I’ve subscribed to Ramit Sethi for a while now and have been following his work. I like his honesty and punchy emails. Today’s email was “10 extravagances people pay for.” He had asked his readers to submit their answers to this question with an explanation.
There was one in particular I LOVED that made me stop and go hmmm! That’s right! It caused a little shift in the way I see things. I had this realization about 10 minutes ago and decided to share it. It’s just a more flexible way of approaching our decisions as consumers.
You see, I prefer smaller, local stores with organic produce and lifestyle items, I love Community Natural Foods, Bite Groceria and Sunnyside Natural Market. I don’t do full grocery shops there, our budget is a reality for us – but I always stop in if I am in the area, and do buy supplements, leafy greens, specialty items and the occasional 50% off lunch from there. I really enjoy those stores.
Reading Sethi’s email today I had an “ah hah” moment.
So often we just think of our consumer choices in terms of money, money, money. The number at the bottom of a bill. Money dominates our thinking and it can cause scarcity thinking. As soon as you start focusing exclusively on minimizing the money going out, and the cheapest deal possible, it’s sort of a race to the bottom in many ways.
We have to be careful to hit the right balance between living within our means + stretching ‘strategically’ versus racing to the bottom and developing a scarcity mindset. We have to be careful to keep our brains flexible and come at things from different angles. We need to remember when we make a decision, it’s not just about the object but it can also be about the experience.
There IS something to be said about looking at where we spend our money with a wider perspective than the numbers game. Sethi nailed this point on the head.
Which response got me started on all of this thinking? This one:
In response to the question “what are your extravagances?”
“I spend money on the shopping experience itself, because experiences, not stuff, make us happy. My mom loves to brag about how her grapefruits were so much cheaper than mine – but I bought mine at the fancy market, with the lovely music, while she bagged her own groceries amidst screaming children.”
I laughed reading this. It is very true! I hold nothing against screaming children. But it totally gets you thinking differently and approaching a weekly chore from a completely different angle.
The grocery shop is an experience. It is more than dollar signs and groceries and just purchasing objects. It’s an investment of your time and effort. By racing to the bottom and going as cheap as you can, sometimes you’re not necessarily saving as much as you think.
The cheap store. Stressful. Crowded. Further away. Low-quality foods. So, you’ve just spent an extra $10 return on gas, come home stressed out, spent longer because you bagged your own groceries, bought lower quality items and made an economic decision to support stores who are in the race to the bottom, more stuff for as cheap as possible (which has given rise to the factory farm situation btw!) You throw stuff into the massive shopping cart indiscriminately and the subtle psychology of the clearance deals and pricing makes and bright yellow signs makes you spend way more than you planned to spend because “it was an amazing deal!”
The organic store. Much more expensive, yes. What if it is closer? Less gas and time? High quality nutritionally dense foods you don’t need to eat in as high volume. And the experience of a health food store? You come out smothered in nice lotions, essential oils, with a free Alive magazine. It smells like incense and you come out all chilled out, relaxed and inspired to live healthy. You have a nice conversation with someone perusing the same vitamins shelf. You are more particular about what you choose and put more thought into your shop, because you know it’s expensive af and your cart is teensy.
The point of this article IS NOT to argue that one store is better than the other, I use both. The point of this article is to say that nothing is as black and white, cut-and-dried as we think, and sometimes the race to the bottom, as much as we can get for as cheap as possible, is not the greatest option. Sometimes it’s good to think about experiences and to cultivate good experiences.
What if we applied that thinking to everything we do in our day?
What if we decided to make a chore an enjoyable experience? What if we took the dishes and dropped a few scents of rosemary oil into the sink afterwards and breathed it in? What if we go to buy cat food from the pet store, take the kids and have fun snuggling bunnies? What if we cultivate experiences in the ordinary every day things?
Whoever this respondent was, they are on to something.
To keep learning, growing and expanding is to continuously engage in these kinds of thinking exercises.
In addition to doing sudoku, or luminosity, what if we started the practice of thinking outside of the box when we evaluate our consumer decisions? What if we start coming at it with the perspective of how much are we experiencing in addition to how much are we spending?
Thoughts to ponder over morning coffee.
Thanks Ramit, for the brain food this morning.