(MoneyWatch) Over at DailyWorth, writer Cynthia Ramnarace recently wrote of trying to free up cash in her life. After taking a hard look at small recurring expenditures, she and her husband decided to give up daily delivery of their newspaper. That saved a bit over $50 a month -- $600 a year!.
But here's the problem: She missed her morning news fix. A fresh printed newspaper -- the kind you could linger with over coffee and share with another family member -- gave a good kick start to the day. As she wrote, "It was more than we could handle. 'I'm in a funk,' I told my husband. 'And I think it's because of the newspaper.' "
So they started up delivery again. Little luxuries sometimes have an outsized effect on happiness.
That's a bit of reality that is often missing from personal finance literature, which tends to focus on giving up small things as a way of saving for big goals. To be sure, we all spend money on things we don't care about. If you want to go out to eat, you'll probably be just as happy with a cheap drink versus an expensive drink, and splitting an appetizer versus having one (and all the calories) to yourself. If your newspapers just pile up, that's a good place to cut. If you just want coffee in the morning and you can drink it for free at your office, there's no real reason to spend $3 on a coffee shop version. Mindless spending is the enemy of financial security.
But if you love the way your local barista pours a cup? If that creamy latte creates the perfect beginning to your morning and makes you want to power through your to-do list? Giving it up will probably hurt more than the money you save, no matter what the compound interest calculations say.
And here's what the happiest people know about money: Humans don't do well long-term with deprivation. Mourn the loss of your newspaper or coffee and the next thing you know you'll be buying a $60 sweater to cheer yourself up. That's the equivalent of 20 days -- an entire work month -- of lattes, or a month's worth of newspapers, gone in one fell swoop. And for something you don't care about at all.
Better to embrace the little luxuries that create moments of happiness in often frenzied lives. For me, those are nice pens and paper, flowers, books and magazines, and dark chocolate truffles. As far I'm concerned, money spent on these items is probably money well spent.
What little luxuries make your life better?Photo courtesy of Flickr user .faramarz