I Can’t Afford It

We have fascinating views on money, don’t we? 7 different veggies and 1 fruit in this juice.

When we think about what we spend our money on, it’s always an interesting series of choices, isn’t it? All this came to me as I watched someone at my local grocery store buying $10 lottery tickets from a lottery vending machine. I have this thing about lottery tickets. Why do people invest in a gamble? (You might try and reply that everything is a gamble, and to that, I’d be polite and say nothing.)

All Spending is a Choice

My first eye opening moment in understanding money came from The Millionaire Next Door (affiliate link). In this book, we learn that millionaires are frugal, that they tend to drive older cars, wear less expensive clothes, and have far less debt than people who aspire to wealth. When I first read it, I felt that I understood it. Now, it’s something of an aspiration, to be as smart and as intentional with my money as possible.

People tell me all the time that they can’t afford something. But then I’ll watch their Twitter feed, or Facebook, or Instagram, and I’ll see the reason why not.

Just a Few Quick Numbers

1 latte at Starbucks = $5.
20 a month (assuming you get one on the way to work every day) is $100.
$100 x 12 months = $1200.

So switching out this one luxury gives you a $1200 raise, or $1200 you could spend on an airplane ticket, a trip somewhere, a gym membership, etc.

Buy 1 album on iTunes for $10 or Buy 1 month of all the music you want on Spotify for $10 (or Rhapsody, etc). People tell me, “but not as much money goes to the artist.” If you bought 1 month of a streaming service, you’d have money to buy a tee shirt or paypal it directly to the artist. If you buy more than one album a month, then you’re already saving money with this one change.

Movie at the theater: $12 (average)
Popcorn and a drink: $13

Or, Netflix/Amazon Prime, RedBox and spend $3 or $4 on the experience, plus whatever’s in the fridge.

$25 a month on movies (and this presumes you go solo and to one movie a month only) adds up to $300 a year. Let’s be more realistic:

4 people x $25 = 100 a month = $1200 a year on movies.

The cinema is magic. I go there myself. But I’ve made it a choice. Let’s talk about that next.

My Examples Aren’t The Focus: Your Choices Are

The point of this post is that you are likely doing some habitual spending in some part of your life and that at another part of your life, you’re feeling like you can’t afford something that matters to you. The reality is, if it matters to you, you can find the money in some part of your life (for most folks).

The majority of people who read this blog don’t live at or below the poverty line (except for a few of my homeless friends, and hi to you! This really doesn’t apply, but I’m glad you’re here). Instead, what we find is that most of us live in the muddy middle.

All of it is choice. Your previous choices are still being paid off. Your future choices have yet to be funded. All of these choices are in your hands.

One Way to Make Decisions

I’m trying hard to adopt this kind of mindset: will this grow my capabilities, or is it for pleasure only? That one sentence keeps me on a much better path. I spend when it makes sense, and I try to hold off or not buy at all, when it’s just a “want” without any real obvious value beyond the purchase.

I do still make purchases for pleasure. I’m not saying we should live like monks, but the question above is a great way to shed a lot of useless spending. It’s a way to know whether I should go see The Hobbit or I should buy a book about cultural anthropology.

But that’s my choice. That’s my gauge. Or one of my gauges.

What are you doing? How do you look at money? What’s changed?

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  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    This is a blog which reflects directly on the daily life. I remember conversing with my family on the same topic. It’s like loads and loads of money is wasted and when there is something which you actually need is yet not bought. One Sunday and we go for a movie and dinner and may be a latte too. Once its fine but every Sunday it becomes a waste of money. Amazing post.

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  • Jay Walsh

    Nosy woman: Oh, you still smoke?
    Me: Yes I do.
    Nosy woman: Filthy habit… how much do you smoke?
    Me: About a pack a day.
    Nosy woman: And how much does that cost?
    Me: About $6 a pack.
    Nosy woman: And how long have you smoked?
    Me: About 25 years.
    Nosy woman: My God, sir – do you realize that if you didn’t smoke and saved that $6 a day in an interest-bearing account – say at a modest 6% – you’d have enough money to buy a fully loaded Porsche 911 today!
    Me: You don’t say – tell me, do you smoke?
    Nosy woman (smugly): No I don’t.
    Me: Then where’s your f*ckin’ Porsche?

    • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

      Haa ha, Jay! Very good one. I’ll have to post that on my Facebook page – hilarious!

  • http://freshinfos.com/ Roshan Perera

    I’ve been telling the same thing to my mother about the lotteries. If she have had put that money on a jar instead of wasting on a lottery she would’ve made a fortune by the end of the year.

  • Dana Bostick

    Rather than saying “I can’t afford it” consider “What can I do to be able to afford this?” If you really want something, don’t let budget or lack of money be a stopper. Get creative and generate more income. Create a separate stream of income to get the extra things you want. “Living within your means” is inherently a limiting philosophy.

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    Chris, your logic on the coffee is flawed. If you didn’t stop at Starbucks for coffee, wouldn’t you still probably have something to drink elsewhere? A cup of coffee made at home is still cheaper, but it’s not free. Or perhaps you’ll have a glass of milk or OJ instead. Those aren’t free either. Just sayin.

    • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

      Donovan, you’re right on the money but I understand both of you. It’s like my Dungeness crab thing. I enjoy cooking up some clusters but I’m able to do so because that’s what I *want* to afford. I cut back on things others couldn’t live without (like a thousand cable channels) and spend that money elsewhere. It’s all about affording what you want. Sometimes we can’t have *everything* but if you really get selective about what you want in your life, you’ll make ways to afford many of those things. I’ll take one night of Dungeness crab over a week or two’s worth of Starbucks any time.

      • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

        You got crabs bro. go see a Dr.

        • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

          ? Who’s the bro you’re referring to? I’m a lady. But the joke is cute.

          • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

            Sorry about the bro, bro, but your comment is still lame. just sayin, with all due respect.

          • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

            Oh, you’re just venting. Got it. Not everything is for everyone. Have a great day!

  • eric plantenberg

    Great post Chris – thanks. My experience with this topic is… one day i realized that “I can’t afford it” is simply a lie. The truth is that “I’m not willing to change my habits” or “I’m not committed enough to make it happen.” This has been incredibly empowering for me. Lying to myself IS easier in the moment… but it certainly doesn’t help me move forward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/coachcijaye Cijaye DePradine

    Chris, as always, I love your choice of topics, overall perspective and resulting commentary to the responses. Thank you for being you! This one could not have come at a better time for me personally/professionally either with all of the growth I am experiencing right now.

    That said I too agree that most self-made millionaires are probably the most frugal and spend conscious persons out there.

    In fact, I see this so often (in my line of work) that I am starting to wonder if it’s part of the “universal law of being a millionaire”. ie: If you cannot respect the value of the dollar, you probably aren’t meant to keep it for too long.

    I think awareness is the key here. We must be aware of what we are doing and why. (Whether that relates to money or not). We need to know how it affects us as well as others. Such awareness leads to smarter choices that keep us aligned and on purpose (more universal law).

    If we are not aware, we simply DO and then react later – we have no purpose but to “survive” and “respond”. Certainly not ideal.

    And the craziest part of all – (again more universal law) – the more aware we are, the more abundant we are too. I see this all the time and I am one of the fortunate ones to experience it first hand every day. It’s pretty amazing. I hope everyone can get there someday.

    Thanks for sharing Chris.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/vaishali.sharma.334 Vaishali Sharma

    Loved your post Chris. It has certainly enlightened me :)

  • http://twitter.com/parenthacks Asha Dornfest

    This is a great topic, Chris. My feeling is that it’s about *value.* You spend $ on the stuff that truly provides value in your life, either by allowing you to own (or be in proximity to) something you truly love, or by teaching you something, or by allowing you to help someone else. That may mean spending a lot of $, but it’s spent on things that matter. I try to be frugal on the crap that just doesn’t matter to me, and I try not to spend money on stuff when, really, I’m just avoiding the creative thought it takes to find an alternative.

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  • http://twitter.com/jdjenkins Jonathan D Jenkins

    Great post – I’m having to sort through my financial priorities at the moment. I like the clarity of the whole site too.

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  • melvis

    while I believe that we are all way too busy worrying about what other folks can and can’t afford, I’m am pretty fed up with friends and family whining to me about the “economy” and how broke they are, yet I see on their fb pages day in and day out about traveling here, and there, buying this and that. heck some people never eat at home, take trips at least every other month, and yet can’t seem to budget their money well enough to pay their bills!
    Hey, get a clue dumbass!!! If your too broke to pay your mortgage payment or borrowing money on your credit cards to buy groceries, maybe try not driving 12 hrs to go see your 4 yr old niece in a daycare play!!! Or how about drive that 10yr old car a bit longer instead of going out and buying a new Acura you can’t afford?
    Cutting back was the best thing we’ve ever done! We started back in “09″ when the economy first started to fall. Cut our bills in half, walked away from an underwater mortgage when the bank refused to modify it and now we are about $1500 shy from being back right where were before the crash started. Now many of our friends and family are finally figuring out they should of started along time ago. I’m glad we started way back, we are years ahead of them and maybe this time we are poised to benefit instead of being in the middle of the crap when it hits the fan!!
    I take great pride in telling folks we aren’t going to be taking more than 1 vacation a year, and its prepaid without using credit cards! Debt is an awful thing, especially if your in it just to keep up “appearances”. Its not worth it, trust me!!