When it comes to my finances, I’ve always operated on the basic assumption that saving money is the way to go. If I can take a couple of bucks off my total at the store or find a cheaper alternative to something that I need, that’s a no-brainer. No, I don’t always follow that advice (hey, nobody’s perfect!), but for the most part, I at least assumed it held water.
So, with that philosophy always at the back of my mind, I did what I could to pinch pennies here and there – including spending at least an hour or two each week scouring the weekly ads and desperately searching for relevant coupons.
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At first, that process was rewarding for me. I’d check out at Target or the grocery store and save five bucks here or seven dollars there. I wasn’t one of those extreme couponers by any means, but I assumed that every little bit helped. I was saving money, and that’s really all that mattered, right?
Sometimes Saving Money Isn't Worth It- Literally!
However, one day after a grocery run, my husband served me with a brutal dose of reality. After making our purchases, he asked how much we saved in total. “Almost eight dollars!” I said, beaming with pride.
“Hmmm… interesting,” he said. I pressed to find out what he meant by that cryptic comment. He followed up by asking how long it took me to pull all of those coupons.
“Only about an hour,” I said, assuming that was a worthy investment of my time.
“How much would you have made if you spent that hour working?” he asked. My jaw nearly hit the pavement of the Target parking lot.
This thought had never even crossed my mind, but he was right. I'd invested an hour to save eight dollars, but I could’ve earned significantly more than that if I'd spent that time writing. What I thought was a healthy financial habit was actually moving me backwards.
To say that this epiphany shifted the entire way I think about saving money might sound dramatic, but it’s true.
I began to look at the way I was “saving money” and spending my time through a different lens.
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Exceptions to the Financial Golden Rule
It’s easy to fall into this black-and-white mentality when it comes to your money: saving is good. Spending is bad. But that’s not always true. As with anything, there are exceptions to the rules when it comes to finding the best places to invest your money and your hours.
It’s easy to think that – by default – hoarding your dollars is the smartest thing you can do to manage your finances. But, believe it or not, that’s not always true. The couple of dollars that you saved might actually be costing you a lot more than you think!