Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Seven Year Old's Approach to Spending

I use, literally, a seven year-old's approach to nonessential spending. I invented it at age 7, and, as with many of my childhood insights, I've stuck with it because it never stopped working. It's gotten me through times of feast and famine, and leveled out the swings. I think I might have nailed it!

When I was 7, I had a ton of pennies. I decided that I could spend them freely, with hardly a thought (I could not, however, go nuts, because then they'd run out. So I certainly wouldn't go looking for excuses to spend them, but didn't limit myself when there was genuine desire). Nickels required vigilance, and dimes were spent only on special occasions. Quarters? Practically never!

Bubblegum, costing a penny, could be enjoyed freely (though, in practice, rarely more than a few at a time). Baseball cards (a nickel) could be bought judiciously. I can't really remember what cost a dime, because such items were mostly out of my league. Comic books, which cost a quarter, might as well have been bicycles. They were acquired only as gifts.

At age 18, working a part time job in college, I could spend quarters freely (just in time for Asteroids!), though, in practice, rarely more than a few at a time. Dollars required some vigilance (my weekly bacon cheeseburger at the local diner). Fives were for special occasions, and tens, practically never.

In the early days of my music career, I could spend ones freely (this is when I started building my ethnic dining expertise), though, in practice, rarely more than a few at a time. Fives required vigilance (an occasional batido de guanabana along with that roast pork), and tens only on special occasions. Twenties practically never.

Now I can spend twenties freely (DVDs! Multiple craft beers! Parking garages! $15 entrées!), rarely, in practice, more than a few at a time. Fifties are spent judiciously (cheap travel), and hundreds when absolutely necessary. Thousands practically never. And, as was true at all previous levels, I feel content. I have never in my life hankered to level up (am I the only such American?). I can't imagine I'd have any more fun with free-flowing fifties or hundreds. Really, I was having an awfully good time with Asteroids and unadorned roast pork!

I believe my sensible approach to money stems from this lifelong system. I've never had to tightly budget myself, because expenses are always under control. I don't feel much pull toward compulsive spending. I'm neither stingy nor extravagant.

The essential part is that I've never gone nuts within the freely-spendable quantity. If I had, I'd have been forced me to reappraise that privilege (once you've worked through your trove of pennies, you'll need to cool it with the bubblegum...and I don't want to cool it with the bubblegum!).

It's simplistic and juvenile, sure, but there are realms where grown-up complications mostly just help us hide from the truth.

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