Why I’m Not Frugal (Sometimes)
I impulse buy. I don’t mind dropping $40 on Tuesday night drinks. I will randomly decide to go out to dinner. I’ll buy the new iPhone when it comes out. I will never coupon. I go weeks without checking my bank or credit card statement. I go out for lunch just about every day at work.
I’m pretty sure I just admitted to breaking every personal finance rule in one paragraph.
So many personal finance sites tout how frugal they are. “I saved $50 on groceries!” just to see in the comments that someone else is claiming to have saved even more on the same products. They cut the cord on cable whereas I just added on more services (football!) and bought a Google Chromecast anyways. It’s kind of ridiculous the lengths people go to lower expenses that don’t need to lower expenses. (That’s a key point is “need.”)
First, let me be clear, I am frugal when it comes to larger ticket items such as rent, cars, clothing, etc. Also noteworthy, I’m debt free and thus not paying incremental interest costs on my purchases.
I live alone and work long hours, so most of the time I am ordering food for dinner as well. I try and cook at least 3 times a week but a lot of the time, it just doesn’t work out. (I think I’m ordering udon noodles tonight in case you were curious.) So with only a couple days left in the month, I pulled up my Mint.com account and in total between groceries, alcohol/bars, and restaurants I have spent a whopping $700 this month. If I back out the “expensive” items that were for special occasions then I spent approximately $500.
I’ll admit that even at $500, this is a lot for me in a given month. If I packed lunches, cooked dinner, and didn’t go out for drinks, then I can easily get this number down to $150. So why don’t I care about saving $350 a month or $4,200 a year (after taxes, mind you)?
Two words: Happiness and simplicity. (“And” doesn’t count!)
First of all, let me tackle lunches which account for approximately $40-$50 a week. It’s not unheard of for people in my profession to work past midnight on occasion. An early night would mean I get home by 7pm. What does this have to do with lunch? Sunshine and socialization! I need to get away from my screens and get outside where I can shoot the shit (that’s the technical term) with the guys over some food.
Now, let’s look at ordering dinner all the time. Assuming I get home by 7pm then I can probably eat by 8:15pm if I have to cook for myself. Conversely, I can order my dinner as I leave the office and it’ll show up to my condo as I do. Win! It’s so much easier and I save the time of prep work, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. Plus I tend to waste a lot of groceries when do attempt to stick to cooking for a while. Quite frankly, when I get off work I want to sit on the couch, eat and watch mind numbing TV shows since I’m mentally exhausted.
The good news in that my parents are coming to visit in September. Even though its practically the same price to fly (after you factor in all the costs of driving/wear and tear) and much, much faster, they’re still driving and coming fully equipped with a cooler full of individually portioned homemade frozen food! This should help out my September/October spending at least.
Next up is alcohol! Alcohol is not cheap. Alcohol in a big city is especially not cheap. Back home in the southeast, we used to get pitchers of beer for $5. Now I’ve been conditioned to accept paying $5 for a domestic (though I think I get sticker shock around the $8 range for a nicer beer). It’s crazy but it’s the market price in big cities! Who wants to sit around and watch football on the couch all day when you can do it in a bar? It’s fun being a social creature. Again, happiness wins out.
The Bottom Line
I find it hard to rationalize cutting costs to the extreme if you don’t have debt. Your latte really isn’t going to kill your wallet. Nor is your $5 a month Sports Package. This is not to say that I’m going to go out and purchase a $2,000 suit (my last one is from Joseph A. Bank) or buy a brand new car because those are just silly and unnecessary purchases.
But why take away something you enjoy if you don’t need to?
As always, look forward to hearing your thoughts. Did I miss something? See any errors? Discussion in general is always welcome!