We all have habits that we really need to take a hard look at to make sure the habit is helping us reach our financial goals. I know from personal experience that one of the most difficult aspects of personal finance is finding those habits (since they’re habits, we often do them without even being aware that we are doing them). Yes, changing them can be difficult, but actually realizing they are a habit can be even more difficult. I ran into one of those situations today.
I spend most of my time on the computer which makes sense since my main job is writing articles and blog posts. In order to do that effectively, it’s good for me to be in a place where I’m not too comfortable. For example, when I go to visit my parents or sister, I usually will head to the local coffee shop to do my work because there are just too many distractions that will keep me from being productive with my writing in their homes. Since I’m currently visiting my mom for the next two days, I headed out to the local coffee shop without even thinking about it (yes, it had become one of those habits that I do without thinking about).
In the past, this move made perfect sense and a few years ago I did analyze it to make sure it made sense. After looking at the improvement of my productivity, I came to the conclusion that even though I spend money on drinks and food while there, my increased productivity more than made up for any costs that I would spend there. With the minimum wage challenge, however, I have to reevaluate whether doing this continues to make sense. Here are a few of the choices I have and their pros and cons.
- Stay at Home: I could stay at my mom’s place and work for free and there are no time limits, but I would not be as productive as I am when I leave and work from someplace else.
- Coffee Shop: This allows me to be more productive and has long hours, but there is a cost (I need to buy something) in order to work there.
- The Library: I could work from the library for free and be more productive than at home, but it isn’t open all days and has more limited hours than the coffee shop
What I plan to do is to evaluate all these options again in the coming weeks to see which makes the most sense going forward this year. With the new realities of my budget this year, maybe the tight budget will be enough for me to be able to stay more focused and be more productive at my parents’ and sister’s homes than I have in the past. I will try the library and see if I can rearrange my schedule to work with their hours to see if I can be productive under their schedule. I will also see if I remain more productive at the coffee shop, and if so, how I can reduce my costs going there so that they’re the least amount possible. After looking at all of these, I’ll see which of the options seems to make the most sense for me to adopt for this year (any other option suggestions?).
In the past, most of the days I would go to the coffee shop I would spend between $5 to $10 (depending a lot on how long I stayed there). Obviously, this is far too much to spend on a daily basis when visiting now. I believe that the least expensive drink is $2 which is still high (especially when I hope to keep food to $5 a day), although refills are cheaper (but I wouldn’t plan on getting any refills). I do have a coffee card (the coffee shop offers $20 cards for a 10% discount, or $18). I purchased my last one before this challenge came into being, so I feel that the use of that card is fair game, and it has $14.75 left on it. That means that I have 7 days if I can limit my spending to the least expensive drink where it won’t come out of my budget. I will need to decide within that time whether or not the better productivity I now get going to the coffee shop is worth the cost of the drinks there.
I’ve been doing this long enough now reevaluation is all a pretty basic part of my life which I do fairly regularly. While the thought of not being able to work where I prefer most is a bit unsettling, I’ve become pretty used to the reevaluating process itself. It takes some time to get into the habit of reevaluating, but it can help a lot with finances. It certainly took me some time to be comfortable with it, especially since as the above shows, reevaluations need to take place when circumstances change. It’s an ongoing process that never really ends. One way or another, I’ll figure out which of the three (or more if others have suggestions) looks to be the best choice, try that for awhile and then reevaluate again in a few months to confirm or make any needed changes.
Although I didn’t go anywhere “special” today, I do try to make sure I take daily walks as they are a time when I do a lot of thinking and preparation for the day. I headed to Rancho San Antionio Park which is near my mom’s house and is kind of my default place to hike when I’m out visiting her. Still, it does offer a nice view of the Santa Clara valley and I ended up meeting an old friend (I enjoy spotting birds of prey) that I hadn’t seen in awhile:
It was another good day when it came to spending money. The park has free entrance so there was no costs there. The iced tea I purchased at the coffee shop I put in the coffee card I’d already had so there was no out of pocket expense there. Food was free at mom’s (we made a deal a long time ago that I supply her with all her personal care products which I pick up for free / nearly free at CVS, and I don’t worry about food costs. While she probably has a 6 month to 1 year supply of most stuff, I will still pick up deals for her this year during this challenge), so in the end it turned out to be another no spend day (not in the true sense, but for me spending money minimum wage challenge money).
Next article: Day Nine: Am I A Sucker?