Lots of people talk about spending on things you value. But what about the things we don’t care about?
Jim has told me over and over that he doesn’t care much about living in a fancy place, so he saves money on that. He cooks at home when he can instead of eating out every day. But he loves outdoor stuff–biking, camping, travel. And so he splurges on those things. He has a top-of-the-line bike. He just got back from a week-long trip to New York, just for fun.
Jim also cuts costs mercilessly on his housing, choosing to live in a place far smaller than he can afford. To him, it’s not important, and he’d rather spend his money elsewhere.
This decision — of what’s important as well as not important — is at the heart of the Conscious Spending Plan I describe in chapter 4 of my personal finance book.
Previously, I’ve written about friends who spend $21,000/year going out and $5,000 on shoes.
But we haven’t focused on what you choose not to spend on.
When I asked friends this, they were quick to answer what they valued — “organic food” or “travel” or “nice clothes” — but almost uniformly found it difficult to answer what they didn’t value. When I asked one friend, “What do you not care about? What would you be willing to buy a lower quality of (or not at all)?” he looked at me blankly. I considered violence.
It’s critically important to be explicit about what you don’t value as much as what you do. By writing it down — on a blog or a notepad or an Excel doc — you can prioritize your purchases and avoid being sucked into spending on things you really don’t care about. As Jeff Solomon writes:
“When I come to work tomorrow I’ve got to figure out what NOT to do first and focus on the single most important item first. No matter how hard it is, I’ve just got to get through it. It’s just too easy to get sucked into the unimportant. There are too many things on my lists that just don’t move the needle or don’t make a difference. At work and at home, some things have more impact than others. And when the lists get long, I’ve got to know what NOT to do before I can figure out what to do.”
What do you not care about spending money on? I’ll start. When it comes to spending, I don’t care about…
- A fancy sports car. I’d rather have a Honda Accord and drive it for 10+ years (more on how I bought a car)
- The type of cheese I eat — Kraft singles are just fine
- Shampoo, etc. They’re all the same to me
- Super-fancy restaurants. I’d rather eat out a lot with friends at a bowling alley than eat at the fanciest places. (Note: This specifically fits into my Conscious Spending Plan by letting me see more people at less-expensive restaurants. If I cared about expensive restaurants, I would eat fewer meals at higher-end places.)
As part of your conscious spending plan, what do you NOT care about spending money on?