I’m reading Chapter 6 of Your Money or Your Life entitled “American Dream on a Shoe String” and I have to say it’s been the most inspiring section for me, so far. I’ve read a lot about similar topics but it’s nice to see it laid out in one chapter and focusing on the big picture rather than giving tips. Tips are useful but the author’s point is that this type of information can get very outdated quickly, and you can find tons of good tips on frugality blogs.
I got a lot out of this chapter although for very different reasons. One reinforce what I’ve known for a long time and the other was a new way of looking at things:
What I’ve known forever is Stop Trying To Impress People. I’ve written before about keeping up with the Joneses, or the mythic rich couple next door, and it’s a losing battle. As the writer notes, “If you stop trying to impress other people you will save thousands, perhaps millions, of dollar.” It’s not just about money and conspicuous consumption. That’s because the desire to impress can affect all areas of your life from big purchases to career choices. Unless you dig deep, you may never do anything that really brings you true satisfaction.
The more eye-opening statement for me was Meet Your Needs Differently. This means that instead of relying on retail therapy or exotic vacations, you find affordable substitutions to satisfy your needs. For example, a big trip abroad may mean different things for different people. Maybe you want to a break from routine or want some downtime. Maybe you really like to try new things. Once you figure out your real need, you can find a frugal substitute that can satisfy that same need. You can get that break just by staying home from work. You can get downtime by hiring people to clean house and and do your chores for one day. If you crave something new, you can take a foreign language course online or try out an exotic cuisine. That’s not to say you should never take that big trip but just make sure you can afford it!
Two of my favorite indulgences are spa days (massages, facials) and traveling. Both things are not very do-able for me at this time. However, if I analyze why I love these things, I can probably find frugal substitutes. For example, if I go to yoga, I get time for my self and relaxation, which are two of reasons I love spa days. I may have to get better about mimicking the pampering aspects of a spa. Some things that I can do is take a long bath with lavendar oil, do a steam/facial at home, buy flowers, drink water with lemonade and play calming music.
As for traveling, my favorite parts are meeting new people and trying new cuisines, both of which is very do-able in multi-cultural Los Angeles. I like the feeling of seeing new things and it may be time to explore new neighborhoods.
As I progress with the book, I feel myself more reluctant to spend. At the same time, I have been rationalizing the purchase of pricier skin products because those are important to me. My husband made two lunch dates and the old me would have been a bit upset at the increased dining out expenses in the same week (and I had made separate plans too!); however, socializing with friends is a priority for us and I won’t sweat it.
On the other hand, I have been spending way too much on eating out at work. I’m going to make an effort to make simple sandwiches. One favorite that is easy to make is toasted wheat bagel with sliced tomatoes, arugula and tuna in oil, plus a little mayo (avocado optional). I just have to watch out for food waste, which negates all my money-saving efforts!
Update: I took a peek at the Madewell website. I am so tempted…so many cute dresses, sweaters and tops on sale! I don’t need anything but I do want a summery canvas bag, which of course is not on sale. Help!