How not to overspend on things you don’t want

March 28, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog, Entrepreneurship, Fitness, Leadership

I can’t resist reposting a comment I posted on the forum of one of my favorite other blogs, Mr. Money Mustache. I’m reposting it because two other readers rated my response highly, one giving my response this animated image, making me proud.

Citizen Kane clapping

The post I responded to

Alright mustachians [the term for people in the Mr. Money Mustache community who practice his principles of not spending money on stuff that doesn’t improve your life] I need your sage advice. In the last three months I have really cut down on my bad habits. I pack my own lunch to work every day. I broke up with cable. I stopped ordering books from amazon on a regular basis. I changed my eating habits from quick and expensive frozen foods to homemade meals. I have not been to Starbucks once this year.

So far I feel great about these changes and they really haven’t been that hard. However, there is one habit that I seem unable to change. I still spend way too much money when I head out to the bars with friends. Two or three times a month my friends and I get together and I will easily drop $50, $60, or $70 on food and beverages. This past Saturday my tab came to a Benjamin.

So I know my trigger point is going to the bars with friends. I order a beer and then another, and then another. Before you know it I’m getting food as well. Then we head to another bar and I order a pitcher, round of drinks, more food, etc. I rationalize this by telling myself that I deserve to have a good night out. I work hard and don’t get to see my friends that often.

I know, I know… crazy. The problem is that I don’t want to stop going out with my friends. I really don’t get to see them that often as I work long, long hours every week. I am hoping you guys can help me out with the happy medium of being social while still being frugal. I’ve tried the nursing the beer thing, but that usually only lasts about one drink. I’ve tried not ordering food but then somebody orders food anyways and when the bill comes we all “agree” to split it.

My friends know that I am trying to live more frugally and pay down my massive debts but it doesn’t always translate very well. We all pretty much come from upper middle class families so we are trying to make the transition from a comfortable paid-for lifestyle to our own lives where most of us don’t have the disposable income to maintain the same lifestyle our parents provided. I’ve chosen the mustachian path while most others just live beyond their means or still on their parent’s dime.

All I want is the best of both worlds, that’s not too much to ask right? 🙂 So give it to me straight, I know the habit is bad and my rationalization is stupid but now how do I change?

Other people’s responses

Other people mostly responded with tactics to avoid temptation, buy cheaper drinks, go out less, brew his own beer, and such.

I was surprised at the timidity of their responses. The blog’s author, Mr. Money Mustache, consistently writes about taking responsibility for your actions. He calls people who say it’s too hard “complainypants” and talks about “face punching” people who don’t do what they know they should. It’s funny in context, so I hope I didn’t make him sound mean here.

My response

Is this thread magically appearing from some web page unrelated to Mr. Money Mustache?

How do you not spend too much money on unnecessary things?

You asked to give it to you straight, so here you go.

DON’T BUY THEM.

But you want to hang out with your friends?

So hang out with your friends and don’t buy beer you don’t need or want. Don’t agree to split the bill for food you didn’t eat. Don’t eat food you don’t want to pay for.

You think that’s too hard?

What would MMM say? I’m not him so I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the words complainypants and face punch would show up.

If you’re old enough to drink, you’re a grown adult able to make decisions on your own. If your friends decide they want to drink, that doesn’t mean you have to. Take responsibility for your actions. You aren’t helpless. People go out without drinking all the time.

Yes, it is that easy. It’s only hard if you think it’s hard. Go out with your friends and don’t drink. Do you need alcohol to have fun? Do you need to do what they do to be a part of the group?

Sorry if tough love is a hard pill to swallow, but I feel like that’s what brought us to this community.

DON’T BUY THINGS YOU DON’T NEED IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND THE MONEY.

I consider that good advice. Obviously, or I wouldn’t have written it, and I use my full name as my handle on that forum, so I put my name on it. Did I overstate a bit? Perhaps.

One person responded with that Orson Welles clapping animation above. Another wrote “Yep, pretty much sums it all up.”

Come to think of it, getting that Orson Welles clapping animation from a community member whose values you appreciate feels good enough, I’m going to indulge myself and post it again. Think I’m patting myself on the back too much? Well, next time you get the response I won’t begrudge you indulging yourself. I’ve long advocated overindulging in reward to motivate more rewarding behavior, so I contend I’m practicing what I preach.

Citizen Kane clapping

Come to think of it, it reminds me of a response I wrote about five years ago to some people complaining about Columbia Business School not responding to their demands that led the Dean or some high level faculty to email me to congratulate and thank me. I guess now and then you have to remind people of the value of taking responsibility for getting the job done over complaining that others aren’t.

I can’t tell you how much better my life becomes the more responsibility I take, no matter what caused the situation, compared to blaming others or waiting for someone else to take responsibility. It’s empowering and gets the job done.

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