I LOVE this comment from Jaime on the Personal Finance Continuum post:
“I think I read your post wrong. It doesn’t make sense to me. My financial picture when it comes to spending less looks more like this:
Make the things you have last longer by taking care of them, make your own cleaning supplies,cloth instead of paper as much as possible,reusable items over convienence,trade/barder for goods and services,choose homemade over store-bought…things like this.”
The idea of the post was that becoming financially aware and in control of your spending does not always mean spending less. Lots of people assume that they’re not making financial progress because they’re not frugal enough.
I loved Jaime’s example of how she spends less and her blog is full of ways that they live according to their values (like the tip to wash and fill a used plastic bottle with an inch of water, freeze, then fill with water before going out. The ice at the bottom is just enough to keep the entire thing cool!).
As we all look for ways to make the most of our money it’s important to remember that we need to make choices based on our values and goals – not just on the cost.
If you value sustainability and reducing waste then place mats, cloth napkins, cleaning rags and reusable water bottles are great ways to save money AND avoid waste.
But sometimes values don’t align with the cheapest option.
Let’s use an example from my own life for the personal finance continuum: smoothies.
When I didn’t pay ANY attention to my finances I went to Jamba Juice for my smoothie fix (Buy whatever I want to buy because I can). Sure, I paid cash but I didn’t think of the cost at all.
Next I heard the advice to “make it at home” and “cut back on eating out” (Consider new options). So I would buy yogurt, fruit and milk and make my own.
Now that I was making smoothies at home more frequently I had choices (Test one or more options). I could buy individual cups of yogurt for easy portion control OR a larger container that was a bit cheaper per unit.
I could buy fresh berries, frozen berries or pick my own.
I could use my blender OR buy a newer, fancier, sparkly blender.
Smoothies are not a cornerstone of my life so I don’t spend much time debating these choices. But I do want to make a smart decision (Weigh the cost savings against the time commitment, personal values and lifestyle).
Through trial and error I developed smoothie making habits that fit my life (Make an informed decision considering all of the options and chosing the one that aligns best with personal values.)
What choices fit my values?
This is the ultimate question when you move from blindly spending money without thinking to making conscious choices. Even on something as simple as a breakfat smoothie.
When it comes to smoothies I use my blender that does a great job blending (a gift from my parents). I buy the smaller containers of yogurt because they’re easier to measure, I can mix different flavors, coupons are easier to find, and I can freeze them if needed while a larger container could go bad.
I buy my fruit fresh in season as much as possible and supplement with frozen fruit. It’s often cheaper to buy a bag of frozen berries rather than drive to the co-op (or farm), pick out the seasonal produce, take it home, wash, freeze and package it. But I like the taste of this:
more than the taste of this:
So while the most frugal thing may be frozen or canned fruit, the action that aligns best with my values (supporting local business, real food, enjoying the experience of picking food, eating healthy food I actually LIKE) is fresh fruit.
And it is cheaper to make my own yogurt rather than buy but it doesn’t match up to my lifestyle (the additional cost buys me free time since I don’t have to measure, mix, cook, test and package the yogurt, not to mention clean the dishes!).
My advice on becoming financially savvy really isn’t about the lowest cost option – it’s about considering your choices and choosing the best one for your family.
It’s funny how these things evolve – I use this container for my plastic straws:
and recently found out about these awesome glass straws:
so I’ve decided to finish using the plastic straws I’ve already purchased and then buy a set of these nice reusable ones. I did the same thing when I wanted pretty chopsticks in San Francisco.