That’s the thought I have pretty often when I have a few free hours on the weekends.
I usually have a ton of things that I’d like to be doing. I could go buy some books I’ve been wanting, then curl up with them. I could go golfing. I could go out to eat at a restaurant. I could do these things or many other things I could think of.
The thing is, whenever money slides out of my pocket, there’s a bit of a negative sense cast over whatever I’m doing.
It’s not so much that I regret spending the money on something that I enjoy. It’s that I know I could have enjoyed myself almost as much without spending that money, and now the opportunities afforded by that money are wasted.
Let me put it another way.
Let’s say that a “10/10″ experience is the best experience I’ll have all year. I can either spend $100 to have an “8/10″ experience, or I can have a “7/10″ experience at home for free. I’ll take that “7/10″ every single day of the week. Why? Because, when I look back on that 8/10 later, that lost $100 is going to weigh down on it. It will even weigh down on it a bit in the moment if I haven’t planned for that spending in advance.
I simply use the “cost” factor as a pretty heavy part of any decision I make.
It doesn’t mean I skip out on enjoyable things. I want to enjoy myself as much as anyone else. I simply recognize two vital things about spending money for personal enjoyment.
One, there are a lot of enjoyable things to do that don’t involve spending money. I could read a book I’ve already got on my shelf or my Kindle. I could go for a walk outside. I could turn up music real loud and start dancing in the kitchen. I could call up some friends, put on a pot of soup, and spend half the night playing board games. I could just sit here and list these options all day long, but I think you get the idea. Obviously, this list varies for everyone, but there are free or very inexpensive things that are enjoyable for pretty much every person.
Two, whenever I do spend money on something non-essential, it takes money away from something I might actually need in the future. The more I reflect on this idea, the more that spending money in an unplanned fashion begins to feel like a downer. The $100 I spend right now very well might be taking a meal away from a needier version of myself twenty years down the road – and for what? To do something vaguely more enjoyable than what I already have going on for free?
“But what about spontaneity?” I have an amount I have budgeted each month for personal hobby and entertainment spending. I do whatever I want with that money and I feel fine about it.
Truth is, though, I set a decent chunk of that money aside for a few special events throughout the year, such as my annual trip to Gencon with a few friends. When I’m at Gencon, I feel zero guilt about spending my pocket money that I’ve set aside for it.
Much of the rest is used for on the spur of the moment spending on my hobbies, on the rare occasions when I actually go out without children at my knees, and on little things for my wife, like a chocolate truffle with a note on it stuck into her purse. Having a strong relationship with her blows away whatever else I might be spending my money and my time on.
Money doesn’t buy happiness. At best, it can buy the illusion of it.
There are twenty things I can do right now that sound pretty enjoyable. All things considered, I think that going downstairs, making myself some scrambled eggs with a clementine on the side, then eating it while reading the book I’m already engrossed in sounds like the best option by far. Sure, I could do flashier things, but those scrambled eggs with a bit of salsa costs me pennies, the interesting book cost me nothing at all, and the enjoyment I get from them together is pretty substantial.
Time to go fire up the burner.