Money Well-Wasted

Caitlin Roberson

MOST MONEY conversations, especially with financial advisors, orbit around the concept of increasing dollars.

When is it best to buy stocks? Answer: in a down economy. Reallocate money from bonds.

When is it best to buy bonds? Answer: in a thriving economy. Reallocate money from stocks.

When is it best to save? The answer invariably seems to be: always.

On the one hand, I embrace this concept. A chronic self-tither, I consistently give 10% of my income to savings and sometimes more. On the other hand, despite—or perhaps because of—the habit I just described, I also recognize over-savers can take things too far, robbing themselves of the fulfillment and joy that spending brings.

There’s nothing wrong with spending money—as long as it’s spent on things that deliver plenty of happiness. Research shows we enjoy experiences over things. We most cherish time with friends and family, and also activities where we are in “flow”—those moments when we’re completely absorbed by work or hobbies that we’re passionate about. I recommend 10% Happier for those interested in more on this topic.

For me, such “non-necessary items” include awesome coffee, fancy dinners (preferably with good champagne), pedicures with my girlfriends, personal training, deep tissue massage, life coaching and therapy. All are things I value because they generally involve people I love or they support hobbies where I feel in flow.

I derive no greater joy than when investing in the nutrients on my plate, whether at farmers’ markets or over dinner deserving of a sixth star. As an artist, I thrill at the hue of egg yolks from pasture-raised hens, ruby beets, eggplant purples and the verdant green of rough-chopped beans. As a friend and lover, I feel rich sharing rich nutrients with people I love. As an entrepreneur, I value investing in my body and brain.

I first learned the value of diet when researching ways to reduce crippling anxiety—the kind that prevented focus and sleep—while running my first agency. I was dumbfounded when I learned my “uber-healthy diet” was a major culprit for chronic stress. If we eat crazy chemicals, we feel crazy. If we eat wholesome foods, we feel whole. I’m confident some of my ahas can help you, too:

  • Most “health food” ingredients are chock-full of chemicals. Simple rule of thumb: Avoid boxes and wrappers.
  • Low-fat diets limit creativity and happiness. Optimal brain function requires that one-third to half of calories come from fat.
  • It’s easy to ruin “good fat.” Olive oil goes bad when heated. Instead, cook with fats that are solid at room temperature, like coconut oil, ghee or duck fat.
  • We get depressed when we don’t eat enough complex carbs. (They metabolize as happiness-producing chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin.) Our bodies absorb the most nutrients from sprouted, organic grains.
  • When it comes to meat, the current FDA definition for “organic” is extremely loose. The wrong meats can make our bodies hotbeds for disease. Purchase grass-fed meats, free range chicken and wild caught fish.

For me, eating good food thrills my taste buds, while positioning me to be my best self. The experience is also a reminder that I live the life I choose, that I’m always in control.

Since good food can be insanely expensive, especially grass-fed meats, here are a few cost-effective solutions I’ve found that you might find useful, too:

  • One in five fruits and veggies don’t meet most stores’ cosmetic standards. Imperfect Produce delivers food to consumers that grocery chains consider too ugly to sell—at 30% to 50% below the normal cost.
  • Most grocery store prices are high because they’re effectively the middleman between food producers and consumers. Businesses like Thrive Market eliminate middleman costs and offer healthy, organic food at wholesale prices, generally 25% to 50% below retail.

Caitlin Roberson, author of 30 Ways to Happy, lives and works in Silicon Valley, where she helps top tech executives change the world through business storytelling. Her previous blog was Self-Tithing. Caitlin obsessively lifts weights and attends hip-hop classes, so she can tithe in Napa, guilt-free. Follow her on Instagram @CRobRobber.

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