How You Spend—And How You Don't—Reveals Something Larger About Your Financial Ego
I traded a lot of my life recently: a salaried job with health benefits and 401(k) in New York City for a set of lower paying gigs in the much cheaper city of Philadelphia. The change necessitated a huge number of financial trade-offs, some of which were part of the conscious decision to move, and some of which were not. I quickly realized that without a steady salary, I would give up certain things even to afford my modest $775 rent: open bar tabs, expensive tickets, shopping sprees, too many Seamless orders. But I didn’t necessarily realize that in restructuring my daily finances, I would also reset my priorities with money entirely.
As long as we’re making enough money to survive, most of us probably don’t think that hard about our trade-offs, but, whether or not we realize it, “everyone of us makes money trade-offs nearly everyday,” says New York Times columnist Ron Lieber. “All too often these trade-offs are subconscious, which means we don’t discuss them openly and fail to question them relentlessly.” But we should—because even the smallest money decisions have larger implications. When I moved to pursue larger “life goals”—writing, a relationship—I cut everyday expenses in favor of larger experiences. I rarely eat out anymore, but I’ve made a point to travel. The $297 I pay in health insurance every month gives me the freedom to write, but it means I can’t spend $300 at random on new clothes anymore.
In order to consciously question the priorities we are setting with our spending, I talked to others about what money trade-offs they were making. In so many cases, we are trading easy gratification—an expensive lunch, new clothes, a house upgrade—for more long-term sources of happiness: early retirement, a move overseas, kids. It’s in these smaller details of our financial lives that our real priorities come to light.
Trade: Homemade lunch for Mad Men-style cocktails
Jared, 26, New York City, law clerk
I make all my meals at home (and bring my own coffee to work) in order to indulge in an overpriced cocktail once a week, specifically at lavish hotel bars. While $16 gimlets seem like a horrible use of my paycheck, I refuse to let my romantic Mad Men notions of Manhattan slip away. My once-a-week indulgence allows a brief moment of escapism from my muddy French press coffees and plastic-wrapped PB&Js.
Trade: Cutting out T.J. Maxx trips for IVF
Laura, 30, Hartford, Connecticut, stay-at-home parent
We spent thousands and thousands of dollars on IVF (in vitro fertilization) due to fertility issues, so I consciously wasn't spending on frivolous things. When it comes to holidays or my birthday, I always joke, ‘Just get me diapers!’ I’m not a big spender to begin with, so I can't really say I cut anything out, but I do think twice before purchasing a shirt I don't need from T.J. Maxx.
Trade: Living with my parents for a move to Europe
Haley, 26, upstate New York, crop consultant
I’m currently living with my parents in order to finance a move to Europe. Even though I’m not spending money on rent, I still almost never go out, and I limit my shopping to things I need for work, the move, or rock climbing; outdoor clothes and boots, climbing shoes, a new suitcase, and passport renewal. Sometimes it sucks to meet people out and only order a beer when everyone else is eating, but thinking about having the freedom to take time to explore once I move makes it easier to go without things I’m tempted to spend money on. By living with my parents and not overspending, I probably save $1200 per month (compared to when I lived in New York City).
Trade: Being the college cleaning person for free college tuition
Kim, 59, Kenosha, Wisconsin, former cleaning professional, current receptionist
I opted for a lower paying job with good benefits. Cleaning at a college was not my career of choice; however, doing so provided tuition remission for two children (worth around $300,000 in total), which I would never have been able to do had I not worked at the college. Doing without is not always a bad thing.
Trade: Packed lunch for my ice hockey hobby
Luke, 27, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, medical student
I'll be the first to admit that I pack a lunch daily and brew my morning coffees with maybe too much frequency. I only have so much money to spend on extras—sports, traveling, socializing—so when it comes time to pay the $400 fee for my ice hockey league each year, I take solace in the fact that the fees are offset by my packed lunches.
Trade: Small house in an affordable town for early retirement
Darrow, 56, Chattanooga, Tennessee, retired software engineer
In order to retire early, my wife and I bought a modest sized house in low-priced Tennessee to raise our son, and lived there for 17 years without upsizing. Aside from not inflating our lifestyle, this saved us $10,000 to $20,000 in transaction costs on buying/selling homes.
Photos sourced from Flickr, Wikimedia, Pixabay, and Pexels.
Photo Of Walmart Cashier’s Act Of Kindness Gets The Viral Treatment It Deserves It’s been shared nearly 50,000 times.
This Start-Up Wants To Put 100 Progressive Women In Congress By 2020 Project 100’s founders have decided to bridge the gap between “talk” and “action” in a fascinating way.
Twitter’s Most Hilarious Reactions To Steven Mnuchin’s Photo Shoot With A Batch Of Money They look like Bond villains.
400 Of The Richest People In America Have A Message For The GOP: Don't Cut Our Taxes The benefits, even to the wealthiest Americans, come at a steep cost.
A New Visa Card Will Let You Spend Bitcoin Like It’s Cash Cryptocurrencies just got a lot more practical.
Cards Against Humanity Bought Land On The U.S. Border So Trump Can't Build His Wall Saving America from “Injustice, lies, racism, the whole enchilada.”
After Winning The Lottery, This Entrepreneur Is Investing In A Historically Black Community He’s using his winnings to revive Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk Boulevard.
This Is Why Bill Gates' New $80 Million 'Digital City' Could Succeed Where Another Recent Venture Hasn’t But it might be awhile before there’s an Apple store there.
Trump Wins Visas To Hire 70 Foreign Workers For His Mar-a-Lago Resort Just a bit hypocritical?