When it Pays to Stop Being Cheap

“I think I’m going to make an impulse purchase.” 

“Erin, if you’ve been thinking about it for more than a few hours, it doesn’t count as an impulse purchase.”

(Recent conversation with a close friend – and I’d been thinking on the purchase for four days.)

When you develop a moniker like Broke Millennial, it gives people in your life permission to start passing judgment on your spending patterns – or lack thereof. Friends have teased me about my extremism as I can violently swing from penny pincher to Kanye West. There’s the fact I’ll treat Peach to fourth row orchestra seats to a Broadway Show but then I refuse to get an air conditioner in my apartment because it would drastically hike the monthly electric bill.

There seems to be no apparent rhyme or reason to when I make financial choices, except, I know the pattern: travel and time savers.

When it pays to stop being so cheap

Inspired by a post written by Cait of Blonde on a Budget, I started reading through some of my old musings. A 23-year-old, still dating Peach long distance, Broke Millennial waxed poetic about finding the glamour in riding the Greyhound bus from New York City to Rochester and back.

The 26-year-old Broke Millennial with a significantly larger savings account is here to tell you there is nothing but grit to riding the Greyhound bus.

A quick trip down Greyhound memory lane:

  • Man next to me had been recently released from prison (didn’t share what had put him in there) and he felt particularly chatty about his post-prison plans for six hours.
  • Woman boarded the bus, preceded to remove her shoes and unwrap a tuna fish sandwich.
  • Sleeping woman next to me (not stinky-feet-tuna-fish-eating woman) kept shoving into my side. When I refused to huddle up against the window and give her the entire armrest, she decided to start screaming at me in Thai at full volume.
  • Four frat boys (they did get off at the Syracuse stop) boarded the bus and pulled a 30-rack of Keystone out of their duffle and then got extremely inebriated.

Optimized-road rewardsNow, the former first-class flying part of myself was well served by the humbling experience of only being able to afford the bus if I wanted to see my boyfriend on an even semi-regular basis.

The current me cringes a bit at the entitlement in the fact I flat out refuse to board another Greyhound.

Before you judge me too harshly, I have a valid reason for upgrading to traveling almost exclusively via plane and occasionally rail or car.

Time.

Riding the Greyhound bus from New York City to Rochester often ended up taking close to eight (sometimes even nine) hours. The best time I’ve made in a car, even driving with Mosby, was six hours and 15 minutes. Flying takes about 3.5 hours door-to-door. It saved me approximately nine hours on a weekend trip to fly. Not only did this mean I could spend more time with Peach by staying later than 10 am on a Sunday, but it also maximized productive hours. I can’t tell you how rough it is to try to get anything done on the tiny space of a Greyhound bus with extremely touch-and-go WiFi access.

What’s your time worth?

Travel Three years ago I did everything possible to save a buck. I’d spend 40 minutes taking the bus to the airport instead of hopping in a cab or Uber for a six-minute ride that cost $12. I once made it from my front door to the gate at LaGuardia in 17 minutes, true story.

Then my mentality slowly started to shift as I upgraded my job while steadily building my freelance career on the side. With the increased income also came the realization my ability to earn more is tied to available time. This time needs to be utilized properly.

Embracing and controlling lifestyle inflation

Sure, increasing my spending to save myself some time can be seen as lifestyle inflation. In many regards, it is. So let me share how I am still allowed to claim myself a relatively frugal person.

  • 35 percent of my regular salary gets auto saved into an emergency fund and 401(k). A bit more gets saved with the use of Digit and other habits.
  • 100 percent of freelance income gets saved.
    • 50 percent immediately goes into a bank account set aside for paying Uncle Sam
    • 25 percent gets put into my Honey Pot fund and ultimately invested
    • 25 percent goes into my travel fund

Now, don’t go thinking I’ve exclusively morphed into some high roller. I still bring reusable water bottle on trips to avoid paying airport prices for some H2O and pack a lunch for the flight. I do my own laundry, walk my own dog, clean my own apartment, eat mostly homemade meals – not even with Blue Apron – and usually grocery shop over going the Fresh Direct route (wow, I’m a city person). Plenty of chores in my life could get outsourced, but I’m not that rich yet. But one can dream because I would really love to hire someone to handle the dreadful task of cooking.

Posted in Career, Saving money Tagged with:
25 comments on “When it Pays to Stop Being Cheap
  1. I took an Uber home from the airport this week. That’s how I know I’ve reached the next level 😉 The selectivity of lifestyle inflation is funny though. I’m still a total cheapskate about certain things.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      The Uber home from the airport is so worth it in most cases! But I do find people’s selective lifestyle inflations so funny because it really begins to show what you truly value.

    • LORRAINE says:

      you ask me I’ll try some other way Iam just saying

    • Frank Facts says:

      Travel’s the big one for me. The inconvenience of using a bus or T just isn’t worth it sometimes — I’ll take an Uber instead! Usually under $10, and it’s still a rare expense. 🙂

  2. I think that you have to think about where you are right now. So, did you just graduate with a ton of student loan debt? Then, maybe you should live in a dump and skimp on air conditioning for a few years until you get out of debt. But fast forward five years and maybe you’re debt free with an eight month emergency fund. Then, maybe you can start spending money (wisely of course). I’m a big believer in the “spending plan” that Ramit Sethi talks about in I Will Teach You to Be Rich — spend your money on whatever you want, but make sure you have a spending plan in place. If you like shows and can afford shows, then go to all the shows you want! Just make sure you’re responsible and have your bases covered. For me, my main focus is increasing income right now so I can pay off my law school debt. Then, I’ll have so much flexibility with respect to spending.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      Evaluating your current financial life is certainly the first step. I’ve never read Ramit’s spending plan theory specifically, but that’s how I budget. Saving happens first, then paying bills, then I can spend whatever is left on whatever I’d like. Never having debt obviously factors into this in a big way because I’ve always been able to be saving towards financial goals and not trying to get the debt monkey off my back.

  3. Isn’t that crazy that happens! As soon as you stereotype yourself with some type of extremism people comment on it! Where I have experienced it has been with healthy eating. My fiance is a fitness professional and eats extremely healthy. I’ve joked with my boss and coworkers before how the only sweets I get to eat are at work. Now, everytime I eat something “bad” at work, I get a comment on it! Like, “oh your fiance wouldn’t like that!” type comments. It’s terrible! I can totally relate. I’d rather have not said anything and just lived my life sans observations!

    • Broke Millennial says:

      Ah, that gets so frustrating! People commenting on eating habits would irk me more than my spending. It’s easy to see the result of my eating habits, not so much about my financial habits.

  4. Jordan says:

    Some great points here. Sometimes, it’s actually worth going against your gut feeling to do the cheapest option when it comes to certain things. Either because it’d be worth more in the long run, or because it’s better for you to spend a little extra.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      I’m certainly still frugal in a lot of ways, but my time is valuable so that’s where I elect to spend money.

  5. Financial wisdom comes down to understanding your options and the ramifications of your choices. You have evolved to a point where it makes sense to trade a few extra dollars for saving time and being more comfortable. For someone like me, who still has a lot of debt, I have to be as cheap as possible as often as I can, if we ever hope to achieve our goals.

  6. Cindy says:

    I spent 3 years of college riding Greyhound for every Holiday and random visit home. A four hour trip easily turned into eight, if nothing went wrong (I’ve been on a few buses that have broken down). I didn’t mind so much at the time: It was an adventure, and I always had great stories to tell. I even turned a few trips into a stellar project in Economic Geography, which lead to several scholarships. I feel like such a snob, but now that I’m older, and considerably less broke, Greyhound isn’t even a consideration!

  7. Even though everything is pretty cheap in my country, I always try to save money here and there. I never take the taxi and I like buying generic brands. The only thing I like spending money on is my PC because I work on it all day long.

    • Broke Millennial says:

      You have to know what you value and it sounds like you spend money in the right places for your priorities.

  8. You’re funny, Erin! I wouldn’t be boarding a Greyhound these days either. No need to explain yourself!

    And yes, time is so valuable. If you can save time by getting somewhere much faster than a Greyhound, and do something meaningful with that time, then you’re ahead!

  9. Yes! My money mindset has changed in similar ways to yours. A friend was visiting me a few weeks ago and I was surprised when she decided to sacrifice time to take the bus and save a few bucks getting to the airport. I generally take an Uber now to save time because it’s so precious now that I have kids.

  10. Kevin B. says:

    I currently find myself wanting to be frugal about everything!! I am in a debt free journey myself and I end up over thinking every purchase that I make! Great read!!!

  11. As my NW increases, I do find that I’m more likely to spend a bit more to save myself time. This especially goes for travel. I would never go Greyhound as it takes FOREVER to get anywhere. I would gladly work a little bit extra to scrape together a couple extra hundred bucks to fly vs. take the bus.

  12. I definitely have my limits of what I’m willing to do to save money, though I’m leaning toward the frugal side since I’m staying home with my kids for a few years. There are some conveniences that are worth the time, especially when you are working a lot.

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