Image credit: Rikkia Hughes on Unsplash

The Value of Little Luxuries

Time flies when you’re living in the middle of a protest.

For the last week and a half, I’ve been living right beside the Freedom Convoy protests here in Canada’s capital, and it has been…distracting to say the least. Things have calmed down significantly in the past few days, which has let me get back on track with everything, including writing here. It’s no joke how impactful the noise can be — constant horns (including at least one full on train horn someone rigged up to their truck), loudspeakers, and general noise really messed with my ability to concentrate, think, sleep, and get anything done. I don’t know how people who live in environments where it’s so noisy all the time (think places like Manhattan) do it.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. No, I wanted to write about the value of allowing yourself a few little luxuries in your day to day life, and how they help me immensely in staying disciplined and keeping on track with my financial goals. I’ll preface by saying that this isn’t intended to be a justification for reckless spending, a sort of ‘Get Out of Jail Free” card for finances. This is to be viewed, as with everything, from a lens of pragmatism and realistic expectations.

So, then — what are ‘little luxuries’, and why are they important? In the world of personal finance, when talking about little luxuries I’m referring to minor goods, services, hobbies, etc. that are not strictly keeping in line with personal finance principles, but that bring you a lot of happiness and joy when you have them. From my experience in learning how to take control of my finances, and accounts of many people online, it can be really easy to fall on the wrong side of the line between frugality and austerity. That is to say, many people trying to master their finances fall into this mental state which leads to them forsaking most, if not all pleasures and wants to focus only on needs.

This can be a useful tool, for example, if your financial situation is so tight that it becomes a necessity to live in that manner. But for most people who have a decent financial situation, I argue that allowing yourself one or two ‘little luxuries’ to enjoy guilt-free can make a lot of difference in your enjoyment of the day-to-day grind and adherence to your financial goals. Your life is about living, and part of living is allowing yourself to have experiences and enjoyment. Picture yourself when you’re 70, 80, 90 years old. Looking back on your life, would you have rather let yourself have little luxuries over all those years, or sacrifice those in order to have some more money when you’re older? If you can cover all your expenses, save, and invest some money throughout your working life, will it matter if by the time you’re in your twilight years you have an extra $3M in the bank versus $500,000 if you don’t “need” it to survive?

What I’m trying to say, is: what’s the point of scraping and scrounging money all your life if you don’t allow yourself to enjoy any of it along the way?

For me, my little luxuries are Nespresso pods and wine. I know that Nespresso, while certainly cheaper than buying a coffee at Tim Horton’s or Starbucks every day, isn’t a great value when compared to those large tins of coffee you buy at the supermarket, and if I were really trying to be financially optimized I wouldn’t buy them. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. I like them — I enjoy the variety of flavours, the convenience, and even the satisfaction of the “Pop!” when I close the machine and the needles puncture the foil covers. I can afford to buy them without impacting my savings and investment goals, and so I let myself have that little pleasure.

Wine is definitely a more expensive hobby, but again — I love it. In fact, I’m considering starting to include some articles about wine in my writings, both because I enjoy talking about it and sharing, and to give me something different to write about that isn’t personal finance (I’ll still write a lot about that don’t get me wrong, I just need some variety otherwise I get bored fairly easily). I do bi-weekly tastings with some friends, and we all pitch in to get a few bottles to try, as well as some finger foods to pair. There’s no financial upside to it — I’m not dropping hundreds of dollars on bottles that will appreciate in time — but I make room for it by cutting down on my drinking outside of those (and cutting down my waistline in the process). And most importantly, I enjoy it. I can happily stick to my financial goals, and say no to other temptations because I have that to look forward to.

Yours doesn’t have to be something expensive, like wine. It could be anything, but I’ll say that it shouldn’t be something that’s free. It should be something that you spend money on, because the whole point of this is to allow yourself to spend some money on something that brings you happiness.

We as humans have a tendency to want things, and doubly so if we’re told that we cannot have them, whether it’s us telling that to ourselves or a third party saying it to us. I know that whenever I’ve tried to cut all pleasures out cold turkey, I inevitably end up cracking under a buildup of immense desire and temptation, and spending more in the long run when I go on a binge of sorts of all the things I was depriving myself of. The trick is to give yourself an outlet, something that you can indulge in free of guilt, and even if that thing won’t serve your finances directly, the mental and spiritual benefits of it can pay indirect dividends.

That’s all for now. I’m off to a tasting in an hour — have a lovely lineup of a Beaujolais, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Barolo to experience the spectrum of tannins. If you’re enjoying a beverage tonight, remember to raise a toast to the little luxuries in life.

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