I saw a twitter exchange yesterday that reminded me of the terrible lunches I used to pack for work before I became a Costco member.
Every week I would drag myself to the local grocery store…
…and buy a bunch of stuff to cobble together a sad lunch (usually just a turkey sandwich).
I made these sad lunches because that’s what my go to lunch in school was:
I ate a TON of PB & J sandwiches.
So when I entered adulthood I kept on doing this too – it made sense.
I continued an ingrained habit because I didn’t know any different.
And eating those sad lunches worked well for my budget. Especially right out of college.
The first serious job I had was at a non-profit, in a VERY expensive city.
So, I didn’t have much extra money for eating out.
And so I continued the tradition of the terrible lunches.
At one point I was buying microwavable Thai noodle boxes for $1.50 from Trader Joe’s, and making that my main meal of the day. I usually just had coffee for breakfast.
Not exactly a nutritious diet but hey, it was cheap.
After several years of eating that kind of junk, I started to get sick of it.
And it was around that time that I discovered Costco.
Now, I grew up in the Midwest and we didn’t have Costco.
Another big box retailer, who shall remain unnamed, dominated the local market.
For whatever reason (probably to save money) my family didn’t join the local alternative to Costco, but I digress.
So back to my lunch story:
After I “discovered” Costco – and by that I mean I simply got a membership.
I had a family now and we needed to buy some things in bulk.
I got in a routine of going a couple of times a month, and that’s when I fell in love with the place.
…Yes, I admit that I fell in love with Costco…
It’s an amazing place.
But it’s also a dangerous place.
I can splurge on a bunch of stuff in a massive quantity that I really don’t need.
So the question becomes:
How to save money at Costco?
Easily asked than answered.
One time I bought a year’s supply of toilet paper.
It was cheap!
Only I got home and realized the quality was terrible.
I didn’t like it.
But then I was stuck with it. And for whatever reason (retention bias?) I didn’t want to just throw it away.
And that brings me to the main point: while I can waste a bunch of money on stuff I don’t need (like TP), I can also get some great deals on things like prepared food.
For example, I get more lunch meat for $10 at Costco than I do at my local store.
And that observation made me realize the first important lesson of Costco membership.
I realized while I could get excited and find amazing deals, I also needed to shop mindfully to keep myself in check.
I think this lesson applies to life, too.
After all, in 2018 I find it so easy, almost too easy, to shop and spend money.
I have available to me, in 2018, Amazon (& Amazon Prime!), Free shipping, infinite coupons on my smartphone, and on and on.
But this can negatively impact my budget, saving for the future, and living within my means.
I personally have dropped $100 on one Costco trip when I only meant to spend $20, so I know how tempting the Costco deals are.
This is why I now shop mindfully when I shop at Costco.
This approach allows me to keep my excitement in check and focus on the long term money game.
I know, we are all humans and, I still have my moments of weakness, but I find this whole concept of shopping mindfully really helps.
So don’t keep falling into a similar rut.
You can live more peacefully by being mindful about how you spend money.
All it takes is a little more mindfulness in the moment.
Moment to moment.
So next time you feel a bit worked up…
Just take a deep breath.
You’ve got this.