Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

On not sweating the small stuff October 7, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

We’re often told not to sweat the small stuff.  And sometimes, it’s the small stuff that makes life that much better.  Grabbing coffee with a friend.  Getting pampered with a mani-pedi.  Going out on a double date with friends.  Or meeting up for beers at the local watering hole.

But at the same time, we hear the refrain from personal finance types:  Beware the latte effect!  Skip the salon!  Cook dinner at home!  Just order water or turn friends down!

It gets confusing.  On the one hand, I want to enjoy my life, and I think that, while there are plenty of things you can do for free, there’s lots of small stuff that does cost money (maybe $5, maybe $50).  But I don’t like having to stress about every expense.  Of course, all that money can add up.  All the little things you spend money on throughout the week (a cup of coffee, a few lunches, a cab ride or two) can start to make a decent dent in your wallet.

So, how do you weigh what’s actually important?  Or is it more important to cut out all spending when you’re in dire straights than it is once you’re on your feet and making decent money?

I sometimes feel guilty wanting to treat myself to something.  “I could put the $10 for this meal towards paying off my student loans”.  “Skipping the $4 ice cream sundae will probably help me lose weight and become a millionaire”.  I mean, I know that if I put that $4 into a savings account that somehow has an unobtainable interest rate, and I let it grow for 500 years, it’ll be worth millions.  But I also like going out for tasty crepes and hot fudge sundaes.

I go back and forth.  Some days I spend with abandon.  And by that I mean I go out for a few meals and buy a new dress.  Other days I force myself to walk away from a coffee shop or bakery.

So, which side do you lean to?  Saving every penny and aggressively saving and paying down debt?  Or do you treat yourself (or others)?  I’m wondering if it would help if I actually set a budget for “fun stuff” so that I’d know it’s okay to spend it.  How do you find the perfect balance and not sweat the small stuff?

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7 Responses to “On not sweating the small stuff”

  1. Vanessa Says:

    I have a certain amount of “fun money”/allowance and that’s all I allow myself to spend.

  2. Kristin Says:

    I think it depends on what your priorities are and what you value. An occasional coffee will help me be more productive at work, so I see it as a worthwhile expense, but I’ll just get the coffee, not a fancy latte or something, maybe travel is more important to me. But for someone else, that latte every morning might be the highlight of their day that they really value, and they choose not to do something else. It might add up, but if that’s what they value and they’re within their means, I think it’s OK.

    The important thing is that the spending isn’t mindless, that you don’t get surprised by it at the end of the month. But it is important to be able to enjoy your money once in awhile, otherwise what are you working so hard to earn it for?

    Doing budgeting in the long term as well as the short term works for me. Irregular expenses or certain seasons can cause a monthly budget to be out of whack, but as long as it smooths out over the long term, I don’t worry too much. However, I do think it’s good to set an expected target for those kinds of expenses. When I first started grad school, far away from pretty much everyone I knew, my cohort would go to dinner on Friday nights, and I felt it was important to participate to make friends and be social, so I’d budget for $25-30 each week for that and it was my treat. Or I’d guess about $15 a month for coffees, about two a week. If I was going way over on other takeout food, I could notice and try to make an adjustment to get more groceries or something. So I guess has been my philosophy – notice and adjust, but don’t say no!

  3. I flip between being a saving monster to a silly spender. Sometimes I can eliminate all the ‘extra’ spending on stuff like coffee, snacks, eating out, and then, other times, I have no will power at all. I find if I try and rationalize (usually by writing it out) what I’m spending on and why I’m spending, I can reduce some of the extra spending.

  4. Allison ILR Says:

    We have a “miscellaneous” budget for stuff like coffees and ice cream and fun stuff, but we’re not very strict with our budgets, so sometimes we both go over. I do keep an eye on things, and if I notice that we’ve gone over for a few months in a row, we talk about it and try to reduce the fun spending. It usually fluctuates a lot though – one month we’ll be over by $30, the next under by $20.

    I also go back and forth in my feelings Today I forgot my lunch, and at lunch time I decided a more expensive option sounded better…but then after I bought it I kept thinking about how that extra $2 could have gone to my Roth IRA or something. Most of the time I figure as long as I stick to my budget overall, it’s okay to actually spend that fun money, even if it COULD be used toward debt or retirement.

  5. [...] Graduated Learning on not sweating the small financial stuff [...]

  6. Dozer Says:

    Funny enough I thought about this recently. I read that if I really really dim my lights, I can save on my electricity bill every month. It took me about an hour of tripping around the house and worrying if prolonged dim lights would kill my eyes 10 years from now to realize that nickel and diming really isn’t what is going to help me pay off my student loans. I read somewhere that the three biggest ways to save (apart from putting away 10 percent of every paycheck) is to cut on food, transportation and housing. Cuz think about it: one month of awesome Starbucks is equivalent to what? Eating out like 5 times. Drink the coffee everyday and feel good about it. Just don’t pick up the phone to call Dominos on nights you’re feeling lazy.

  7. jvo_barretto Says:

    Personally, I try to save my money like crazy. This definitely involves making sacrifices, but I’d rather pay off debts than splurge on new things. Occasionally, I’m weak though and will order takeout or some other convenient item. BTW – I just discovered your blog and I like :) I just joined and started following you on Twitter. Would appreciate it if you returned the favor. I’ll be reading regularly!


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