Living Your Best Life, Simply: Food ChallengeSunday, September 19, 2021
In these times of uncertainty it is advisable, more than ever, to spend your money wisely. This means that conscious decisions must be made for every dollar that leaves your wallet. Yes, some people will find this to be tedious; after all, you were accustomed, pre-pandemic, to spending your disposable income in any manner that you saw fit. It's your money and so you should be able to do with it what you want, right?
But, let's face it. Times are different now. And while you should never pander to fear, it just makes sense to be careful about the money decisions you make now as they will have long-term repercussions for your financial goals.
The term financial flexibility in finance speaks to a company's ability to respond to sudden changes in its cash flow situation in a timely way, even whilst maximising value. Firms must find ways to adjust their financial structure to meet unexpected needs in a manner that is at no cost to them. In a similar way, an individual who has started a journey to his/her goal of building wealth must not be side-tracked when a curve ball, like a pandemic and its consequent impact on job security, hits. Women especially can be prone to emotional spending. In times of crisis, there often arises a need for retail therapy, by way of splurges, whether on food, clothing or even home décor. But, like companies that practise financial flexibility, individuals must find a way to cushion the impact of a sudden curve ball or an unexpected change to their wealth-generating abilities.
One way to do this is to practise frugality or restraint.
In this inflationary environment facilitated by the pandemic, it is very easy to burn through your money. The price of everything, it seems, has gone up. You just have to go to your supermarket to see this. Have you noticed any changes in your grocery bill? Or, maybe you're more or less spending weekly what you'd spent prior to March 2020, but now you've found that you have to return to the supermarket during the course of the week in order to do what seems to be a big top-up? That's because your grocery shopping spend has increased even if you didn't quite notice. And what you're effectively doing is cutting more and more into the money you should be saving, which could be compounding in interest.
Or, perhaps you're one of those people who eat emotionally. All of a sudden you need to buy an entire cheesecake every week to get through the depression of lockdown. Maybe, rather than buying a bottle of wine each week, you buy three, one for each day of no-movement. Even if it's on the lower end of the cost spectrum, that's, what? Twelve grand? For wine alone. Twelve thousand dollars that could have gone towards paying down a credit card bill.
Everything seems harmless, excusable even, until you put your spending under the microscope.
Save money by cutting spending on food. I know Jamaicans don't like to hear this. One of our popular proverbs, after all, is: Better belly buss than food waste. The ability to buy all the food we want is probably an atavistic throwback from slavery days (but I'll defer to the psychologists on this) when life was about rations. Tell a Jamaican that a hurricane is approaching the island and what is their first instinct? To rush to the supermarket and clear all the shelves.
But what if we could change that mindset, see a link between emotional spending on food and the inability to save meaningfully?
Warren Buffett explained in the HBO documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett, why he doesn't have a personal chef to cook him gourmet meals. He will not spend more than $3.17 on breakfast, which he grabs at McDonald's most morning. “When I'm not feeling quite so prosperous, I might go with the $2.61, which is two sausage patties, and then I put them together and pour myself a Coke,” he said.
Sure, we can get a laugh from Buffet, one of the world's wealthiest men, talking about sometimes not feeling prosperous, and we can question the wisdom of eating that much fast food. But the principle is what should be focused on here, which is to consciously save on food. Add up what it is you spend on food each day over the course of a week, both at the supermarket and at restaurants and fast-food outlets. Then make a meal plan for each day. Buy more fruits and vegetables to snack on, rather than pastry with empty calories. Prepare your own lunches from what you've grocery-shopped for, even two, three, times a week. You will be surprised at the amount of money you save, which will put you back on track to realising your financial goals.