Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Backward Engineering a Monetary Mind Hack

Sorry about not posting yesterday.  It was one of the busiest days of the summer and, well, I forgot.

One of the things I'm doing for my Household Reboot is to try to get a handle on the money end of things.  Argh.

When you're on a tight budget, it can feel like you're endlessly policing yourself, which is exhausting and can lead to a lot of resentment and feelings of deprivation.

My mechanism  for coping with that kind of mental mess is to reframe the problem in a way that makes it sound like a virtue instead of a burden.  For example, when making a choice to spend money, I look at what I could be spending it on now as compared to what future thing I could do with it instead.  In that light, a choice not to buy a thing today is a choice in favor of being able to buy some other thing tomorrow.

But it can feel like all you're doing is saying "not now, later", without having a clear picture of how much progress you're making in the now.  So I'm turning it into a game - I'm keeping track of all the money I don't spend, and giving myself a monthly tally as a trophy.

The twist is that "choosing not to buy" isn't the standard.  After all, I can choose not to buy a new pair of shoes that I don't really need in the first place, but that doesn't get me anywhere except on paper.

What we're looking for here is a way to mitigate the feeling of being deprived without actually becoming deprived.  The question then becomes, "How do I get/do this thing that I would typically need to spend money for, but without spending the money?"

And that is why yesterday I got on YouTube, and learned how to cut my own hair.

This picture would be way more dramatic if I had had the forethought to take a "Before" photo first.

It took me about 30 minutes to view enough videos to convince myself that I had a grip on the process, then about another 30 minutes to actually complete the cut.  So about an hour all together - which sounds like a lot except that it would have taken more time than that just to get to a salon and get a professional cut - and at Nashville mid-range prices I would have spent $50.00.

So the math is:  for an hour of my time, I got a mid-range haircut that I am actually quite satisfied with, and saved $50.00.  Or to look at it another way, I got a $50.00 haircut for free.  Or to look at it yet another way, I did not have to spend several hours of my husband's work life to pay for a $50.00 haircut.  Or to look at it another another way, I can put that $50.00 in a bank account and save it for a tank of gas to get to the beach.  Or to look at it yet another another way, I could take that money and go buy that pair of shoes.

I've started a page in my bullet journal for tracking my savings, and I'll update you from time to time. Do I dare set a figure as a goal?


  1. I cut my boys' hair and my husband's. The average cheap hair cut for a man/boy locally is around $15, including tip. The hair clipper set we purchased was $60. So for the cost of four hair cuts, I've been cutting their hair for several years. I don't get my own hair cut on a regular basis as I prefer it long, but I did recently purchase some hair dye. Again, doing it myself is a big savings - $8 or so for the dye versus a minimum of $45 at the salon.

    1. Oh, and you did a great job on your hair - it is very cute!