Conscious Spending: How to Live a Richer Lifestyle Without Busting Your Budget

Ben Simon, a college student at the University of Maryland, founded an organization called the Food Recovery Network that organizes campus dining halls to donate left over food to hungry Americans. Ben noticed how many billions of tons of food are wasted each year by restaurants, caterers and other food providers.

He believes that, especially in this country, we don’t need to produce more food to see that everyone is fed. We simply need to stop wasting the food we have.

And so it is with many of us and our money.

Rather than increasing the speed of our hamster wheel to make more money, most of us would do well to figure out how to waste less.

Too many of us spend on items that give us very little in return: no lasting satisfaction, joy, or value

And that’s a waste!

Want to avoid that waste in your life? Try using our Spending Pleasure Meter!

No one ever pretended that shopping for anything is a rational experience. If it were, would there be Fluffernutter? Laceless sneakers? Porkpie hats? Would the Chia Pet even exist?”
– Jeffrey Kluger

Gauge Your Spending Pleasure Before You Buy

The Spending Pleasure Meter - Measure Satisfaction Before You Buy
The Spending Pleasure Meter Lets You Measure You Satisfaction – Before You Buy

This is a fun and revealing way to determine whether a purchase will be a real pleasure or just a waste… before you buy. Next time you’re considering a non-essential purchase, ask yourself these five quick questions and let our Spending Pleasure Meter guide you:

1. How long have I wanted this and seriously considered its purchase?

a. Less than two days: 0 points
b. Two days to one week: 1 point
c. One week to one month: 3 points
d. More than one month: 5 points

2. Did I want this before I saw someone else with something similar?

a. Yes: 6 points
b. No: 0 points

3. The last time I purchased a similar item, how long did my enjoyment last?

a. A lot longer than I expected: 3 points
b. About as long as I expected: 1 point
c. Not very long at all, come to think of it: 0 points

4. If I finance or charge this item, will I still be paying for it after the pleasure is gone?

a. Yes: 0 points
b. No: 1 point

5. Can I postpone this purchase for a month, without causing harm, discomfort, or inconvenience to myself or others?

No points either way for this one. But if you can postpone the purchase, why not put it off? And you’ll be surprised how often you’ll realize in a month that you didn’t really need or want that item after all!

Total your points. Here’s what your score means, using our fun and helpful Spending Pleasure Meter:

13-15 points: Go For It! Probably a worthwhile purchase, and will give you lasting pleasure.

9-12 points: Wait Awhile. You have mixed feelings. Wait a few days, then revisit the Spending Pleasure Meter and test yourself again.

6-8 points: Probably Not. You know in your heart you could happily get along without this.

0-5 points: Are You Serious?!? This is about as pleasurable as flushing that money down the drain. Something else would give you much more satisfaction!

Go for the BIG Happy

Your deepest happiness comes from experiences and relationships, not from stuff, contrary to what Madison Avenue would have you believe. Your experiences are better than “stuff” because your experiences can’t compare to anyone else’s experiences. They’re your personal events, and they give pleasure long after the experiences are over when you relive them as memories.

We quickly get used to stuff. The new car smell wears off, and the fancy new phone becomes ho-hum after just a week or so. But the memory of screaming down a zip line or swimming with the dolphins? The thrill and joy of experiences like these will last a lifetime.

I adore our grandkids and used to buy lots of gifts for them whenever my husband Larry and I visited. But when I asked the kids to name the highlights of these visits, they always talked about our hikes and our trips to the river. So now, rather than wasting money on toys they quickly forget, we go for the Big Happy by planning excursions they’ll always remember. (And many of them are free!)

It’s not about tightening your belt – that’s not only uncomfortable but often unsustainable. It’s about spending your resources in ways that give you more joy and satisfaction – and simply stopping the waste!


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