When I was a student getting a master’s degree and living on student loans, I didn’t have a lot of money.
I could cover my expenses, which I kept as low as I could, and have a teeny, tiny, little bit of money left over for some fun stuff, but not much. So needless to say, I was on a budget.
And I was a good budget-er. I had a spreadsheet and everything, and I would track expenses. I remember allotting myself money for weekly grocery trips and it wasn’t very much, but, you know, we all need to eat. And I would carefully check prices of stuff and see what the best deal was and all that good stuff.
On one grocery trip, I found myself in the dairy aisle buying a block of cheddar cheese. I looked around at the different varieties and picked the cheapest one, which was most likely the store-brand option, I can’t quite remember now. It seemed the responsible thing to do, even though I would have preferred another brand. Oh well. I put it in my basket, finished my shopping and went home.
And that’s when I realized my mistake. The cheese was awful.
The texture was just weird and I’m sure the flavor wasn’t much better. I couldn’t eat it and I ended up throwing away most of the block of cheese.
And that’s when it hit me: I hadn’t just wasted the money I spent on it, I had also wasted the cheese. I had been thinking that buying the cheapest product was the way to go, but I neglected to think about the quality of what I was buying.
This small lesson about money stuck with me throughout the years and formed the basis for how I thought about money going forward. From that point on, it wasn’t just about the number I thought about when purchasing something, it was about the value that I was going to extract from the purchase. And in many cases, spending more money was the much better deal.