A few years ago, David Bach, financial columnist and author of The Automatic Millionaire, shared his trade secrets. He promised us that we could start late and finish rich. The “Latte Factor” was the silent and surreptitious arsenal. If we were willing to isolate and eliminate our unnecessary daily expenses (i.e. — lattes and the like), saving just $5 a day could secure us a great sunset and cocktail location in our early retirement future.
I know exactly where my ‘unnecessary’ expenses are, and yes, there are lattes at Jimmy’s Coffee (but these are integral to my weekend shift survival at the spa). And yes, there is that annual booze bill of over $1,500–but I refuse to retract all the philosophical conversations, laughs and dear company that were associated with those bottles of wine and champagne. In 2010, I spent $300 on tanning but this expense also saved me money. Without a tanning account I would have spent more money on whiskey and Le Gourmand chocolate chip walnut cookies in my attempt to replace the instant bliss that a tanning bed provides.
Is spending $400 a year on movie rentals and matinees unreasonable? Hardly. I can justify every movie that I’ve watched for some lesson learned. It’s my own self-directed continuing education course on love, relationships, gratefulness and hope. Sometimes it’s only a single thought that is pulled from the film, but more often than not, movies have been a quiet, subconscious therapy for me on many fronts. Home schooling if you will. Which makes $400 a year quite acceptable.
What I spend money on has changed with geography too. When I lived in soggy BC, my annual tanning expense was over $800 (mostly because I had to lengthen my indoor tanning season to include June, July and August). I went for massages every single Friday because I wasn’t sure what else to spend my money on, and I paid the salary of at least two Costco employees. I had a truck, I had highlights, I had African plane fares. But I didn’t have my constant Toronto entertainment and happy quota outlet via concerts, live theatre, schmoozing over martinis, pulled pork this-and-that and random bookstore finds. And for this reason, I do believe money can buy happiness. And sometimes, you can’t have anything tangible to show for it.
I continue to buy Oprah’s O magazines which I read in sub 45 minutes. Is this foolish, unnecessary spending? I can justify this too. Her magazine makes me think and dwell (in a good way), and $6.50 is the cheapest tuition I know of. And if I’m confessing all my spending sins—I buy Perrier too. Couldn’t I just drink tap water? No. So, if I don’t buy Perrier I don’t drink water at all and I have a kidney stone attack. I need water with personality, Oprah a–ha moments, lattes with foamy hearts drawn on the soy surface by my barista artist and movie therapy.
In further defence, a $3.00 latte at Jimmy’s provides priceless solace for me. When I sit down in the hub, hum and blur of the coffee shop on my break, my brain feels like an Etch-a-Sketch that has just had the life shook out of it. The once clogged screen of crazy, maze-like doodles becomes a clean slate again. I can breathe out the morning and embrace the afternoon. I can read the National Post with greater clarity and feel inspired in the din. There is white noise, traffic and chatter—but the warmth and punch of that latte grounds me.
How else can you spend $3.00 and find such escape?
I don’t buy lattes every day, but, admittedly I am a person that needs small rewards. Cutting out lattes, tanning and nice bottles of red would be a collateral cut to my happiness. I don’t want to read copies of O from the library (even though I massage people every day, I have small issues with touching magazines that have been heavily touched by the general public). And I want out of season blueberries. And cheeses that taste like cheese, not shoe insoles. Oh, and artisan crackers that are studded with cranberries, rosemary and pumpkin seeds. Yes, I want pretty food.
As Joan Rivers remarked in her documentary Piece of Work: “I don’t want to live carefully.” Rivers life has always been about extravagance; she has enveloped herself in cushy gold-plated environs that are Queen-worthy in their elaborate design. Good for her. She should make her morning coffee with champagne instead of water for the effort she has put into earning those creature comforts.
I remember earning my creature comforts through prisoner-type chores that involved raking pine cones in the back woods (to prevent missile-like injuries when cutting the grass with the push-mower), and picking gravel off the lawn in the spring (also to prevent missiles) after a winter of my grandfather plowing out our driveway. For $5 I’d also SOS the tires of the Cutlass Supreme and Turtle Wax my grandpa’s Cadillac. That was then.
Then, I had a NHL hockey card scrapbook to finance. And half a shiny California BMX to buy (in retrospect I know my parents paid more than half). My Joan Rivers work ethic of yore has faded like my Sevens jeans and highlights though. I’m want for nothing now. Just sun-kissed trips to far away places to stretch my mind. I have everything I need except maybe a muffin tray, so, surely, those $3 lattes can stay in my budget, David Bach.
Because, in the end, we will only wish for more time.
Not more money.