Saturday, May 2, 2015

Discretionary Spending

Looking for ways to be frugal demands that we look at our spending choices, particularly where our discretionary spending could use more discretion.

The blogs of the various LDS preppers reaffirm the Mormon pillars of no alcohol, nor any caffeine. As I understand it, their opposition to stimulants has to do with mental clarity as it relates to respecting Heavenly Father.

Many non-LDSers enjoy both alcohol and caffeine and, for us, we can drop a lot of discretionary money in those directions.

Think about how many of us go to Starbucks for a five-dollar cup of coffee and head out having paid the tax and after leaving the obligatory tip. 

Yes, Starbucks makes amazing coffee, but over time that’s a lot of money that could be redirected elsewhere.

It’s not that a person can never go to Starbucks again or even that Starbucks is bad, but more it's an examination of whether or not our discretionary spending needs more discretion.

The same is true of alcohol.

What is sushi without sake? Sushi is expensive and I admit to having precious little discretion when someone suggests sushi. That said, I typically have sushi twice a month. If I lived in Hawaii, I would eat it daily because over there, it's priced like fast food but is pure premium. Here in Bakersfield it is priced like pure premium and sometimes can be of fast-food quality. Thus, I have a modicum of discretion. I can do without the sake and lessen the impact on my wallet.

I personally enjoy a nice red wine with an impeccably grilled filet mignon. Of course, my discretion limits me to how often I have filet mignon. I might have a filet mignon every other month and I make it at home because I can do it better than all restaurants, but one, and at that restaurant a filet mignon would be $45.

A martini also pairs nicely with a filet mignon.

One of the best martinis I’ve ever had was a Belvedere (vodka) martini, up, without any garnish or olives at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, California. It was $12 and was worth it as a treat to pair with the sushi I ordered there that night.

Twelve dollars is about one half of the cost of a 750ml bottle of Belvedere vodka. That 750ml bottle will make about five martinis. In effect, I drank 60 dollar vodka in that one martini I ordered.

I cannot afford buying a $60 bottle of vodka, but in a sense I did.

Yes, I am aware that’s how bars work, but the reality is that the delight of the treat was momentary, but the loss of the money permanent. 

I’m not crying over it, but these days I am seeing that treat in a much different light.

I have no moral opposition to people drinking alcohol, but the next step of my prepping is to reduce the amount of money I spend on alcohol to virtually nothing. I am better off not spending that money and even better off without consuming those empty calories.

This is not a moral stance.

I’m not suddenly going to go “Church Lady” on people who have a drink. 

I’m also not ruling out having a drink with friends at dinner here and there, but at home, I can save a little bit of money by not having the glass of wine or the martini.

Over time, the savings from what seems like a scant amount will tally up.

As for coffee, I’m not giving that up.

I have a $25 Starbucks gift card in my wallet as I write this, but I will not buy lattes with it. I will instead buy ground coffee. Yes, Starbuck's prices are astounding, but the card cannot be used anywhere else.

Word to the wise: If you’re going to give a gift card, give a Visa gift card that can be used anywhere, like say at WinCo Foods.

As for coffee...

In the morning, I make a pot of coffee and I drink a cup while I check emails.

I take a 16-ounce Contigo thermal mug of coffee conmigo as I head out the door to work.

I have the same benefit of coffee as Starbucks, but at a fraction of the cost. I also have the benefit of not having to wait in line and run the risk of impulse purchases.

Consider your discretionary spending habits and ask whether they need more discretion.

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