Save money? Or pay it forward?

2016526154039619_image

I recently signed up to be a mentor to recent college grads from my alma mater. While I’m happy to be paying it forward, I realized this would put a small damper on my savings project this week.

My new mentee just moved to Los Angeles and asked if I could give her any advice on how to get into the entertainment industry, which is the industry that I’ve been working in since I got my first internship in 2010. I was super eager to share with her what I wish someone told me when I was first starting out and invited her to our studio lot for lunch. I had already hit “sent” when I realized my perfectly laid out lunch plans for the week would be foiled. My partner had cooked healthy, delicious, and cheap meals to last us Sunday-Friday and I was so excited to not have to eat out once. However, I would now have to buy my lunch this day because it would be way too weird to bring my own lunch to a lunch meeting with someone I’ve never met before, right? And on top of it, it would be rude to not buy my new mentee lunch, right?

Before I break it down with my happiness/practical scale, I want to say that I kind of hate how torn I was for a moment after already inviting her to lunch. I don’t want to become that cheap person who never offers to pay for someone else or who always brings food to meetings/outings when other people are ordering food somewhere. But I also don’t want to constantly spend all my hard-earned money on food that I can definitely make cheaper myself. However, I think this situation had a clear choice. Here were my thoughts:

Happiness: I like meeting new people, especially those who went to the same college as me, so I was excited to meet up with my mentee. I also really enjoy talking to recent grads so I can tell them about where I went wrong (and I guess a few areas where I went right) when I first graduated. And of course, I like helping people out when I’m able to. My mentee is unemployed right now so it would feel good to treat her to lunch. So, happiness is probably 9 out of 10.

Practical: The lunch meeting would be on our studio lot, which is definitely the most practical place to have lunch. Firstly, I don’t have to drive anywhere, so it’s convenient for me. Secondly, it would give me an opportunity to show her around the lot and get an idea of what it would be like to work here. And thirdly, it’s A LOT cheaper than any other place I could take someone for lunch. So, the practical score is probably also a 9 out of 10.

With both scores being a 9 out of 10, that means I can feel good about spending some money on this. So, no money is going into my savings for this day, but I’m glad I’m at least holding myself accountable. And, I’m also glad I didn’t cheap out on my new mentee and miss out on this opportunity just to save a little bit of money — the overall amount for both of our lunches was only $13.14. The only way I probably could have saved a bit of money would be to invite her to coffee instead of lunch, but I think lunch was still the best choice.

Well, thanks for reading about my neurotic thought processes! I guess it’s good to at least write them down so I can remember when it feels good to spend versus when it doesn’t. And I’d love to hear how others deal with wanting to save money, but also wanting to pay it forward…so leave a comment if you have any ideas or experiences to share!

-Becca

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Chipotle Delivery Debacle

 

Photo courtesy of the Washington Times

 

I went through some old purses a few weeks ago and found not one, but TWO Chipotle gift cards that collectively had…wait for it…$16.09 on them. [Insert gif of me dancing when I realized it wasn’t false excitement over $0 on gift cards I should have thrown out]

Since then, I have obviously been craving Chipotle, despite not eating there in years.  Saturday afternoon seemed like the perfect time to cash in on a burrito bowl and to try their new queso. My partner and I were feeling terribly lazy from a long week, so I suggested we order Chipotle to be delivered. Long story short, I misunderstood the new Facebook announcement that you can order food to be delivered on their site (it actually has to be on their app that takes you to another delivery app). Before realizing I couldn’t actually get delivery through Chipotle’s website, I had already put our lunch in the cart. One burrito bowl, two tacos, and chips with queso were about to be on their way to our apartment and they were going to be FREE.

But then I realized there was only a “pick up” option. OK, the closest Chipotle is 1.5 miles away from our apartment, so I could definitely go pick it up and be back home in about 15 minutes. But did I want to go put on real clothes, get in my car, find parking, and battle the lunch crowds to get this meal?  NOPE. I just really didn’t. And I realize how insanely lazy I sound as I type this. But sometimes, you just need a day where you sit on the couch and watch documentaries with your girlfriend and dog. And Saturday was that day.

So over to Postmates I go! But wait…if I’m ordering from Postmates, doesn’t that mean I can’t use my Chipotle gift card, which is the sole reason for me getting Chipotle? BUT MY HEART IS SET ON SHARING A BURRITO BOWL AND TACOS AND CHIPS AND QUESO. NOOOO.

And this is where I almost caved. I looked at my cart and thought, “$15.15 isn’t that much money for two meals.” Then I remembered my happiness/practical scale.

Happiness scale: How happy would this meal make me? Well, like I said, I haven’t had Chipotle in years, and I think that’s because the last time I went I was underwhelmed. So, if the food isn’t that good, I’d be pretty annoyed with myself for wasting money on it. But if I use the gift card and it’s still not that good, I wouldn’t be as annoyed because it’s free. Sooo, that probably means buying this meal wouldn’t make me very happy and I should save Chipotle for a day when I can use the gift card in-store. However, since it sounded so good at the time and, again, for that instant gratification feeling, I’ll give it a 4 out of 10. 

Practical scale: As we’ve already established, the only way this transaction would have been practical would have been if I could use the gift card for delivery. Without that, this is about a 2 out of 10. The two points are for convenience and no cooking/cleaning.

After coming to the conclusion that I shouldn’t waste this money, I remembered I had a lot of ingredients to make a simple Chipotle-inspired lunch. So, I whipped up a bean and cheese quesadilla with chips and guacamole on the side. Typing that, I realize how silly it is I went through this whole ordeal when I could have taken that time and effort into just cooking lunch. But the past is the past and I’m taking this all as a learning experience. And the quesadilla I made was damn tasty, had cheap ingredients (that were also healthier than Chipotle), and only took about 10 minutes to make. I’m very happy that $15.15 is going into my savings instead of to a corporation that makes mediocre food.

-Becca

 

Uncomfortable expensive meals

cash-tip

I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. I don’t like making people feel uncomfortable and I often put others’ needs in front of my own. But what’s ironic is that I realize these same people I don’t want to make uncomfortable often make me uncomfortable. And I don’t think most people do it on purpose, but it’s just interesting that I’m so focused on them when they’re definitely not focused on me. For example, two of my friends know that I’m trying to save money, but they invited me and my partner to a very expensive restaurant. I realize the world doesn’t revolve around me, so it’s not like I want people to tailor their every move to me, I just find it fascinating that I often do that for other people. And I’m not saying that makes me a better person…if anything, it makes me a little weak because I do many things solely for other people instead of for myself…but I digress.

I know my friends obviously didn’t invite us out maliciously. We were at a work gathering and when we were leaving, my friend said she was craving a specific dessert dish from this restaurant and extended an invite to us. I had never heard of the restaurant, but it sounded nice to continue hanging out with them, so we said we’d join. I know we could have declined since we’ve been trying not to spend money out, but we figured it was 9 p.m. so we could just get a small appetizer or dessert, or maybe just a drink.

When we got there, we quickly realized this was going to be difficult. The first item on the starters menu: Artisanal cheese, raisins on the vine, pistachios, honeycomb, apples…$28. I flipped the menu over to look at the drinks…the cheapest cocktail was $13. My partner and I looked at each other with dread. I honestly started to cave for a moment. But then I paused and realized I wasn’t starving and just because we’re at a restaurant, it doesn’t mean we have to buy something we don’t want.

That makes me wonder: how many times have I bought more food somewhere because other people are eating and I felt obligated to join? How many times have I not felt like drinking, but bought a drink because others are?  I’m afraid the answer is way too many.

My friends asked us what we were getting and I felt myself get super embarrassed because I didn’t want to order nothing (that felt rude), but I couldn’t find anything on the menu that seemed remotely worth the price. Thankfully, though, my partner noticed the ice cream was only $4 and she chimed in, “I think we’re just going to get some ice cream.” My friend says, “Oh, did you eat before?” Once again my partner came to the rescue and says, “We had a late lunch.” They then ordered a few small plates, a drink, and some dessert. They let us try some of what they got and I felt uncomfortable because it kind of felt like pity offerings, but that was probably just a story I told myself. Because when it comes down to it, they’re my friends and they should understand why we didn’t order a bunch of expensive food at 9 p.m. when we aren’t that hungry.

The bill comes and it’s about $80. I let out a sigh of relief because I know we made the right decision. If my partner and I hadn’t been on the same page and just got food we didn’t really want and drinks we didn’t need, we would have easily spent $80 on the two of us, too. And would that have been worth it?

Happiness scale: I probably would have felt that instant feeling of “happiness” if I treated myself. There’s something about feeling rich while eating an expensive dish…but that’s just instant gratification. I know I would have felt awful when the bill came. But I also would have felt less uncomfortable ordering more because I wouldn’t have felt judged by my peers, so I guess that adds another point or two to the happiness scale. Thus, the score was around a 3 out of 10. 

Practical Scale: Since we weren’t that hungry because we had a late lunch and some appetizers at the previous event, there really wouldn’t have been any practical reason to order more food…it would have maybe satiated us a little, but not enough to make it worth it. So, that gives us a 1 out of 10. 

Those numbers are pretty weak so I definitely feel confident in my decision, even if it was a bit awkward. But a little awkwardness is definitely worth the $80 that is going into savings!

For the record, I tried to give my friends $10 to cover the ice cream and more of the tip, but my friends declined.  I felt a little uncomfortable accepting the gesture, but I knew I would have done the same thing and that I could easily treat them to something next time!

-Becca

 

Weekend breakfast blues

break-18987_960_720

I’ve had a lot of requests to spend money this weekend, mostly in the form of going out to eat for breakfast. But the funny part about it, is that they haven’t been by other people…they’ve been by me. The pesky inside-my-head voice that tells me I’ve worked hard this week, so I deserve it. Or, I’ve been eating the same breakfast all week, so I can treat myself to something different.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I didn’t want to go through the process of rating the purchase on the happiness or practical scale. I just wanted to go.

Thankfully, my partner snapped me out of it.

Me: Let’s go to Aroma Cafe this morning.

Partner: Umm…do you remember that you just started a blog about not spending money on things you don’t need?

Yes, I did remember, but I really wanted a pass. I felt entitled to this breakfast. But why? Our minds will easily tell us lies when we’re craving something. And in that moment, I was craving a more interesting breakfast sandwich than the one I could make at home. The sandwich I wanted was called an Aroma Breakfast Sandwich, which consists of three scrambled eggs, aged cheddar cheese, tomato, and applewood smoked bacon on focaccia bread, with a side of rosemary potatoes. I also wanted a Cold Brew to go with it.

Here’s what it would have cost:

Aroma Breakfast Sandwich: $13.95

Cold Brew: $3.50

Sales Tax: $1.66

Tip: $4

Total: $23.11

Hold up…it would cost me $23.11 for breakfast?! I usually would just throw my credit card at the bill and say, “oh well, it was good.” But would it really be worth it? Let’s break it down:

Happiness scale: Well, I’ve had that sandwich before and it is quite tasty. And, of course, it would have been nice to not have to worry about the cooking/cleaning. The ambience there is also really nice…though, we had to be somewhere an hour later, so we would have felt rushed. Verdict: 6 out of 10.

Practical scale: $23.11 for breakfast? Can that ever be practical? Probably not, but let’s weigh in on it. The only parts that made this slightly practical were that the restaurant is pretty close to where we had to be an hour later, and we’d save some energy by not having to cook and clean. But making our own breakfast and not having to rush is still probably more practical than that, right? The verdict: 2 out of 10. 

So, even though it looks like the breakfast would have made me pretty happy, it would have only made me happy for about 30 minutes. And with it falling so low on the practical scale, it doesn’t really make sense to spend that much money on something that won’t be memorable. 

Guess that means it’s time to put $23.11 into savings!

-Becca

 

 

 

First ask: Starbucks

free-iced-coffee-cup-vectors

It’s 3:00 p.m., just hours after I completed my first blog post and I’ve already been asked if I want to go downstairs for a mid-afternoon coffee run. Having a Starbucks INSIDE our building has been a blessing and a curse. It’s known in our office as “Starbs” and multiple times throughout the day people will yell out, “Starbs run! Who’s coming?” Have I mentioned yet that we have a perfectly fine coffee maker in our kitchen, as well as a selection of teas with a hot water maker? No? Well, we do. And the number of people willing to pay money for coffee and tea instead of using these free amenities will never cease to amaze me. And yet, I am often one of them. But not today, dammit. NOT. TO. DAY.

Co-worker: Becca, do you want Starbs?

Me: Nah, I just made some green tea.

Co-worker: Aww, you sound so sad about that. You sure you don’t want me to get you something?

And that’s usually when I cave and say “ok, fine.” But today, I stood my ground.  I instead said, “no, thanks.” And did my co-worker get mad at me? Nope, not at all. I always have this fear that if I say, “no,” that someone won’t like me and this is one of the things I want to change about myself, along with the whole spending less thing.

What I would have ordered: A tall cold brew

Cost: $2.75

Happiness scale: It would have made me maybe a 5 out of 10 because I love a good cold brew when they do it right. But I mostly would have just gone because other people were going and I don’t like being left out. Serious FOMO. Gotta work on that.

Practical scale: 1 out of 10. I’m currently drinking a green tea (free of cost from our work kitchen) that I’m enjoying. Also, it has less caffeine than a cold brew, which is better for me at this time of the afternoon. And do I really need to spend money on another caffeinated beverage? I don’t think so.

Answer: No, I do not need a tall cold brew at this moment.

So, $2.75 is going into my savings! It doesn’t sound like a lot right now, but I have a feeling it will add up quickly. I’m actually pretty excited to start this experiment now. Bring it on, people!

-Becca

 

Alright, let’s try this.

I’ve never been very good at sticking to what I say I’m going to do. I tell myself little lies about what I plan to do, and then little excuses. I’ve always been like this. Every school year I would tell myself, “I’m going to do things differently. I’m not going to wait until the last minute to start that paper. I’m not going to be late to class. I’m not going to just read the Sparknotes.” But inevitably, I would be up until 3 a.m. writing a paper that’s due at 8 a.m. I’d be two minutes late to my first class. And I would read half of the book I was supposed to read and then read the Sparknotes.  This started in 8th grade and lasted throughout college. I got by, but I was taking shortcuts.

But the problem is: I’m still taking shortcuts. And I’m not where I want to be anymore. I know something has to change. As I get closer and closer to 30, I realize that I’m going to go down the same path unless I do something about it. So this blog is hopefully going to make me do something about it.

Now, where does spending come into this, you ask? Well, money is one of those things that I’ve always thought I would have more of in the future. I’ve been telling myself for ages that I’m going to be rich someday…but what am I doing to actually accomplish that? I’m an administrative assistant for a Vice President in the entertainment industry and don’t make that much money. But I work with people who do make that much money and sometimes I act like I’m one of them. I’ll spend frivolously at Starbucks for coffee I don’t even like. I’ll go out for lunch and spend $50 at an expensive sushi place that my co-workers love. And I’ll order delivery because I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. I realize that all of these examples are food related. I spend too much money in other categories, too, but I do think food is the number 1 thing I spend the most money on recklessly.

I’m hoping this blog will make me more accountable. And also teach me to say “no,” because most of the time, I’m just going along for the ride and spending money because others are. I can’t keep going down this road of spending money on things that don’t make me happy. So here’s the plan:

  1. Every time someone asks me if I want to do something that requires money, I’m going to write it in this blog. And every time I want to purchase something online or in a store, I’m going to write it in this blog.*
  2. I’m going to write down exactly what I plan on purchasing and how much it will cost.
  3. I will assess on a happiness scale how happy buying whatever is offered will make me. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being, “eh” to 10 being, “I am in a room full of puppies,” I will see if what I want to buy will be worth it.
  4. I will also assess on a practical scale how practical a purchase is. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being, “an inflatable life-size unicorn in a Dior dress as decoration for my small apartment,” to 10 being “a pen as a utensil to write.”
  5. If it doesn’t meet the happiness and practical standards, I will take the money that it costs and put that in a savings account. My plan is to assess how much I really spend on silly things and how that can be going to something more productive.
  6. Don’t worry, if it truly does meet the happiness and practical standards, I will enjoy it — my plan here isn’t to completely deprive myself.

* I realize I am most likely not going to be able to write in this blog every time I’m about to purchase something, but my plan is to go back and write about my process as I’m about to buy something and reasons for why I did or did not buy it. I’m hoping it will hold me accountable because if I make a poor decision, I will have to own up to the fact that I did not weigh the options and just bought something frivolously.

So…that’s my plan! Come follow my journey and share yours if you’d like! (Am I a cheesy blogger now because I ended my first blog using the word “journey”?)

-Becca