Uncensored Money: Ask Mel Anything – Just Because You Can (Doesn't Mean You Should)
Melissa Browne: Ex-Accountant, Ex-Financial Advisor, Ex-Working Till I Drop, Now Serial Entrepreneur & Author, Financial Wellness Advocate, Living a Life by Design | 04/10/2023
In the ‘Ask Mel Anything’ series, Mel answers your questions in the hope you realise you are not alone and that it helps to increase your financial literacy and confidence.
In this Ask Mel Anything episode, Mel discusses an email she recently received asking her why she talks about saving money and freezing meals when she can afford not to.
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So in today's episode, I want to talk about an email that I received last week, and it was a really curious email and it's something that I suspect that a few other people will be thinking as well. But also I want to talk to it because I believe there's an assumption that we should be living a particular life. And I really want to talk back to that. So I'm going to read out the comment and then I'm going to talk to it. And it goes like this, "I've heard Mel talk about cutting back on coffee spending, cooking for the week, and freezing, etc. Surely you don't need to worry about saving a few bucks from these things? There's a little part of me that doesn't want to take financial advice from someone who needs to save $100 a week, versus spending that time generating wealth, i.e. do one consult and you can skip freezer meals and drink all the paid coffee you want for a month. So I'm assuming you don't need to do these things. Why do you? Health, habit, brand?"
And the reason I wanted to talk about so many different parts of these. But the first part is that I think there's this expectation that once we earn a particular amount of income, and that income might be $50,000, it might be $80,000, it might be $150,000, that this is the lifestyle that you simply should have, where you don't need to do any of these things anymore. You should be able to do these other things instead, you know, you shouldn't have to freeze meals. You should be able to buy your daily store-bought coffee if you want them. And my question to that, or my retort to that is, but who made up that rule? Because I believe two things. Lifestyle creep, comparison, three things. Lifestyle creep comparison culture and keeping up with the Joneses is keeping many of us on this hamster wheel where we have to keep earning more money. And I believe that these great financial habits, and they're not just financial habits, they're environmental habits, they're sustainable habits. These habits are actually habits that will serve us throughout our life, not just now. And I think it's a real danger, if we talk about lifestyle creep, there's a real danger that we keep lifting our spending in line with our income. And so you look back and think, Oh my gosh, I could never survive on the money that I earned when I was 25.
And again, it keeps us on this hamster wheel. And it's not a problem if those things are important to you, but my concern now is that there are so many things that are considered simply a need rather than a want. That might be that every child should have their own bedroom, that there are two, three flat screens in the house, that everyone should be able to afford takeaway bills every week. Everyone should be able to afford two cars. Like there's certain things that we simply presume that this is the expectation that people should have. And I just want to call BS to that.
I grew up with my grandma with a chest freezer with those meals saved. And I've got to say, I don't care how wealthy I become, I will always have a chest freezer full of meals. But more than that, I will always be sharing tips on how you can save cash and how you can find more cash, because not everyone is in the position that I am at, that I am in, but more than that, I actually think these things are all great things to do anyway, because I don't believe in spending just because you can.
I genuinely don't. Instead, I believe in spending according to my own wealth-creation values. And those things are sustainability, waste making sure that no one is impacted by modern slavery as a result of my choices, making sure that women are supported, and that I particularly support women-owned businesses and more.
And if I am ordering Uber Eats three times a week, is that supporting those wealth creation values of sustainability, waste and environmentalism? Well, no, it's not. But more than that, the money that's wasted by not having that freezer full of food, the admin, the life admin of having to think about what I'm going to eat of that freezer full of food, I think is just as important as the wealth creation values of sustainability and waste.
And that's why I'm really curious about this comment and I'm really curious about this conversation because I definitely think that this person is not the only person that thinks it.
So, first thing is why spend just because you can. Two is to be careful of comparison culture and lifestyle creep. And make sure that you're the one in charge of what you're spending and your life looks like. You're not doing something just because, Oh, I've hit this tier of income. And therefore these are all the things I should be spending on. Who made up that rule? I just think that more of us need to say, call BS on that. Need to say, talk back to that and say no to that.
But the third is just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I was in a really interesting conversation that happened inside the My Financial Adulting Plan this week where someone posted a picture of themselves with old school headphones and they said they really wanted AirPods, but they looked at it and went, you know what, this is a few hundred bucks. I've got other debts, I've got other things that I want at the moment, so I'm just going to stick with my old-school headphones. And I jumped straight in and went, I also don't have AirPods. I choose to have old school headphones and I'm just calling it retro because I don't want to be pulled by the nose by Apple or marketers and get something that they think I should have when the old ones that I use are perfectly fine and cost me 25 bucks.
And this is that thing around just because you can doesn't mean you should. And to understand what's actually important to us. Because there is no limit as to what we're able to purchase, what exists to make our life easier, what tech or solutions exists for pain that we don't even know that we're suffering.
So it's realising that and asking, is that actually important to me or am I getting that simply because I've been marketed to? Am I getting that just because I look around and other people have it and I want to keep up? Or, is it simply not important to me, so I'm not going to buy into that, simply because a brand or a company has decided that this is the latest thing I should have?.
I think it's really important to become conscious consumers. It's one of the things I'm really passionate about. It's not to be zombie consumers. It's to be conscious consumers. Because AirPods are going to be right for so many people for so many reasons. But for me, they're just not high on my list of priorities. They're just not something that I want in my life or that I think that I need. So just because I can and I absofreakinglutely can afford it, but why should I? You will all have something in your life that is exactly the same as that. And it's questioning it and saying, well, just because I can doesn't mean I should.
Because, personally, I'd rather that money be donated or be something instead, because I just don't rate it. Whereas Lawsie, happily rocks her AirPods, loves them, wouldn't go without them. And again, that's no judgment on her, because she values that. But for me, I definitely don't, so I'd rather my money be spent elsewhere.
The other piece of the puzzle however, is I don't just want to be spending on everything. And by what I mean by that is, I think, again, there is this expectation that as your income lifts your spending lifts, and who made the rule that it should? And I'm a fan of being relentlessly frugal on the things that don't matter to me, i. e. my iPods, versus being extravagant on the things that do matter to me. So for example, let's relate it to food, because that was one of the things mentioned in this comment. So I do not rate takeout. I just don't rate takeout. I don't think it tastes as good. I hate having to think about food. I would rather any day of the week have a freezer full of food and save money there than actually have to think about, Ugh, what takeaway do I need tonight that's just not going to taste as good? But, I'm going to choose to be extravagant on where I eat out. I love going out to lunches or dinners. I would rather save money in my grocery shop. I'd rather save money on takeaway food and actually never buy takeaway food. But have a weekly meal out. Now you're relentlessly frugal versus extravagant is going to be different. But it's actually taking the time to work out well, what is, what does that ideal life look like to you?
You know, for me, it's also I choose stuff over experiences and I don't care if that sounds shallow. So I would rather a beautiful pair of heels and then a weekend away. I just don't rate it. For me, a weekend away is a bit of a punish. I have to pack up, I have to drive somewhere, then come home and wash. I'd rather relax at home or go and go to all these incredible things that are in my home, in my hometown, and actually buy a beautiful pair of shoes or clothes or a book or something instead.
For someone else, it's going to be completely different. And I don't want to do both. So for me, it's choosing what am I going to be relentlessly frugal versus extravagant. And I know that this person has said, but you could just do one consult and you can skip all that. I don't want to do a consult. For me, that concept of time versus stuff is putting me back on a hamster wheel that I'm simply not interested in getting on. I could spend, I could charge a lot of money for one-on-one appointments, a lot. And I choose not to do it. And the reason being is that I'm super introverted, so that one-on-ones take a lot of energy credits, but also I want to make sure that I'm saving those energy credits for my community when I do those group calls, when I do those Q and A's when I show up.
So the argument might be, yeah, but you just do one consult and you can skip all that. But at what cost? And again, sometimes there's an energetic cost. Sometimes there's a physical cost for doing things that I don't necessarily think are worth it. Now, I could counter that with, I have a cleaner and I have a gardener. They are absofreakinglutely worth every single energy credit I spend, because they're two jobs that I hate. But again, this is where it's choosing what you're going to spend your money on, knowing that you can't have everything. And I think that people look across sometimes and go but you can. And my argument to that is, that just because you can doesn't mean you should.
I think it's an interesting conversation. I think it, it opens up Pandora's box and I want you to understand, is there an area of your life that you're applying this same commentary to? Are you going, yes, but I should be spending this or but I'm earning this money now so therefore I deserve to be buying this or doing this? And my answer to you is, but who said? Does it fall within your wealth creation values? Are you just trying to keep up with the Joneses? Just because you can doesn't mean you should. And finally, what can you be relentlessly frugal on versus extravagant?
Because for me, I want to live till I'm a hundred. I have got a really big runway of dollars, but I want to keep travelling up. There's so much I want to do. And I tell the story that I have the choice to work or not absolutely today. However, my husband works overseas for four months of the year and normally if he wasn't, I probably wouldn't value overseas travel. It might be something that I do once every few years. Or maybe once every five years. That certainly was the case before he started travelling. But because I wanna see him more regularly, I'm gonna head overseas. And because of that, I don't like travelling overseas cheaply. So therefore, if I wanna do that over the next few years, I wanna make choices 'cause you can have it all, you just can't have it all at once right? So I would rather keep generating income streams and be smart about my spending so that I can have so much choice around joining him overseas and doing it in a way that I really enjoy versus hating it because it's not in a way that I'm comfortable with travelling.
So again, I hope that you have enjoyed this conversation. I hope that it has challenged your thinking. I hope that when you look across at people that you don't think, yes, but why are they doing that? I hope that you realise that great financial habits are smart, no matter how much income you have. That we don't want to be wasteful, that we want to act according to our wealth-creation value. And that we don't want to be dictated to by other people and their expectations or by companies and brands and what they try to tell us that we think we should have.