I’m often doing calculations in my head. If I order the chicken instead of the more expensive duck, I can also get a reasonably priced dessert. If I ditch the appetizer, I can get a glass of wine.
If I use all the reward points I’ve currently accrued, I just need to set aside $500 for a flight to Europe.
If I spend $45 for this baby shower gift, that means I can spend $30 for dinner later tonight.
The calculations are based on what I have in disposable income in my checking account, which I’m looking at constantly, because it’s easier to keep your spending in check when you know exactly how many dollars you have to your name (I also get a text message alert if those dollars drop below $200).
The constant calculations are mostly a result of living paycheck-to-paycheck after the financial crisis; if I did this instead of that I could make it to the end of the month. I’m fortunate to no longer be in that position.
I often find myself doing these calculations with my own family. If I pay the phone bill, plus a third of the mortgage, my father’s social security check plus what my mother brings home will mean they will be okay at the end of the month.
When my mother asks, “Do you think I can stop working in the next five, six, seven years?” I do the Social Security calculations and remind her that Dad is receiving reduced benefits, and that she’s better off delaying as long as she can.
“Perhaps if your brother gets that job,” she considers, “or if we get that room rented out…” We consider the hypotheticals and do the calculations.
Photo: Anssi Koskinen