The Fleeting Luxury

I’m not a big fan of sweet stuff. I’ve always been the type of person that prefers savory flavors, and my favorite thing in that regard is cheese. I love trying new kinds of cheeses.

Every once in a while, I’ll splurge and buy a chunk of cheese that I’ve never tried before. Extra mature Wensleydale? Let’s try it! Fresh Pantysgawn? What’s that going to taste like? Crottin de Chavignol?

These little chunks of imported cheese can be really expensive. Price tags of $20 a pound are pretty common when you’re splurging on imported cheese. Higher price tags exist, too.

Here’s the thing, though: cheese is a fleeting luxury. It’s a splurge that you consume fairly quickly and then it’s completely gone. The same thing is true of a $5 coffee or a chocolate bar or a pint of quality ice cream.

I don’t need these things for nutrition’s sake. I simply want them as a splurge, no different than a splurge on an entertainment item.

For a long time, I struggled with how to deal with these splurges. Usually, they were purchased at the grocery store and thus it was incredibly easy to just plug them into the “food” portion of our budget.

The reality is that these splurges really shouldn’t count as “food.” They don’t provide the basis of meals or nutrition for our family. They’re a special treat.

Eventually, I came to a much different realization. These fleeting splurges should be considered part of my personal “free spending.”

Because of that realization, I actually have a very simple method for managing my “fleeting luxury” purchases, whether they’re cheese or any other unnecessary food item.

Each month, I allow myself a certain amount of money to spend freely. I can buy whatever I want with that money – a board game or a book or something else. I usually withdraw some of it in cash each month and figure that I’m going to spend the rest online.

When I go to the store and pick up an item that’s obviously a fleeting luxury purchase, like half a pound of fresh Pantysgawn, I check the pocket in my wallet where I keep my “free” cash. If I have enough, then I feel okay buying it.

At the checkout, I usually make a point to pay for that item separately with cash so that I don’t roll it in to our normal food budget. I don’t need to bump our family’s food receipt by $20 because I splurged on some high-end cheese.

What if I’m simply making a special meal for my family? While most of our meals are inexpensive, sometimes Sarah and I plan special meals for our family and for guests. I don’t consider those splurges. The difference is whether I’m the one getting the primary pleasure out of the item or not. Is this for me or is this for the family? Is this something Sarah would really want, too? These questions tell me whether this is a personal “fleeting luxury” or not.

Frugality doesn’t mean that you have to go without these fleeting luxuries. It just means that you use a sensible approach to them.

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