Coffee Break

Adam M. Grossman

“THERE ARE TWO kinds of people in the world…” There are Republicans and Democrats. Right-brained and left-brained. Yankees fans and Red Sox fans. And, of course, Starbucks people and Dunkin’ Donuts people.

In Boston, where Dunkin’ was founded and where I live, this is a particularly strong theme. Dunkin’ people and Starbucks people see themselves as very different. Starbucks aficionados see it as a higher-quality experience and don’t mind paying for it. Meanwhile, Dunkin’ fans are proud of their frugality and think that the people over at Starbucks are overpaying.

The reality, though, is that you don’t need to categorize yourself so rigidly. You don’t have to be either a frugal spender or a spendthrift. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s okay to have a little bit of Dunkin’ in you and a little bit of Starbucks. Or, to put it another way, it’s okay to be frugal in certain situations and a big spender in other situations. That doesn’t make you inconsistent or a hypocrite. I think it actually makes you very practical.

How do you balance the two? Let your priorities dictate. Spend a lot on the things you love, but ruthlessly economize on everything that’s less important. For example, my old college roommate is a Dunkin’ kind of guy in almost every way, but he will gladly pay up for business class when he flies. That’s what’s important to him, so he forks over the extra—and I think it makes tons of sense.

Similarly, if you’re a Starbucks kind of person most of the time, don’t feel that you need to overpay at every turn. Buy the store brand or choose a more downscale option when it comes to things that just aren’t that important to you.

As we look ahead to the summer, and hopefully some vacation time, keep this in mind. Don’t box yourself into a particular self-image or, worse yet, someone else’s image of you. Instead, make practical choices based on what you care about. My advice: Think hard about your spending, both major expenditures and day-to-day expenses. Which purchases bring you the most pleasure? That’s where you should focus your dollars.

Adam M. Grossman’s previous articles include In the CardsYou—But Better and Happily Misbehaving. Adam is the founder of Mayport Wealth Management, a fixed-fee financial planning firm in Boston. He’s an advocate of evidence-based investing and is on a mission to lower the cost of investment advice for consumers. Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamMGrossman.

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