full of clothes we never wear, shoes still in boxes, trinkets collecting dust somewhere. Hoarders have to start somewhere you know!
Its not just about stuff either. Concert tickets to that once in a lifetime show. A dream vacation after a particularly rough year. Experiences up the joy quotient as well. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of one of my favorite books, Eat Pray Love, talks fervently about her love for travel as one might describe their love for a child. Liz didn't mind taking odd jobs, waiting tables, etc. just to be able to save money to take months long jaunts around the globe. What she made from those odd jobs was far greater than any salary a corporate career could offer. Those funds bought freedom, exploration, adventure. See, there's that psychic value thing again.
Once you get to a point where you realize what you must have, what you absolutely love and what you can definitely live without, a whole new type of financial game plan takes shape. Its not just about saving a few dollars here or there or making random purchases and dealing with the guilt afterward. When you strike that delicate balance, you can turn those hard earned dollars into to real, soul nurturing purchases while keeping the lights on at the same time!
(Ok, before I go, let me invite you to laugh until you cry at this hilarious email exchange.)