A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Coffee Conflict.

A commenter pointed out to me that my blog often turns to my love affair with coffee. Specifically, how much money I sometimes find myself dumping into overpriced coffee. My struggles with laying down money for my drug of choice are indeed symbolic of deeper a conflict between myself & my money; a conflict I'm certain anyone feels, not matter how old.

Once a person has gotten themselves to the point where they're solvent - even saving a bit every month - there seems to be a disconnect. The first wave of personal finance often sends folks into a frenzy of cutting corners, doing without, and spending less. After the habit of saving a certain amount becomes second nature, we might find ourselves saying "Man, I already saved 10% of my take home pay this month! Screw it! I'm blowing $100 on x!" or more likely we find ourselves allowing $3 or $5 here and there to start adding up again.

My rent & bills are just a little bit more than half of my take home pay per month, unless I work a lot of overtime. When I'm in school, overtime becomes a no-no, so I'm on a really tight budget to say the least. Even accounting for gas, savings, and little tiny extras here & there - I still have about $100 every month that goes out into the ether of impulse buying - which often means frou-frou coffee or fro-yo or another form of Snacking Out. Truth be told I really enjoy grabbing coffee or whatever with a friend, but when I look at my spending at the the end of the month, I wonder if I wouldn't have been just as satisfied having someone over for tea.

I've run the numbers for myself (and for you all) hundreds of times, and the answer is always the same! Cut out my impulse buying! At the same time, I don't want to cut my perceived quality of life. I think the conflict of saving for the future versus impulse-buy satisfaction is a problem for everyone. From someone like like me who feels stressed out spending $10 on something I didn't necessarily need to the person who spends $600 on a gadget and panics afterward, it is fairly universal.

How do I deal with such a nasty internal war over my spending? Sometimes, I just have to get over it. I'm into living within my means, but super extreme frugality is a goal I don't aspire to in the least. Extreme frugality for me would mean that I'd pretty much never leave the house. That said, there are a ton of ways I can cut back in little ways that make my lattes and cups of fro-yo an okay expenditure for me. Problems begin to arise when I'm NOT making the effort to cut the little corners, when I'm simply shopping stupid or not tracking my finances.

I tend to think of everything purchase I make in terms of my hourly pay, so I still find myself pausing before I spend $3+ on coffee. At the end of the day, my weekly to bi-weekly overpriced coffee outing isn't what could take down my semi-solid financial state - it's when those impulse buys become a daily unconscious habit and nothing is done to counteract them.

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