Putting Money in Perspective

why dinosaurs are extinct
(This is a flashback to a post I wrote over a year or so ago. I was reminded of it yesterday cuz it’s a great way to put things in perspective! Even in the last year my outlook on money has changed as far as *what’s* important to me now (You can see the old stuff that’s now crossed out below)  Let’s see if you enjoy it as much as you did the 1st time it was posted! Haha…)

I had this friend who measured time in cigarettes. Whenever I asked him how far something was, he’d always come back with the number of cigs he could smoke in the time it would take to get there :) So if we were hitting up a bar down the street, say 20 mins away, he’d tell me he’d meet me there in about “2 cigs.” Haha… I guess for him this just made more sense.

The same can go for understanding amounts of money too. I like to measure smaller amounts in the number of lottery tickets web domains it could buy ;) To me, that’s a great way to spend $10 and it’s easy for me to comprehend (in high school, it was double cheeseburgers off the $1 menu!). For larger amounts – $100 and up – I tend to use Air Jordans airline tickets or whatever else I’m interested in at the time. It doesn’t matter what you use really, just that it puts things into better perspective for you – we’re all gonna be different.

Knowing what $XX can buy is a powerful thing. If you don’t think about what something’s really “worth,” you could blow through it a helluva lot faster (like all those times we drop $10 or $20 bucks on Lord knows what). And it helps with motivation too! Similar to my “I can’t afford that” post yesterday, knowing that you can buy X or Y or even Z all with $10 is a very good thing. The dollar is almighty!

Appreciate the power of money, and keep those valuations of yours on tap. The more we understand how far the dollar can go, the easier it will be to make decisions and stick to our goals :) I don’t turn down all those cab rides for nothing, baby! For every 6 I pass on, I can get a whole share of Berkshire Hathaway’s Class B stock! Haha…and that’s freakin’ awesome.

What do you use as a measuring stick for money?

(“Why dinos are extinct” Photo by Dan4th)

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  1. Money Beagle May 19, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    I actually look at how many debt payments I can shave off as an alternate measuring stick. Right now, about $75 comes off a student loan principle every month and $300 comes off the mortgage. So if I’ve got $500 to spend or save, that’s 1 and 2/3 mortgage payments or 6 and 2/3 student loan payments that can come off the end.

  2. Brandi May 19, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    When I used to deliver pizza in college I would measure by how many pizza’s I had to deliver to make enough to pay for something.

    I would say “Ok…$100 pair of running shoes…that’s about 40 deliveries worth…”

    Now I usually equate it to rent or bills at my apartment.

  3. JMK May 19, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    In an ordinary week once the pay is in and the credit card cleared of the week’s groceries/gas, any excess above the $1000 minimum I keep in the account to avoid service charges is skimmed off on Friday and sent to our retirement accounts or an extra mortgage payment. We have a laser like focus on early retirement in December 2020 and the only exception we make to these two priorities it to take a big family vacation every other year. A month in Europe was our last outing – Greece, Italy and Germany. This summer we’re doing cities on the Baltic for several weeks (Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, St.Petersburg, etc).

    We’ve lived this way for so long it’s really second nature now. Just the necessities, with the exception of travel. We haven’t had cable in 20yrs, we buy 3yr old vehicles with cash and drive them until they go to the dump, I meal plan around sales, we rarely eat out, etc etc. Spending in those areas just isn’t our priority so it isn’t missed. I’m rarely tempted to spend beyond the basics, but if I am I always look at it in terms of a lost travel experience because that’s the most tangible for me. Dinner for 4 vs admission to the Colosseum in Rome, great shoes I don’t need vs gondola ride in Venice. Don’t even get me started on taking on a new recurring monthly bill where I’d be committing to giving up something every month forever. For me once I view it as a trade off between something that has briefly caught my eye and something I’ll enjoy and remember for a lifetime, then the decision to walk away is simple.

  4. Melissa May 19, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    For large purchases, I measure money in rent

    This freelance gig will give me two rents
    That trip to Europe will cost three rents, so it better be worth it
    If I buy that iPad, that’s 3/4 rent

    For smaller purchases (especially when I was younger and making little money), I’d measure it in hours worked. It’s amazing how quickly I could talk myself out of buying something when I looked at it, not in terms of $80, but in terms of 12 hours waiting tables.

  5. Financial Success for Young Adults May 19, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Right now as I work my way out of debt, I measure the price of my favorite pastime, clothing shopping, in the number of monthly payments I can make. I went to a store the other day and saw a shirt that equaled 3 monthly payments! too expensive lol

  6. bleu May 19, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I measure everything in speech therapy for my son. 1 therapy session is $135 dollars so if anyone asked me to go somewhere, I’m thinking, 1 hotel night… that’s one extra speech service for my child.

  7. JoeTaxpayer May 19, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    I like the idea of time vs money. I have a good idea of my post tax hourly income, and think on some purchases in those terms. Big TV is X hours, maybe even X hours later that I’ll retire.
    When my 12yr old buys something, I ask her if the $20 item is worth 2hrs of her babysitting. It’s a good measure as it’s pretty direct.
    Although I have to share – we were at a baseball game (Red Sox lost) and the tickets which were given to us, were $125/ea. So I’m sitting in $500 worth of seats and thinking “and people say a $500 iPad is a waste of money?”

  8. Katie May 19, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Using some crazy math calculator I found at math.com – I was able to find out that ever $1.25 I spend on a coca cola from a vending machine = over a thousand dollars (over certain period of time at certain rate of return)

    I made a little card for myself with some basic amounts that I am supposed to look at before I spend any amount of money. Yes, we need to live NOW as well as later – but when I am going to the movies, it better be a movie that I am willing to give up $12,876 over the course of a certain number of years. :) You can imagine how my netflix viewing has gone up after this exercise, lol.

    It is pretty motivating.

  9. Matt May 19, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    My wife looks at money by the number of shirts she could by at Nordstrom Rack. $20 is two shirts.

  10. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager May 19, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    I used Nalgene as a unit of measure when it comes to liquids (or how much water I drink in a day). And $300 as a money measure. Item X would cost me $300, that is one trip to Boston.

  11. Jenna May 19, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Fun to see my comment on sparked a memory that inspired today’s post!

    I don’t really use a specific item = $ amount measurement for what I spend. I have my 3-5 year savings goals planned out in gruesome detail, so I really try to stick to my budget so that I can meet those goals. If I overspend by $100, I’m very aware of how that delays those goals. Right now, it would mean another month until I can get my first student loan paid off, which then cascades to delaying the payoff of the second one, etc.

  12. Rafiki May 19, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    That is a great way to put your spending in perspective. I’ll start using this when I can think of something

  13. Jen May 19, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    I use hours worked from take-home pay to gauge stuff. Like, my Honey had to work like 3 1/2 hours to fill up that stupid gas tank. Grrr. It really helps sometimes to know that stuff.

  14. Alyssa May 19, 2011 at 5:14 PM


    My friends and I are going to Vegas in July. We’ve been saving up money for awhile, so when something comes along tempting us to spend, I refer to it as the number of margaritas. There are two $1 margarita stands in Vegas that we know of, and it keeps in perspective what I’m spending.

  15. ND Chic May 19, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    I find myself doing this for ordinary things like lunch out. I think that instead of having lunch out for 2 days, I could buy myself a shirt or something else that I really want. It helps me put the small purchases into perspective.

  16. South County Girl May 19, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    I like this J…

    for me right now I think about our emergency fund. With the wedding taking all our cash we haven’t been able to add much to it (but thankfully its staying in tact). For me its money that we can go towards making that goal…

    I like the stock idea… maybe when I open that Roth IRA i’ll try thinking in terms of shares then..

  17. J. Money May 19, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Y’all got some good ones! :)

    @Money Beagle – That will do it ;)
    @Brandi – Ahahhahaa… that is too funny!
    @JMK – Wowww, you have this down to a science. LOVE love love the “experiences” you guys are doing, that’s great! Always a top priority for me too :)
    @LLF – Nice, nice. I’ll go check it out in a few :)
    @Melissa – Haha, I like that :) I think I may have done that too back in the day… when I used to always WANT all these big things! Haha… not anymore.
    @Financial Success for Young Adults – Whatever works!
    @bleu – Awwwwww, that’s a good one.
    @JoeTaxpayer – Hahaha… because you were at a RED SOX game right? ;)
    @Katie – I bet! But man, no way I could do that for *everything* – I’d go crazy! If you can work it though, more power to you.
    @Matt – Haha… that’s a pretty good deal, actually :)
    @Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Yup! I hear ya on that traveling.
    @Jenna – See that! Much obliged, my lady :)
    @Rafiki – Let us know :)
    @Jen – That seems to be a common one, I like it. But yes – very annoying when filling up gas! Crazy these days… bleh.
    @Alyssa – Haha that works!
    @ND Chic – Yeah! I can def. see that. Every now and then I use t-shirts as a measuring stick too. Only now, I never have TIME to go out and get some, haha…
    @South County Girl – There you go :) And Congrats on wedding!!! (not sure If I told you before?)

  18. Kristin May 19, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    I have a friend that always measured things in terms of iPods, since they always seemed to be about $200. Now he has an iPad (and he’s no longer in undergrad, so he has a fellowship at least), so the iPad is the new unit of measurement.

    It’s kinda like using the state of Rhode Island to measure glaciers.

  19. J. Money May 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    hahahhaahahah… you made my morning ;)

  20. Jackie May 21, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    I love this way of looking at money and what you are going to spend it on. I think for me I would probably use how many hours I would need to work to purchase the item and then decide if it is worth that much of my time.

  21. No Debt MBA May 23, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    My yard stick varies. The other day I was walking to work as usual but was tempted to take the bus and shave off some walking in the rain. But then I realized that I could instead buy a package of cookie dough and walked. Never did end up buying the cookie dough, the money worked but the calories didn’t. In the end I neither missed the cookie dough or minded walking in the rain so I guess it was a win-win.

    More commonly with potential student loans coming up I take all discretionary purchases and double their cost and ask if I would still want it since everything will end up costing twice as much if I use student loans to finance it.

  22. J. Money May 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    @Jackie – Yeah, that’s a common one. And a good one!
    @No Debt MBA – Haha… cookie dough. You’re funny :) Good idea w/ doubling up the money in your mind too – that’s a great way to keep yourself on track.