The Latte Factor

They say the key to getting ahead of your money troubles is to examine your spending and try to find your "latte factor." That is, the thing that you tend to spend your extra money on that isn't really a necessity, but has become such a habit that you don't really think of it as a luxury expense. If you can isolate that one thing -- whether it be a daily stop at Starbucks, going out to lunch, maybe that one soft drink you always buy on the way home from work to get you through traffic -- eliminate it, and then save that extra money you'll find yourself surprised just how much moolah you end up with every month.
Sounds simple enough when you think about it --
but sometimes the latte factor isn't easy to find.
Back in college, I could have pegged it in a second -- Compact Discs. I was always buying them, always hungry for new music, and always too willing to take the plunge on anything I heard on the radio or whatever that I thought might be worth having.

Far too many times the one song I heard that was good was the only bright spot on the CD, and at $15 - $20 a pop, there were far too many times where at the end of the month I'd be paying bills wondering why I kept coming up just short on everything. Getting student loan checks every semester made everything seem financially possible for a while, but when that train left the station I had to learn some hard lessons, and fast.

Nowadays when I try to examine my finances to see where the corners are I find that I've reached a place where it's not so much the little everyday things that bite me in the wallet as it is the big things I "think" I've saved up enough to splurge on once in a while. I'm sure there are one or two cable channels I could cut from my bill, and I doubt the loss of my Netflix account would prove fatal -- but the more I pour over my budgets and my bills the more it seems I'm a victim of my big ticket indulgences rather than the nickel and dime stuff that pops up along the way.

So for me, staying ahead of the bills month to month is often a matter of restraint rather than any sort of daily reconditioning. With my math skills being what they are, I guess it shouldn't be such a surprise that I sometimes have trouble balancing all sides of the equations when it comes to situations where I think, "Yeah, I can afford that."

To be honest, I've gotten a lot better about it lately (despite the fact that my knock-off mp3 player is starting to break down, I still have been able to resist the urge to fork out for that new iPod I've been wanting just yet), but it doesn't mean that it isn't difficult sometimes.
Because window shopping is free.
This is the Ibanez RGT42DXWH. Mahogany body, rosewood fretboard, 24 frets and 2 of the sweetest factory-made humbuckers I've played in a long, long time. For a guitar that seems like it's built just for shredding or heavy stuff, the jazz tones this instrument produces are really fantastic. Plus there's just something about it that catches your eye, even for such a plain design and color scheme.

I was trying to explain it to j the other day -- the way that guitar shopping is sorta therapeutic for me. I own 4 guitars, I love them all, and have specific uses for all of them even if these days playing is more of a hobby for me than anything else. But every once in a while I like to go over to the musicians superstores and just wander around, take something off the wall, and test-drive. New guitars are expensive, so I'm rarely tempted to buy because the numbers are rarely realistic -- but it's been almost a week since I played this thing and I'm still thinking about it.

I don't need it. And right now it's not even a realistic thought -- what with me trying to save up for an eventual move into a new place (which is always a huge hit to the bottom line), but oh, man -- I really want this guitar.

The funny thing is that I went in the store because eventually I'm hoping to buy a new amplifier. Mine is ok, but I really don't like the way it sounds and it's too small to be effective in most jam situations. One of these days I'm hoping to play around again -- and having a better amp is something that (even if I can't afford it right now) is something that I feel is definitely necessary if I want to improve my overall sound.
In other words, if there's any sort of musical equipment out
there that I could make a case for needing -- it's a new amp.
But when you're a guitarist, the lure of a new guitar is a hard thing to pass up. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is the way women get about designer handbags.

Now before you start to think I'm going to get all sexist on here, you need to know that I fully understand why women buy so many purses. I get that purses and shoes need to coordinate with outfits, and that it's hard to find just one thing that you can use in every situation. That being said, I've seen first hand the difference that takes place in a woman's eyes between the time spent sifting through the hanging racks at Dillard's and the held-breath staring through the window that happens when you walk past the Coach or Kate Spade store.

Or to put it another way -- this guitar I want costs about $700, which is just about how much it would cost to buy one of these:
Now does she need that purse? I mean, really, really need it?
..But does she want that purse?
Oh yeah, she does.
The difference I suppose is that in my experience when I've caught a woman looking longingly through a store window at a handbag that would normally be out of her regular pricerange, you can't get them to go into the store to look at it. I suppose the feeling is that it's hard to strap it on your shoulder if you know you can't easily afford it -- a thought that probably could be a lot easier to transfer to my guitar shopping habit than I'm willing to admit.

But if that's the case, it would mean that window shopping for guitars is my latte factor.
..And there's no way I'm giving that up.

[Listening to:    The Clash"Career Opportunities" ]