Anything we spend our money on, should be something which we enjoy. Jeff Yeager, author of the hilarious The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches, says you can have all the fancy lattes you want if you don’t upgrade from your starter home or buy a new car. The savings from these two things will more than offset those designer coffees. Mind you, Yeager doesn’t have a latte habit! But I’d agree.
If you really enjoy that daily cup-of-joe, then by all means, drink up and enjoy it. However, I’ve watched people standing impatiently in long lines to get their takeaway cup of coffee and then bring it to the office to drink while doing their emails at work. If this is enjoyment, then why not try hitting your head with a hammer? If on the other hand, you sit down and read the paper or catch up with a friend while enjoying your coffee, then it could be a small price to pay for the pleasure.
The key to having your cake and eating it, too, is to make that cake an occasional treat. Anything done daily risks becoming mundane. Given our tendency to take all good things for granted, I doubt that most people doing the daily latte are actually really enjoying it. It’s just what they do. This means they should talk everyone in the office into buying a first-rate coffee machine. Then, coffee can be made in the office for a fraction of the cost. The boss might even shell out for it, given it would encourage that coffee chitchat in the morning and afternoon.
The secret to making anything a habit is to do it daily. However, the risk in doing anything daily is that it becomes just what we do and is no longer special. This is good if the habit is something beneficial but not so good if this habit is potentially undermining our health and our wealth.
The secret to maximizing the enjoyment you get out of life is to make sure to mix things up. If you go out to dinner every week, it becomes expected. You may find it isn’t the treat it used to be–or not.
The Schmidt’s, would work apart for a week, and then at the end of the week met up in my mother’s French restaurant in Tucson. I think they chose my mom’s restaurant for their Friday dinner because we changed the menu weekly. So they always had a new surprise to look forward to (and to simplify meeting arrangements as well). I advocate automating a weekly date with your partner or spouse to ensure it happens. The Schmidt’s always looked madly in love and stayed late into the evening catching up with each other, holding hands across the table like two starry-eyed teenagers and not the middle-aged couple they were.
Oddly enough, the cure for hedonistic adaptation is to do things less often so they are rarer, more special and a treat. This has benefits on the pocketbook as well!
Yes, enjoy that latte, but sit down and really savor it while chatting with a friend or writing in your journal or reading the paper. Don’t just mindlessly gulp while catching up on emails. Make it an occasion.
Or do it every day and gulp it down like my husband. At least do so knowing what it actually costs you. My husband doesn’t buy doodads, so he can afford to drink lattes. He also uses the coffee shop as an office as well, and the cost of the coffee is much cheaper than renting an office space in town.
The key is to maximize your enjoyment in life. Avoid mindless or careless spending and you’ll find you are well ahead of the game. I confess to frittering money away but can do so because I have saved so much on the big things. I buy houses below value, antiques at auction, designer clothes at TJ Maxx.
People wonder how I can afford a house cleaner twice a week and a weekly massage. Well, that is because we buy good quality used cars with cash and don’t have a monthly car payment. You can buy lots of lattes, massages and cleaners if you don’t have a car payment. You can also fund your retirement account! And, because I work from home and we take the train for longer journeys, we only put a few thousand miles a year on the car, saving in wear and tear and petrol. Consider carefully if you have to have a new car. It could cost you more than you realize. Because we both have the need to be free and independent, we have two cars — an 8-seater for hauling friends and family around and a Nissan Cube for little trips around town (cute and easy to park).
Every so often take stock of your spending and expenses. Are your expenses still giving you pleasure? Is there something else you’d rather do that would be more fun or pleasurable? I’d happily trade my lattes for a house cleaner because I don’t like domestic chores. Perhaps you do though.
Everything in life is a trade-off. Everything you spend is a bit of your life’s time and energy gone to acquire that thing. If it appreciates in value like an antique, a house, or a painting, then you are better off than before should you come to sell it. But if it requires your time and energy to maintain you may be worse off.
What if we forgot about the money altogether and instead focused on maximizing your joy factor?
Do what gives you the greatest joy and cut the other expenses right down to the bone. You’ll be richer and happier. That said, one financial blogger got great joy out of a very expensive car-racing hobby. He realized that he also got great joy playing basketball as well and that was free. He switched to the cheaper hobby and noticed no decrease in happiness but a net increase in savings.
A hobby I enjoyed in New York City was pottery. The classes were expensive, but because I’d go muck around on the weekends doing pottery instead of shopping, I ended up saving money. Then, I eventually got good enough to sell my pots and started turning a small profit. I never wanted to become a professional potter for a living, as that would take all the fun out of it, but I do enjoy making the occasional pot for friends as a personal hand-made gift.
If you are going to spend money, enjoy the spending!
Going to auctions and yard sales is so much more fun and exciting than going to a store and simply handing over a credit card. Where is the excitement in that? If you must go retail shopping, make it a special event. I like to go with my daughters to buy a pretty dress for a special occasion, and go out for hot cocoa and cake or for lunch. Make it a special occasion, not a chore or weekly habit.
Same with the fancy coffees. I enjoy having a coffee on a Sunday after yoga class with my girls and the London Times. We hang about for an hour or so for a leisurely start to the day.