Each week the Tiller team answers a new question about our individual approaches to money, budgeting, and finances.
The question this week: “What’s one way you strategically save money, and what's one way you allow yourself to spend more than you really need to?”
Edward Shepard – I used to spend $10 (or more) daily on lunch. Looking back, all I can say is what a waste. They were good lunches, but since I usually ate them at my desk, I didn't exactly savor them. They were just fuel for the day.
Now I get by with much less. I either bring lunch from home or grab something that can be turned into a couple of meals. Indeed, I’m teased at my office for my diet of cheese sandwiches. I get a $3.99 loaf of Vermont Bread Company whole wheat sourdough and a pack of pre-sliced Cabot extra sharp cheddar. Slather on the mustard, pair with an apple, and that’s a pretty good lunch. Actually, that’s five pretty good lunches for what I used to spend on just one.
On the other hand, I have no problem paying $8 for a can of great beer. I know I could go the cheese sandwich route and buy two pints of Coors for that price, but the tradeoff is too great. At the end of the day I make the most of that pricy beer, catching up with friends, savoring the flavor and the moment. Worth it by any measure.
Brasten Sager – I take public transportation almost every day and bring lunch exclusively to save money. But on the other hand, I buy the latest iPhone every 12 months, and I don’t feel bad about it.
Heather Philips – I strategically save money on clothes. I buy nearly all my clothes from the thrift store, and I very rarely do that. Really, just "stuff" in general. I don't buy a lot of stuff, and don't even own much stuff anymore. I'm working on adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. So I save a ton in that area where I think most Americans overspend. Not to mention, both of these habits are more environmentally conscious so the "savings" goes beyond just money.
I allow myself to overspend in areas where experience is involved. I really value experience over things so I tend to be a little more lenient with my spending when it comes to fun outdoor weekend adventures, outings with friends, craft beer and food, and mini-vacations.
Peter Polson – I love thinking about product design. When I’m buying something new, that means research. Sometimes lots of research. There’s a certain joy in finding just the right product that works really well and lasts a long time. But even with research, I find I can still buy impulsively. It’s so easy to make a quick purchase online.
So I’ve added a new twist to many of my purchase decisions: waiting.
I’ve been looking for a commuter backpack that can store my laptop and a few pieces of clothing for a bike to the office. My current briefcase bag is beloved, but it flops around when I’m on a bike. It’s also starting to come apart after years of love. For the last few weeks I’ve been looking at the backpacks people use biking around town, and I’ve been thinking about the riddle. But I’ve held back from clicking the buy button. The end result will be a better decision. The added anticipation of the purchase, I think, also means I might love it even more when I do buy a new bag.
But I still do spend more than I need to in other areas. Technology, in particular. I love trying technology products, even if I know it might not be a long term proposition. I’m currently experimenting with some automated home lighting from Philips Hue. I have no idea if it’s wasted money or a great investment. But I’m allowing myself to spend and experiment and have some fun.
Just to make sure my thinking was clear on my response to this question, I asked for an expert opinion. I checked with my wife. “Where do I overspend?” Her response, without hesitation, was “technology!” Hmm. Not sure if that left me feeling proud to be so self-aware or anxious that this habit is clearly visible to others I love.
I like my clothes the way I like my stocks: I buy and hold. Case in point: I’ve had these A.P.C. jeans for eight years.
When I bought them years ago, they cost $140. Last month, I bought a new pair for $195 (thanks, inflation). Sidenote: if you really love an item, save up and buy multiples now so you can lock in today’s price.
To most people, $140 sounds like an awful lot for a single pair of jeans. Why not get $20 jeans from Old Navy? They’re the same thing, they say. No, they’re not.
You see, Old Navy jeans might work for you, but maybe I’m not shaped like you.
Frugality is about appreciating what you have. And part of appreciating what you have is not settling for what’s “good enough,” but buying the right things in the first place (if you can afford them), even if the price is a little higher. I’ve never regretted a perfect purchase, no matter the price.