When I was kid, my parents would take their car to the car wash pretty regularly. And being young kids, they couldn’t just leave us at home. So, they took us with them. Of course, as kids, you’re easily entertained. So, we’d wonder the convenience store at the car wash seeking that entertainment.
One thing that drove us absolutely giddy was a fortune-telling machine. The machine would repeat over and over again the same sales pitch:
Your fortune for a quarter? I love quarters!
Give me a quarter – I’ll tell you your fortune.
Our parents being somewhat frugal folks, we never enjoyed the privilege of dropping a quarter into the fortune-telling machine. Nonetheless, as kids, we still had an infinite amount of fun mocking the voice of the fortune-telling gypsy trapped inside.
Remembering that Slavic(?)-accented voice, I can’t help but linger on:
Your fortune for a quarter?
It’s the trade – the exchange – proposed by the disembodied voice. And of course, it’s a terrible deal. Because a quarter isn’t a quarter (especially back then, #inflation).
A quarter is your freedom.
In a blog at Define Financial, I wrote:
Money is not dollars, or pesos, or denari. Money is little bits of freedom.
Each time you willingly give away your money, consider that you are willingly giving away your freedom. Purchases seems a lot different in that context.
I’ve been carrying this idea around a lot lately – the idea that money is freedom. And it’s showing up in my behavior. (Side note: this is why I wrote about this stuff. Writing helps keep me focused on my goals, as one advantage.)
Recently, I was shopping at back Trader Joe’s – with the idea of money as freedom newly seared into my brain. I had a shopping list – and cashew butter was on that list.
Now, I’m a huge peanut butter fan. It’s delicious and it’s cheap. And it’s relatively healthy (at least the all-natural kind). So, I eat a ton of it.
Recently, I got the silly idea that I was sick of peanut butter – because I eat so much of it, all the time. As such, I made the decision to mix it up – and indulge in a little lifestyle inflation by stepping up to cashew butter. At least for a little while, anyway.
But – that was before I saw the price of cashew butter. And to my surprise, cashew butter is four times the price of peanut butter. That’s a lot.
Consider that while cashew butter is good, it’s certainly not four times as good as peanut butter – it’s just different. Moreover, a $8 for a jar of nut butter was just more than I was comfortable with spending. I thought about the blog post – and the idea that money is freedom – and the idea that losing money (by spending it needlessly) means losing your freedom.
After some reflection (which means me staring at jars of nut butter in the grocery store), I concluded that I didn’t want to give up my freedom for a jar of nut butter. It simply wasn’t worth it for me – not at a price of $8 anyway. Instead of spending that $8 – I’d rather have it. And by having it, I have more options. I have the freedom and flexibility that $8 provides.
Money is Freedom Mindsight
Of course, the idea that $8 (or more specifically that $6 premium of cashew butter over peanut butter) could materially impact my life in any way is laughable. (And I’m a tad extreme. Though not as extreme as others.) But, spending $8 on nut butter may beget a slippery slope; it starts with the nut butter and ends with the lease on the BMW.
Of course, I’m not telling you not to spend $8 on a jar of nut butter.
I’m not even telling not to lease the BMW. That’s not true. Do not lease the BMW ffs. I’m saying that – for me – spending $8 on a jar of butter isn’t worth it. (At least not now, anyway. Give my money a decade or two to compound first. Then I’ll be swimming in a bathtub full of cashew butter.)
Think about money as freedom – and not whatever you think of it as now – and perhaps your behavior will change. Perhaps.