Ways to Save and Afford Everything You Want

SB SunsetFull disclosure — I’ve had a few adult beverages…

…I’m writing this in the car as my wife drives us home from Sea World.

Maybe not such a great idea, but we’ll see.

I wanted to take advantage of the driving time.

I’m not sure which is more dangerous, my wife’s driving, or me behind the wheel after a couple of Bud Lights with lime (a good drink by the way). 

Regardless, one is legal, the other is not.

Believe it or not, the Beer is the crux of my writing today.

Eight bucks for a beer…

…Forget it!” he said.

The guy in line in front of me turned around and left without his drink.

After a ten minute wait, I thought the same $8.00 was bargain.

We had a completely different perspective on price. 

Actually, it’s not price — it’s something more important. 

It was a 88-degrees with the sun beaming directly overhead.

As my son enjoyed Shamu, I was thought how refreshing the ice cold beer was.

You cannot drink at the other amusement park,” I remembered.

On the other hand, the man ahead of me was perhaps comparing the $8.00 price to the same product at Costco.

He was ignoring the value that $8.00 purchase would add to his life.

My new Financial Planning clients, sheepishly tell me the “lavish” things they spend money on.

They’re afraid I will chastise them like their mother catching them in the cookie jar. 

To the contrary, I encourage them to spend a lot of money on the things they truly enjoy.

Where I become a bit of a nag is when they spend money on things that do not really add value to their life.

Ways to Save

We never watch TV in our house, so we canceled the cable. 

We felt no loss. 

This saved about $100 a month that we can use for all sorts of things; retirement, college, an $8.00 dollar beer, or any combination of them.

But that doesn’t mean you should too.

Someone who enjoys football every Sunday would think I was out of my mind. To him, the $100 cable expense is well worth it.

The Secret to a Rich and Fulfilling Life

Increase that which adds value to YOUR life. Remove that which does not.

Focus your spending on the things you enjoy most. Be frugal about everything else.

This is how you afford to live a rich life, without feeling deprived.

Now think about what you buy regularly that is not that important to you. 

Then imagine what you could do with the same money.

This small shift in thinking will dramatically change your life.

Let me know how it goes.

29 Replies to “Ways to Save and Afford Everything You Want”

  1. Can I be the one to be adversarial today? In a good natured way of course. 😉

    So, here’s my question to you: I’ve noticed that often you talk about how to make YOUR life better. What brings value to YOUR life. How YOU can be rich.

    I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a $6 beer. I get it. I really do. I went out to dinner with friends last night and spent way more than $6. It was fun. It added value.

    But you know what else adds value? Giving sacrificially. Spending that $6 on someone else…when I’d much rather spend it on an ice cold beer. In the moment, the temptation is to spend it on myself. And I always try to convince myself I can’t afford to spend $30 on books randomly one morning…but I can. And I do. And I should.

    I’d love to see you talk about how a financial guru views giving your money AWAY? Not just a little…but with abandon. Bring it Chuck. 🙂

    1. This is an EXCELLENT question Jeannett and I will answer it not as a ‘financial guru’ but as me, and my thoughts. I think we are all learning, so I’m not into the ‘guru’ status.

      First, I believe we are all self-motivated and were created selfish to some degree as a survival mechanism. So with that in mind, everything we do, whether to buy a beer or give gifts, is based on the measure of utils we receive in exchange.

      A utils is an economic term used to measure an imaginary unit of value we receive from something. So one may get more utils from giving than receiving and vise versa. If this is true, it’s possible that giving may be just as selfish as not giving.

      That said, I do believe in giving, but usually with a caveat. I believe in the “teach them to fish” philosophy. I received scholarships when I was young and broke and they enabled to increase my own value and thus income and lifestyle. Now I happily give to similar scholarships that help motivated people.

      There is a multiplier affect when giving these type of gifts. If you help someone that is driven to improve themselves, their income often increases and they can then in-turn help exponentially more people.

      Along this thinking, the more successful you are financially, the more you are able to give. If we live in poverty, we are able to help far fewer people. 

      However, if you improve your personal financial situation you can be of an even greater significance to others in terms of jobs and donations. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are the best examples.

      That is my current thinking…likely to change. I’m sure others will disagree and in fact that is encouraged because I always learn something from a different perspective.

  2. I can see and agree with this. You can save and enjoy life. Nothing’s better than balance. To the other person, he possibly could still be helping others, but not announcing it. You’re suppose to give open heartedly and not for credit. That’s the problem today.

    People give and look for recognition and its not suppose to be that way. I give and many are unaware, but its not for them, but the person receivin g and the enjoy of giving for me.

  3. I agree that we are inherently selfish. No doubt. Which is why giving is so much important, don’t you think? To push ourselves. To be better. To stretch. It’s why kids are good for our soul. Because they make us live a life that is completely contradictory to what we desire. 

    Of course giving has its own benefits to the giver. Tax benefits. The warm fuzzies. But I think that anyone would agree that the person who gives because it makes them feel nice is a wildly different version of selfish as the leader who lives lavishly as his people starve and live in squalor. Semantics? Maybe. But not apples to apples as far as I’m concerned.

    I too love the “teach them to fish” philosophy. The ripple effect of it is tremendous. But to say that it is the “only” or “best” form of giving is a bit presumptious don’t you think? First of all it takes away the simplicity of kindness and the beauty of philanthropy at its core. It says “only if you can take this and do more are you worthy of my portion”. How does that apply when the recipient is terminally ill? How is giving affected when it’s nothing more than dropping off a dozen turkeys at the food bank over the holidays? Is that not worth your money? Your time? Because it’s “only” feeding a family for a night. That family will eat a turkey. Maybe they’ll buy turkeys for someone else someday when they have more money…but probably not. Or at the very least you can’t know they’ll ever dig their way out of the poverty. Toys for Tots? No fishing there. Helping pay for the unexpected funeral of a child? Totally a dead end in terms of it going much further. But still so so so worthy. Secondly, I think it brings with it an air of superiority. “I know what’s the best way to save you.” “You only deserve this if you earn it back in some way.” Ugly hearted crap. Sorry. (I mean this in terms of when you say it’s your “caveat” to giving). 

    Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are incredible. I would love love love to sit down to lunch with Warren Buffet one day. Seriously. Love that man. But giving is not reserved for the rich man. We can all do what we can, with what we have, where we are. I see this so much as an excuse to NOT give. “I can’t afford it right now” “What’s the point of my $5?” “I can’t make a dent. Why bother?” “Let me work on MY finances first…and then I’ll give.” I have seen, with my own eyes, the incredible impact of people who the world would say can’t afford to give…give nothing more than $5…and have it turn into a bounty that not only did nothing to teach someone to fish…but made one of the biggest damned differences I’ve ever seen. I hosted a fundraiser for an orphan in Ukraine with Down Syndrome. These are the orphanages that make horror movies look like nursery rhymes. Children so bored in their cribs they chew their tongues off. Children who are 5 years old that appear to be no older than 10 months because they are so malnourished. Ugly ugly ugly stuff. Dare you to learn more. Worse than you even think you know. $5 at a time donations rolled in for “Cliff”. The emails I got were incredible “We truly cannot afford to give. We are in foreclosure. But we had to give. It was only $5, but we gave what we could.” “I’m a broke college student. But I gave $5 anyway.” “I’m a single mom with three kids and I gave $5. It isn’t much but I hope it helps.” “We chose to not send out Christmas cards this year and put the $40 we would have spent into Cliff’s fund.” “My husband and I agreed to not exchange gifts this year and give what we would have spent to Cliff.” Selfish? Maybe. $5 at a time Cliff’s fund had $9,458 in it. From a bunch of people that probably couldn’t afford it. Cliff came home recently. And has a family. A mom. A dad. Brothers. Grandmas to lavish him with kisses. Because without that fund, he may not have been adopted. At 5, he would have been transferred to a mental institution. Where 85% of children with special needs die within the first year. In fact, the boy I had originally chosen to fundraise for THIS Christmas? Transferred. MIA. Possibly dead. Already. We were too late. And you know what? Cliff has Down Syndrome. He will not be able to pay that forward. He can’t fish. Never will. He may never even be able to say Thank You or even have any idea that he was saved from certain death. If that isn’t a beautiful testimony of goodness for the sake of goodness…no expectation of multipliers…if that isn’t worth giving to…well, I don’t know what is.

    The rich man who only gives to those who can pay it forward in some way can suck it.

    The middle class man who won’t give because he is waiting to be rich won’t ever give.

    Call giving selfish is you must. But just give. I dare you to give to someone who won’t ever do anything more with it than take it from you. Double dog.

    Angela, I wasn’t suggesting Chuck wasn’t giving…just asking him to address the topic as a whole. 🙂

  4. P.S. I want to clarify that all of this is in good discourse. I’m not trying to nail you to the wall personally, just that a) it’s something I’m passionate about (if you can’t tell) and b) I hear the same things all the time and this is just a more public forum to discuss it. 🙂

    1. I LOVE your passion. Few are passionate about much of anything.

      I agree with most of what you say Jeannett. After reading your reply to my comment, I could have said my caveat differently.

      More often than not, we are presented with far more individuals, groups and causes that need or seek financial aid, than we have money to give. If we have $5 to give, there is usually a line of 1000 different places to give the $5, so we each need a filter to help make those difficult choices.

      The ‘teach them to fish’ is my personal filter. Not one I impose others to follow. People often follow their own passion or soft spot when choosing where to donate their limited resources, and that just happens to be mine. 

      I agree completely that there are other worthy causes.

      1. Agreed. Finite resources. Infinite needs. It’s overwhelming.

        But I still think you should try giving to someone outside of your “filter”. Check my blog at the end of the month. 😉

  5. Great post Chuck!
    It makes total sense to me, I would much rather enjoy an icy cold beer with lime in nice surroundings with the people I love than buy a six pack and sit at home and I guarantee everyone who reads this post knows of some unnecessary expense in their life they could easily cut out that’s not adding any value.

  6. What a terrific dialog. All too often dialog turns to discourse. It is so nice to read friendly banter between passionate folks with a point of view. Both of you caused me to think. Thank you.

    1. You’re right John. A world where we all agree on everything would be boring and prevent us to seeing different perspectives. I learn more from people that don’t agree than from those that do. But it takes an open mind, which isn’t always easy.

  7. Jeanette, I’m going to fundamentally disagree with your position. I understand that it’s sincere, but it’s premised on an inherent superiority of charity giving, versus other types of exchange. I think private charity giving is a great thing if it suits you, and you are free to give to it. However, I ruffle a little bit at the notion that it is a morally superior act in any objective sense.

    That is not to say that we shouldn’t help others. For example, I have poured many months of my time, which I could have charged tens of thousands of dollars for, into an open source software project of my own creation. Over the course of several years, I’ve heard from hundreds of people all over the world that are using my software in their projects, and many times more people have used it and not contacted me. Many of these people come from economies where they probably have very few opportunities. It’s fulfilling for me, to feel that I may be helping people. But that has always been only a pleasant side-effect, I made these decisions for my own strategic reasons.

    Let’s assume for a moment we could calculate the benefits I have created in people’s lives. Would you then tally up all the tangible and intangible benefits you have created, and compare them? And what of affluent Chuck, and his $8‑beer? Perhaps he spends enough money on himself to improve the lives of the numerous workers required to ultimately service his needs, thus providing they and their families economic benefits that otherwise would not exist if he sent money in an envelope to a starving child in Estonia.

    So it seems like your barometer is subjective, based on who is being helped, and what kind of help is being given. My feeling is that this relates directly to Chuck’s argument of personal value that we find in things. Reading your comments, I believe that you must continue doing what you are doing, because it’s clear that you derive great value from it. By sharing your story, you may inspire others. I’m all for it. But don’t disparage the personal economic decisions of others because there may be more to the story. They also may be engaging in behavior that contributes in a less obvious but no less substantial way.

  8. Thanks for adding so much to the conversation Kelly. You bring up so many interesting points.

    The first is that giving of time is of equal value as giving money. I will argue that your time is of far more value than money because there is an infinite amount of money to be earned, whereas time is the great equalizer. We all only have 24 hours in a day, thus making it more valuable. 

    This is why many wealthy people only give money instead of their time. They can offer more benefit by donating money than by serving food at the Salvation Army. But people will often negatively judge the wealthy for not volunteering their time because they don’t understand this point.

    Your other point, correct me if I missed it, is great. If you create and share a product that helps many people, perhaps of varying levels of income, does that make it less altruistic than one who chooses to only help those in poverty? I think you are right, it all comes back to your personal values and one is not better than the other because how can you measure it.

    Personally, I do not believe anyone is obligated to give. It’s nice, and I give, but I do not judge those who chose not to. I agree with your point Kelly, that someone financially wealthy may not give any money away, but still be a greater contributor to the poor just by merely spending his or her money and by creating jobs. 

    Does that make him a lesser person, even thought he has a greater impact than a middle class person who gives 10% of his income? I’m not sure.

  9. Hi Kelly!
    I think you maybe read what I had to say wrong (which to be honest, is why I rarely get into the fray online…it’s too easy to misunderstand one another). I wasn’t saying that one was morally superior or better than the other in any way. I too, agree that the multiplier effect of the “teach to fish” philosophy is incredible and very valuable. Absolutely. 

    What I was trying to say was that Chuck had said “…I do believe in giving, but usually with a caveat. I believe in the “teach them to fish” philosophy.” When I read those words, I read (and I could be wrong, I’m totally open to admiting that) that Chuck only preferred to give if it could be paid forward in some way. It seemed to imply that HIS giving was exclusive to a ‘fishing expedition’. My point was to say that I believe he should rethink his filter and allow himself to consider giving when no return payment would ever be made IN ADDITION TO those that passed his filter test…because it was just as worthy. To push himself and his “caveat” a little further…a little out of his typical comfort zone. To examine his motives and heart. I wasn’t suggesting it was bad or lesser…just a good natured nudge at saying ‘hey, maybe you could rethink your position/caveat. giving just to give to those that doesn’t “deserve” it is valuable too.’ Basically, I was challenging the caveat…not the method as a whole.

    Now, I will say this about the wealthy man who writes checks and does not volunteer his time. Both of you are only looking at giving from the standpoint of the good which it will do. Very quantifiable, dollars versus time kind of thing. Which I get. And the truth is that philanthropy isn’t the warm fuzzy touchy feely thing that people often think it is. In truth, it’s a pretty ugly and heart wrenching business. Fundraising has been hands down one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It sucks to be honest. BUT, I will simply say that I also believe that giving should be a matter of the heart and not just a business transaction. While writing a ten million dollar check is obviously of tremendous value, maybe that’s what’s EASIEST and least obtrusive for the rich man. I’ve also seen it the other way. The middle class who volunteer their time but don’t write the check. Money runs the world. And saving the world isn’t always free. But maybe the rich man’s heart would be better served and stretched if he spent one afternoon ladling bowls of soup to the homeless. The impact to many is less, but the impact on HIM would be incredible. And maybe parting with a couple of dollars would be the most selfless way for the middle class family to give. Might it encourage them to give more when they realize they didn’t even miss the money after all? 

    Rethinking Chuck’s comment that giving has a “utils” is actually very true. So maybe giving should be a two pronged approach: a way to help and a way to stretch ourselves. A way to make us think of others and soften our hearts in the process. I know that sounds really cheesy, but think about it: the mogul who writes nothing but checks may be philanthropic, but how many more checks may he write if he spent a few hours with a shovel in hand as well? Letting go of that tight fisted grip on time for the rich and money for the middle class…in the short term may seem silly and invalvuable, but the the long term may make the biggest impact of them all.

    1. Jeannette
      I do not at all see that we’ve gotten into and “online fray.” To the contrary, and as my friend John added, this has been a great dialog and I’ve reconsidered many of my own thoughts from the different perspectives. For that, thank you for investing your time in sharing here. It has been a pleasure.

      In fact, one thing you got me thinking about with your last comment is not the impact of giving or volunteering has on others, but yourself. I know this from experience, but I’m often a very bottom line kind of guy so I purposely consider the return on investment of most of what I do with time and money. And don’t miss understand that to mean a monetary return. I think you get that from the point of my article. So, thank you for helping me stretch my own thinking.

  10. WOW, what a GREAT discussion! I have two comments regarding the above conversation. My first comment is that EVERYONE makes choices based on the value they receive from their choice. Chuck decided that he would get the most utils (love this term) from the $6 beer. Jeannett’s donations for Cliff’s Fund came from people who made the choice to give money instead of using the $5 or $40 for themselves or their own family’s needs. These people decided that they would get more utils from donating for Cliff than from the Christmas cards or the husband/wife gift exchange. Bottom line (for me), people donate for a personal reason.…maybe a tax benefit, a feeling of superiority from helping those in need, a pat on the back or simply the warm fuzzy feeling of helping others.

    My second comment has to do with the time or money donations. I LOVE to help others and I donate time and/or money where possible. Sometimes I have more time to donate and sometimes I have more money.…just depends. I do strongly agree that the donation of time is far more valuable (only 24 hours in a day for ALL of us) and that if someone is willing to take the time to work with those less fortunate, it changes our perspective and we grow as people.

    1. I’m stoked you read this discussion Lori. There is a lot here. I figured you’d enjoy it and am even more impressed that three people here have used the word utils–which to give credit where credit is due–between you, Ray and I, that word as seemed to stick since Econ 101 with Herb Elliott in 1994. That’s amazing in itself.

      And you are a perfect example of giving of time. You give more of your time and energy to the Girl Scouts than anyone I know. That is commendable. I wonder who gains more from it you or the kids?

      P.S. When you are ready to start a cub scout program, let me know and I will send Wyatt. I’m not always sure our at home UFC program where he beats up on Daddy is always the ideal program 🙂

  11. Hi Chuck, just would like to add something to your post…the more you do things (whether it is splurging on a $8 beer) that add value to your life, the more you take the time for yourself, the more you will be valuable to those around you! Which means that you will give to others a lot more willingly without expecting anything in return. So, obviously I agree with you. How can you be of any value to others if you do not add value to your own life first! It is just a matter of being able to balance your life ( as you have so clearly described in your post).

  12. What we value most adds value to our lives. Most of us spend money on things which do not add value to our lives. What is the use of shopping till you drop if you do not feel good in those clothes or feels uncomfortable using those things you bought. More important than materialistic things are the people around us. We have to learn to value them first.

  13. Love what Jeanette has to say in her missive. While I’ve never experienced abundance in a Western sense, even in my localized “struggles”, I’ve found that focusing on helping others totally turns your attitude. Do what you can do, where you can, when you can do it.… Don’t worry about others. 

    Be safe Chuck. I hope it is a great time. I dove with sharks in the water, many years ago. Not like you’re doing, we could see them, weren’t trying to attract them 🙂

    1. Yes, Jeanette shares a thought provoking perspective. 

      Same here Jonathan, I’ve dove with a lot of sharks*, but also never done the dive where you attract them and they swarm around you. I’m looking forward to it. 

      *This is regarding an email I sent to subscribers about a shark diving trip I am taking to Honduras.

  14. Chuck this is my opinion about your question on is giving done for selfish reasons. I think it’s about 50/50. Some people do it for personal gains and some truly care . Dennis

  15. It’s fulfilling for me…” — Kelly

    This is the primary, and possibly the only reason people give at all.

    I made these decisions for my own strategic reasons.” — Kelly 

    In a world with very few “always” and “nevers”, we ALWAYS!!! take any (in)action for our own strategic reasons.

    - The Unexpected Gift.

    Thank you Chuck, and those of you who posted in the comments. You have given the gift of added insight and wisdom to those who stop by here.

    All the best,

    Joe Mobley

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