My Last 100 Bucks: Realizing the Truth Behind “Every little bit adds up”
Or, in the words of Instagram personality, thefatjewish, “Growing up sucks because you realize $1,000 [and in this case $100] isn’t a lot of money.”
When I began this exercise of tracking my spending, I thought it was going to take me a long time to spend one hundred bucks. However, I quickly learned that every little bit of money spent truly does add up (Okay, Mom, I’ll admit that you’re right now!), and spending $100.44 is shockingly easy.
Below, I’ll take you through each charge — both big and small — and show you how I spent my $100 over the course of…72 hours…and 8 purchases.
Before I start, though, I want to note that all of my spending was done using my debit card that is linked to my personal checking account. This made it extremely easy for me to account for my spending, because I could simply open my Wells Fargo app and look at my statement to see how much of the one hundred dollars I had already spent.
Here we go…
(1) $9.04, Two Venti Iced Coffees at Starbucks:
Hurrying to make my 9:30am class on Tuesday morning, I used my Starbucks Mobile App to buy coffee for me and a friend. My decision to download the Starbucks app last spring was life changing — both in good and bad ways. It was one of the best choices I have ever made, because I never have to wait in line anymore. On the other hand, though, I recognize that using the app limits the amount of face-to-face social interaction I have on a daily basis.
The ability to order and pay on my phone, walk into the store, and leave without speaking to anyone reminds me of Jennifer Ferreira and Mark Perry’s discussion about the ways in which we need to increase social interaction during financial transactions without reducing the mobility or efficiency of those transactions. In their essay, “Building an Alternative Social Currency: Dematerialising and rematerialising digital money across media,” Ferreira and Perry emphasize the ways in which the design of different physical and digital forms of currency can affect both social interactions and local connections. In the case of the Starbucks app, I think that conducting a design experiment, like those of Ferreira and Perry, could help find a happy medium between mobility and efficiency and the sociality of the exchange.
(2) $1.63, Diet Coke at Cohn’s on the Corner:
My afternoon pick-me-up. I run on caffeine. What can I say?
(3) $3.50, Bottle of Water ($1.50) and Renting a Pair of Spinning Shoes ($2.00) at Purvelo:
Each time I attend spin class (which I wish I could say was more often than not), I pay $2.00 to borrow a pair of shoes. I do not mind the $2.00 borrowing/rental fee, because I do not spin often enough to feel that investing in a pair of shoes is worth it. I also never really think about the fact that I am spending $2.00 each time, because the spin studio has my debit card on file; every time I attend a class, I simply write my name and put a check mark in the box for renting shoes.
Spending the $1.50 for a water bottle, though, was another story. I was so mad that I forgot my reusable water bottle in my apartment and was forced to buy a bottle of water. It is always so hard for me to spend money on things that I already own and don’t really need!
(4) $8.90: Laundry Detergent at Harris Teeter:
Confession: It took me a good six minutes at Harris Teeter to figure out which laundry detergent to buy. I don’t think I’ve ever read so much fine print to make sure I wasn’t buying one with bleach in it or one that would make my clothes smell funky.
I ultimately went with Tide’s Ultra Stain Release detergent. And in case you were wondering, it worked wonders.
(5) $10.00, Boy Named Banjo Concert Ticket:
On the second day of tracking my last 100 bucks spent, I bought a ticket to attended a country music concert the following night at the Southern Café on the Downtown Mall. I did not know Boy Named Banjo, the performer, very well, but attending concerts at various venues on the Downtown Mall is one of the many items on my bucket list of things to do before I graduate in May (cue the waterworks). When I went to buy a ticket on the band’s Facebook page the day before, I saw that there were two purchasing options — I could buy one online for $8 (with a $2 processing fee) or buy one at the door for $10 in cash. In that moment, the choice seemed obvious to me; why would I ever take out cash if I could just pay online right now?
However, while it had seemed to me that buying my ticket online and picking it up at Will Call would be easier than buying it with cash at the door, the next night, I quickly learned that the option to purchase a ticket at the door was actually much more efficient. While all of us, who had prepaid for our tickets online, waited in a long line while a bouncer rummaged through a huge stack of tickets to find the ones that matched each of our names, the people with cash simply handed the other bouncer the $10 and walked right in. As I stood in the long Will Call line, I was reminded of Bill Maurer’s argument in his book, How would you like to pay?, that new mediums and technologies are not always more efficient than the ones that preceded them. In this case, using a debit card and the digital ticketing platform, rather than physical cash, slowed me down significantly and made getting to the bar all the more difficult (think 15 minutes just to get a Bud Light)!
Sidenote: Boy Named Banjo was awesome!
(6) $8.44, Salad from Roots:
My order, you ask? Well, I change it up often, but for the past few weeks, I have really been feeling kale, roasted corn, cucumbers, sliced almonds, mandarin oranges, and miso tofu, all tossed in olive oil and lime juice dressing. (If you’re looking to switch up your Roots order, I highly recommend this combo!)
To me, spending 8 to 9 dollars on Roots once or twice each week is totally worth it. Some of my friends, however, consider Roots salads to be too expensive, and they perceive me to be a fool for continuing to buy them as a college student. I, on the other hand, perceive myself to be more closely aligned with those that society perceives as frugal. As Frederick Wherry describes in his essay, “The Social Characterizations of Price: The Fool, the Faithful, the Frivolous, and the Frugal,” the notions and ideas that members of society have about who is considered a foolish spender versus who is considered a frugal spender is socially constructed. Wherry notes that a fool is perceived by society to be someone who lacks a strong will when it comes to saving money, spends money for immediate emotional gratification, or who spends money without considering alternatives or without making rational judgements. In this case, because I am a college student, many people in society think I should be saving my money and not spending it on 8 to 9 dollar salads.
However, while I recognize that I am a college student with limited spending money, I perceive myself to be spending like those society deems frugal, because I have thoughtfully and rationally considered my alternatives and have determined that buying my ingredients to make my own salads is actually much more costly than purchasing a Roots bowl.
Wherry notes that society distinguishes between the foolish and frugal by determining how rational and calculating they are. Therefore, I bet that if people knew how much consideration I placed on saving money by eating Roots bowls rather than buying a million ingredients to make my own salads, they might consider me to be more frugal!
(7) $56.81, Makeup and Skincare Products from Sephora.com:
On Thursday, my realization that every little bit adds up really hit home when I went to check out and pay for my items in my cart on Sephora.com. Suddenly, my cart total was $56.81. I carefully reviewed each item and decided that each one was necessary and worth it to me.
Looking at my purchase through the lens of the socially constructed types of spenders, or stereotypes, that Wherry discusses in his essay, some people might consider me to be frivolous for spending so much money on cosmetics. Wherry notes that society characterizes frivolous people as those who spend money, often treating themselves or buying extravagant things, without rational calculation (and often without any dire consequences as a result of this type of spending).
However, others in society might consider me to be faithful. Wherry notes that society considers the faithful to be people who are willing to pay premiums for causes or long-term goals they truly care about. I care greatly about my skin and about its health overtime, so I am willing to spend extra to nourish it and to protect it. Got to stay #flawless. (Haha just kidding, but I love Beyoncé.)
(8) $2.12, Uber to the Southern Café:
My portion of the cost of the Uber shared between four people, and the final $2.12 of my last 100 bucks.
A pretty small and anticlimactic ending, but thank goodness for fare splitting and the death of awkwardly trying to figure out who would front the cost and who would be trusted (or not trusted — admit it, we all know those types of people) to pay back.