Living lean: mulling cost and value


I’ve gotten pretty good at the
fine art of stretching a dollar so tight that if I let go, the
rebound could snap my nose off.

It dawned on me that I’ve gotten good at living cheap, though it’s
hard to tell because I’m so often out of money. It’s not because I
don’t know how to handle it, it’s that I really am that poor. Poor in
money, anyway.

Apothegm for today: EVERYTHING HAS VALUE. ALMOST EVERYTHING HAS COST.

You’d be amazed at how little you can spend per ounce of enjoyment
when you separate the ideas of “value” and “cost.”

This is probably the first most important thing I’ve done: notice what
I enjoy. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy the act of spending money.

The first question pops up: “Why am I starting with noticing
pleasant experiences? Isn’t this about saving money? Isn’t saving
money hard? Like ‘ow ow ow stop it it hurts’ kind of hard?”

Answer: because it works. Unless I win the lottery tomorrow, I’m
living lean for the long haul. That means 2 things:

1. I need a strong foundation. Most of us formed basic ideas about
money early on, and if it hasn’t worked out for me by now, it’s time
to build different foundations.
2. I need good habits. Spreadsheets, check registers, calculators,
even banking software have been around a long time. None of those
tools are rocket science. If they aren’t being used effectively by
now, no amount of “you shoulds” is going to make them work for me.

My Dad, a real genius about money, gave me two pieces of advice that
rocked my world:
1. Make time and money for entertainment. You have to have that. No
budget, however austere, should be without it for more than a couple
weeks.
2. Include a fudge-factor because, for one thing, costs always change
and for another, you’re not always right.

We’re concentrating on #1 right now. I want to figure out both how to
cost, and how to value, that supremely important item: entertainment.

This has taken time to evolve. My awareness shifts as I get
used to noticing what you enjoy. I find my tastes shifting,
since some “pleasures” are really a matter of programming or habit,
and don’t stack up well to things I naturally find pleasing.

No pressure, no expectation, no agenda — just freeing up my mental
habits so I can take a fresh look at seemingly ordinary things.

There’s a serendipitous realization that has been happening as I get better at
noticing happiness, beauty, flavor, pleasure and contentment: I get
better at feeling it, too. Don’t think about that too much right now,
though. I’m working on distinguishing between value and cost.

“No optional pain!” is my guiding
philosophy.

Keeping in mind that this is an intellectual exercise, and exercise
should happen now & then but not constantly.

Remembering to figure out associated costs, like transport, drinks, and
surcharges. I vary between being exact and giving a
ballpark figure — both approaches have their benefits.

With this, as with any skill, it’s all a matter of time — weeks,
months, maybe years. But that time will pass anyway; wouldn’t I
rather be better-prepared at the end of it?

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