Dion has busy mornings. She has a husband and a host of children that need to shepherded out the door at an early hour. Homework in backpacks, books in bags, lunches in hand, goodbyes and kisses given. Sometimes tears are shed, shoes are lost and gym clothes aren’t washed. After the frantic morning rush and the last of the children are deposited at their schools, Dion needs her breakfast of a doughnut and a latte. She deserves the reward. Her stop at the coffee shop is as much of her morning routine as brushing her teeth.
But, what if Dion’s doctor told her that her crippling headaches could be solved as easily as giving up caffeine? Assuming that Dion spent $2 on her morning coffee shop ritual and that she could replace her latte and doughnut with a .10 cent bowl of oatmeal and a .25 cent piece of fruit, she’d save not only $$$ but also thousands of calories a year. (Remember, I’m a math toadie—do your own math.)
Dion might insist her coffee and doughnut are worth the cost and calories—until she adds on the 4% the money could have been earning had it been wisely invested, and times it by a lifetime and then tack on the expense of her medical and dental bills. And who can put a number on the cost of head-achy days?
I’m all about rewards, but I think it’s important to look and see what is blessing your life and what is not. (Please do not think that because I’m spooning out this advice that I righteously follow it and religiously eat oatmeal. I’m aware that there’s often a large dark, rocky chasm between what we know to be prudent and what we actually do. All I’m trying to do is offer a ladder out of what can be a scary place.)
For one week, without altering your spending habits whatsoever, save every receipt for every purchase made. Do not be judgmental or unkind to yourself. At the end of the week, sit down and add the tally. Learn to distinguish the difference between wants and needs. Recognize those things that you want today that you might be able to sacrifice for something that you want even more tomorrow. This is a gateway step to next week’s exercise on budgeting.