Past Post: What Are You Really Worth?

Monday, April 16, 2007

How Much Are You Worth?

"I deserve it..."  "I'm worth it..."  "It's only $5..."  "I've had a bad week.  I should treat myself..."

Excuses, excuses, excuses...I've used every one of them, have heard them used time and time again by others.  All these little catch phrases usually are heard just about the time money is going to be spent in an area where we know beyond a doubt we can't really afford the expenditure.  And I'm willing to bet that, like myself, you haven't stopped to figure out what you're really worth, what you really deserve.

When we stop and consider what worth or value we place on ourselves, what we deserve from our lives, do you consider the bottle of nail polish or lipstick bought at the department store counter as representative of that value?  Or could that $30 be better applied to your debt load or saved towards a much dreamed about vacation? Perhaps you, like I  myself once did, think $5 here and there doesn't add up, but I had a powerful object lesson in those 'little' amounts of money. 

When I was selling on eBay, often an item would sell for less than $5.  It would have been so easy to spend that money and not consider it as important because it was such a small amount.  But I discovered that saving the money from all of my sales each month, often added up to $100-$200 to deposit into our account and apply to our debt load.  Over a two year period I paid over $3,000 of our debt load all by myself, with what I once considered an insignificant amount of cash, and I didn't have to leave home to take a part time job.

 It felt wonderful to know that I'd helped pay off our loan two years earlier than we'd thought possible simply because I stopped thinking  "It's only $5.", and started thinking instead "Here's another $5!"

I am by no means saying you should live a spartan existence without one treat or luxury.  In fact, I'm  adamant that John and I have an allowance for that very reason.  There was a time in our lives when we had to put every single penny towards our bills, but as we paid off a few debts, and took care not to incur more!, we had a little room in our budget for a small amount of pocket money for each of us.  Originally, we budgeted $20 a month for my allowance and $30 a month for John's. (Ten years later we'd gradually increased our allowances to $65 each per period, but we've recently decided to put a set amount of money each month towards a special purpose and have reduced our allowance to $40 a pay period). That pocket money was ours to do with as we pleased.  That's the money we spent on those "Well I deserve it..." items. 

But a funny thing happened. We often ended up saving as much of that money each month as we could.  We decided that what had the most value to us weren't the items we could buy for $5 but items which  had a higher dollar value.  Chance saved his allowance, birthday and Christmas monies and bought a guitar.  I  saved and bought bookcases for the living room, a slipcover for the sofa, a set of books by a dearly loved out of print author. I spend roughly half my allowance each month on a new plant for the flower beds or a bouquet for the house and dinner out with Mama.

I have a friend who has enough money at her disposal to do pretty much whatever she chooses.  She isn't wealthy, but she is financially secure and carries no debt load.  She has a habit of shopping to make herself feel better.  She spends a lot of money on various things, but she's very unhappy with those things.  Many still have tags on them, sit unopened in bins.  When she talks about the things she wants, she often says "...but I can't afford that!"
The truth is she can afford to do the things she wants, but she chooses to spend her money in areas that have little or no value to her.  If she cut out just two of her impulse shopping trips per month she could hire a landscape designer to give her the beautiful yards she longs for.  If she cut out three of those trips each month, she could take a cruise once every six months. If she did a pantry challenge one week each month and skipped her multiple grocery trips, she could have her house repainted by the year's end.  

I've shown her these figures on paper but, for some reason, she doesn't feel she is worth the things she most desires.

What are you worth?  I mean really worth?  Ask yourself that question next time you start to toss an impulse purchase into your shopping cart, or you think you'll stop off for take-out for supper.  It just may be that the purchase is something that has added value to you and that's great!  Leave it in there!  It may be that the takeout meal is a lifesaver in a week that has been beyond stressful and will buy you an hour of time to truly relax instead of cooking and cleaning.  But then again, it may be just a thoughtless habit.  Ask yourself why you are spending on it.  Consider what it truly costs you in labor or what else it might buy if you chose to do without just now. 


susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

These are some excellent points to be taken into consideration. I know I have often impulse shopped for dumb little stuff when I should have been looking at the bigger picture of what that money could have gone toward instead.

Mable Hastings said...

I had to stop myself from yelling, "Right on, Sister!" when I read today's post.

Anne@MidlifeMoneyTree said...

Amen and Amen! Excellent post!

Debby in KS said...

I think we have the same friend! But mine will eventually cave and do what she really wants....putting it on a credit card. And she deflects, "My husband NEEDED a getaway." So, it's not really HER doing it. But I've learned that that's her way of justifying it. Admittedly, I tried hard to convince her otherwise, but I learned (after banging my head on a wall for YEARS) that it's not going to happen. So, I will listen to the whines about the appliance on its last foot and lack of money for a new one. And how the money will HAVE to be borrowed from mom. And the next Monday will hear about the $50 drinks & appetizers, the $100 dinner followed by the $30 movie that her husband INSISTED they go out for because they deserved it.....and sometimes the overnight stay at the luxury hotel for "refreshing."
:::handing off the soapbox to anyone who wants it!::::

beckyathome said...

It is hard to save for bigger things, and took us a while to get the hang of. It all boils down to balance, and as you said--what things make each individual's life easier. For instance, I usually don't want to spend money going out to eat. In fact, we eat "car picnics" in the car frequently when we are not at home, which if way too often. But, sometimes, I wear out. Then, the ability to eat out is a huge blessing. We did eat out a couple of times on our recent vacation, and ate very simple-snack-type or frozen (by me) meals the rest of the time. I was so tired and just wanted to rest and relax. It still irks us though, when we think about how much food we could have purchased with that same amount of balance, balance, balance.

I try to teach the kids that you can only spend it once, and what you choose to spend it on is your choice, but once it's gone, it's gone.

Recently, we needed to get a car repaired. It was over $1000. I was so thankful that we had the money saved up. There have been times in our lives when we would have had to put that on a payment plan of some sort. So, I think the peace of mind that comes with saving for larger things brings more peace of mind that is contagious. Once we had that feeling a few times, we wanted it more and more, so it became more and more desirous to save again and again and again. That is an upward spiral I like to be on, compared to the downward spiral of debt and worry.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Fantastic post.. So very true..
I tell my grown children... pocket change turns into $$$. and a dollar added to another, and another , makes $10, etc.. The little things..may make us happy for the moment, but are soon nothing.. As you said, you can save for the bigger things you would like.
Thanks for the tips/reminders..

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