Monday, 4 February 2008

Frugal Tip: Forget the Garden

If a factory worker tells you he is trying to save money for retirement, and all of a sudden you see him driving a Ferrari, what would you think? If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sports car when you only need to spend $10,000 for a second-hand Camry, you can forget about early retirement. Depending on the cost of this sports car, they can probably forget retirement completely.

What if this worker told you that instead of buying a Ferrari F430 he is instead going to be frugal by buying something cheaper, and then the next day you see that he's traded in the Ferrari for a BMW M5? So instead of spending $250,000 for a car he spends $125,000, and he thinks he is saving money!

Since the M5 is cheaper than the F430, your factor worker friend is saving money, but he could do much better. My point is that simply buying something cheaper doesn't mean you're frugal.

The moral of that story leads me to the main point of this post. I have been reading on the Get Rich Slowly Blog about the January Update to the blogger's Garden Project. The guy tracks the costs of the seeds he uses for gardening. Country Taste seeds cost $2.75, Italian Sweet seed costs $3.75, and so on. While all this may seem cheap, it is the classic Latte Factor problem. According to David Bach, "The Latte Factor® is based on the simple idea that all you need to do to finish rich is to look at the small things you spend your money on every day and see whether you could redirect that spending to yourself. Putting aside as little as a few dollars a day for your future rather than spending it on little purchases such as lattes, fancy coffees, bottled water, fast food, cigarettes, magazines and so on, can really make a difference between accumulating wealth and living paycheck to paycheck."

Paying $1.25 for seeds may be better than paying $10.00 for seeds, but it is not better than paying nothing. This is analogous of the obvious idea that buying a $100,000 yacht is better than buying a $1 billion yacht, but it is not better than paying nothing.

If you are serious about saving money, the best thing to do is to simply forget the garden. Just let it die.

Of course, if you love your garden or love gardening too much or if you are eating from your garden, that's a different story. Growing plants may also be good for the environment.

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