I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but my blog income has actually been doing pretty ok the last few months.
One of the little money lessons I’ve learned during this time is it’s ok to spend a little money to make money.
It’s kind of like how, for me, spending $10 a month on the budget gym is pointless, because if there’s no pool, I’m not going, but spending $40 on a gym with a pool means I’ll almost always manage to make it there at least 3 times a week.
There can be a lot of weird little roadblocks when you work from home. During the last few months, family has visited while I was staying with my parents. I lived in a beach house with performers and wardrobe crew of one of my shows. I lived in company housing that was essentially a nightmare dorm.
Some days, despite the assorted challenges each place has caused, I can focus on what I’m doing and power through. But several days I can’t.
It was actually while I was home unemployed that I realized that $5 can still be an ok “business expense.” I would start to go a little stir crazy when I wouldn’t leave my parents house for a few days at a time. Then there was a day I was up against a deadline for a freelance writing client and my brain would not settle down.
I grabbed my laptop and headed for Starbucks.
That was literally all it took. I finished the article before the coffee once I was there.
Now, Starbucks is clearly not some magical place that does the work for me, but the change of space and energy – and honestly, maybe the burst of caffeine too – really helped me to focus. I knew I had to finish the article before leaving Starbucks.
People also provide a certain energy. As a pretty intense introvert, I forget that a lot, but Starbucks is also the perfect place to suck up some of that energy without actually having to interact. You never know where a story can come from (like that time my hairdresser suddenly started talking personal finance).
When I was stage managing out at the beach house, one of my performers was particularly difficult, so Starbucks was a haven where no one needed anything from me (forcing the stage manager to live with performers is kind of cruel).
While I was staying in the dorm from hell, the desk and chair were at weirdly disproportionate heights and more than 10 minutes typing at it could actually get painful. Not ok considering I usually spend 3-4 hours in the morning on blogging and writing when I don’t have to be at work. Coffee shop to the rescue again.
Here’s my rubric for knowing the coffee shop was worth spending a little money on:
- I could clearly see how I was getting more done because of it.
- It provided some inspiration.
- It fit in my budget.
- It energized me.
- It made me happy.
At first, I would go maybe once a week and berate myself a little:
Mel, you’ve got unsteady income coming in now for who knows how long till you land a regular gig again. Is this really how you want to spend $20-$30 of your savings a month?
But after I thought it out, realized all those things in the rubric apply and reminded myself this isn’t just impulsively grabbing a cuppa, and also that I’m really extremely financially secure, all things considered, I realized that beating myself up over a purchase that is actually improving my side hustle income stream is sort of nuts.
I think there’s a point in your personal finance journey where you’ve been doing well and you’re totally on the successful track, but you’re not wealthy by any means yet, that you get a little scared of backsliding into bad habits that maybe you never really had anyway.
Even before learning much about personal finance, I was terrified to carry credit card balances because the interest rate, thank goodness, made sense to me the first time it was explained. I’ve carried large-ish balances twice and in both cases it was immediately after finishing up school and I paid off the balances at fast as possible.
I’m the occasional impulse buyer, especially when my emotional state is all jacked up over something, but not to wildly damaging levels.
Honestly, my biggest personal finance issues are that I need to learn how to earn more and invest better. I’m lucky as all get out.
That being said, the thrifty and frugal side of personal finance is what we all have the most ability to control, so sometimes, even when you’re really pretty fine even though life has thrown you a curveball that you’re totally prepared for (like a tire blowout or my delightful spring of un- and under-employment), you feel like you can start controlling things again by not spending a few dollars on happiness.
On top of that, spending money investing in your side hustle can be terrifying, though it often has the greatest yields! Two months ago was my highest income yet from freelance writing and I did the majority of those gigs sitting in a coffee shop, knocking ‘em out one after another.
I feel this is a fair level of investment in making the process of earning that $685 easier and more pleasant.
Anyway, the point of rambling about all this coffee is to remind myself (and any of you who need it):
- There’s a point when it’s ok to use money to make your life easier.
- It’s good to invest in yourself and your businesses.
- To keep on keepin’ on with building my net worth, investments and savings accounts because the biggest lesson in all of this was that it’s awesome to not have a total nervous breakdown when your job falls through, because you can just pivot and work on another income stream until life goes back to normal with your usual one. And you can still buy coffee while you do it.
What business “expense” do you think is totally worth it?
And if you’re buying coffee anyway, why not be smart about it? Check out these posts to save some money on your Starbucks habit: