People tell you to spend your money on what you love. This is solid advice. As you know, I have no problem paying more for clothes that make me feel like me. Zach from Four Pillar Freedom has spent $400 on Chipotle this year because he loves it. Millennial Money Diaries, despite the common advice to cut lattes, thinks buying coffee is worth it.
What you choose to spend your money on says a lot about you. But what about the things you purposely DON’T spend money on? I find those just as telling and interesting. If you’ve never thought about it before, doing this exercise can serve as a quick check to make sure your spending is aligned with your values. If you don’t cut back on anything and aren’t as rich as Warren Buffett, then you might want to take another look at your spending.
So today I’m talking about the things that make me cringe every time I have to pay for it. Maybe some will surprise you.
Let me clarify: I’m not walking around like a shaggy dog. At least, not all the time. But I hate spending my own hard-earned money for a quality hair cut. That’s because I haven’t found a hair stylist I like that costs less than $80 a pop. The cost for my absolute favorite one? $125. To me, those prices are STEEP, and I always seem to get burned when I try to cheap out. So I begrudgingly pay the high price, but get my hair cut just twice a year. And for one haircut I won’t even use my own money. Every year for my birthday my mom sends me a card with a hundred dollar bill inside. I’ve told mom so many times it’s unsafe to send cash through the mail, but she still does it every year, like clockwork. MOMS. There are so many things I could choose to spend that money on, but I look forward to that $100 to arrive so I can finally get a haircut.
2. Heat and Air Conditioning
This is when my stoic side really shines. Living in New York City, I no longer have to pay for my own heat, thank god. But before I moved to New York, I was living with my best friend in a great pre-war apartment with crown moldings, high ceilings, a decorative fireplace, exposed brick, and hardwood floors. A dream apartment! There was just one problem: it was cold AF. With an old apartment came old windows. Our first heating bill was over $400, and I just about cried. But my friend and I got to work. We went to Home Depot and bought the plastic you seal over the windows to keep the cold out. We spent the night taping and blow drying the plastic over every single window in the house. Next we decided to keep the heat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not going to lie, it was damn cold inside the apartment, but we layered sweaters and jackets while we were home, even typing away at our computers with fingerless gloves on. We were both so cheap about paying for heat, suffering through it was the preferred option.
And on the opposite end, I’ve never had an air conditioner until I moved in with my husband. Growing up my family used fans during the summer. So a small bedside fan always seemed like it was enough. Sure, I got hot at night and would have been more comfortable with an A/C unit, but paying those electricity bills pained me even more.
If you looked up the phrase “incredibly unsexy” you’d see a picture of my laptop, a Toshiba Satellite. And when I go to a coffee shop my clunky laptop stands out in a sea of sleek Macbooks. Yeah, I’m like that PC guy in that commercial, and I’m totally fine with that.
Macbooks are also almost double the price of a PC with similar specs. When I think about what kind of gadget to get, I first think about what I’d actually use it for. Since I mostly use a laptop for surfing online, Google docs, and Photoshop, I don’t need a $2,000 computer to meet those needs.
I hear the iPhone X is coming out soon. You know what? I couldn’t care less. I didn’t get an iPhone until two years ago, and I’ve always avoided contracts because two-year upgrades seem unnecessary. If my phone works as advertised, then I see no reason to switch. For three years, I used what I fondly described as my ‘entry-level’ smartphone: an LG version, with supersized fonts and pixelated graphics, it could pass as one of those toy phones you might buy for a toddler. Again, why I chose that phone lined up with that I actually planned to use it for: making calls, texting, and occasional email. Nothing more, nothing less.
Unless I feel unsafe in a neighborhood, I’ll always use the subway or the bus. Since I already pay $121 for an unlimited monthly pass for work, I might as well use it–if I’m prepaying for anything, it pains me not to max it out. And now, with Ubers and Lyfts easily summoned with just one click, to avoid temptation in a moment of weakness, I refuse to install the apps on my phone.
And when the destination is a 15-minute walk from the subway? I’ll always walk. I walk fast enough to medal in the Walking Olympics, but I recognize not everyone can, no matter how hard they try. Like when I blow past an old lady on the subway platform, or when I take the stairs two steps at a time. Some people don’t have the luxury of walking faster. I want to appreciate my legs while they still work awesomely.
5. Buying Books
Once, after a meeting, I mentioned I needed to drop off some library books after work. My boss scoffed, “Who the hell uses the library these days?”
I do, jerk.
When I was little, no one in my family thought to buy books for the home, so I’d borrow them from the library. I couldn’t believe all the things libraries let you borrow, for free! Not just books, but movies, magazines, and even passes to local attractions. Now an adult, I still can’t shake the habit.
A few months ago, to do some research on upcoming travel, I texted my husband to see if he could pick up some travel books on his way home from work. Ten minutes later, I decided to walk to the library, just to see, and they had all three I wanted, free to borrow.
Aside from the free-ness, I consider reading to be a time investment, requiring hours of undivided attention and concentration. When I used to buy books sometimes they turned out to be total duds, and then I’d get sad about making a bad buy. Oh, and the clutter they make. As a minimalist, I can’t deal with having sub-par books in the house.
What are some things you hate to spend money on, and why? If you had a $100 windfall from a relative, what would you spend it on?
Image: The Luxe Strategist