Monday, August 10, 2009

Beware of spending triggers

The place where I work part time is right next to a coffee house. Almost time I go to work there, I stop in next door for a cup of coffee before I go and teach my class. I've made a habit of leaving time for this, have a routine for it.

That's crazy to me.

I have always been the kind of person who couldn't save money by giving up lattes because I didn't buy them. I make my coffee at home, when I'm drinking it, and put it in a travel mug if I need to go somewhere. So why, oh why, do I need to buy a $2 cup of coffee every time I go to work now?

It started when I was still working two jobs. After a full day of teaching, it was a treat - and a help in some ways - for me to get a cup of coffee before turning around and teaching for another three hours. I convinced myself that I deserved it, that I was working so hard and making so much extra money that it was easy to write off the $2 for a cup of coffee as just a necessary expense. It made me feel better and gave me a boost, and in a lot of ways that I do understand, that made it worth it to me.

But at some point that changed. I'm not sure when, but at some point in the process, getting coffee became something I did not because I was tired, not because I wanted it, but because I was on my way to work. I don't derive any particular joy from the cup of coffee, I don't feel like I really need it, I just get it because that's what I do. Now, I'm not opposed to splurging and buying a chocolate croissant once in a while if it makes me happy, but if I'm spending money on coffee just out of habit? That's just a waste.

I think most of us probably have some spending triggers, some circumstances that trigger us to buy something that we otherwise would never buy. So maybe it's time to examine some of those spending triggers and see which ones make sense and which ones don't.


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