Bring it to Barb

Barb Rock

Dear Barb,

It seems so many people are wasteful now. Is this a trend? Is it trendy to buy expensive, cushiony toilet paper, special premium coffee or the name brand of an item? I have a friend who complains that they have no money or live paycheck to paycheck with little left over. In this day of the economy seeming better, yet our checkbook doesn’t necessarily reflect it, how can anyone not recognize that buying the best or eating out too often will only make finances worse? What is your perspective on this?




Dear Mystified,

You are spot on with your observation of our buying habits and it is closely attached to an individual’s self-worth. When the television commercials appeal to you by stating, “Aren’t you worth it?,” most people would reply, “Yes, I am,” but you have been hooked. The subliminal message clearly creates guilt that if you spend less, you MUST think less of yourself. It simply is not true. But to the naïve, that is how the giants sell products and make lots of money.

The problem with buying the best because you feel you are worth it means it never ends. It is very deceptive marketing by connecting our personal value with cost.

We may think that we deserve a sports car, but we drive a mini van or SUV because that is what we can financially make work for our lifestyle. You could drive a fancy sports car, but an adjustment in other areas must accommodate that financial decision.

Most only think of financial necessities that need to be watched, as the big-ticket items such as cars, furniture, vacations, entertainment and play toys. Truth is, if you pay attention to the small, everyday purchases of items such as; toilet paper, coffee, lawn seed and the cost of auto insurance, Starbucks, breakfast every morning, water and electricity usage and become more resourceful, you would surprisingly live within your budget and not live paycheck to paycheck.

An example to my point would be when you get a raise at work. Do you see the extra $100 left over each month from your raise and, equally, $1,200 in the first year? Probably not! Why? We live on auto-pilot. We splurge because we say to ourselves, “I am worth it,” and the raise gets absorbed, justifying it as our value, which has costs.

But maybe we should be singing to ourselves a song by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need!”

We buy Charmin toilet paper because it is the softest (so they tell us on the commercial). If it cost $12 for a bundle of Charmin and the same off-brand for $6, you would have $6 left over to buy a multipurpose pressure sprayer for weeds that you will use for the next 10-plus years, whereas the Charmin is gone in no time! Directing your money differently is the key.

It is never just one or two things that sabotage our financial woes. It is about many things that impact our life. It may seem harmless to leave lights on all day or heat up while you are at work or not research a cheaper auto insurance company, but it’s the little things that matter and add up quickly.

People can worry about a few pennies extra at the gas pump, yet drive thru McDonalds spending $20 (because they deserve a break today) or every weekend out at the Tavern spending just $40. It is painful to do the math, but those two weekly items alone in one month equal $220. Who couldn’t use an extra $220?

When someone complains about money issues, of which they are doing nothing to change, it is just complaining. Let them complain, but ignore them. A component to correct the course must be altered or everything remains the same.

Wastefulness and mindlessly living are the new trends but it will come with a cost. When your life goes into the ditch while trying to prove or justify that “you are worth it” and living paycheck to paycheck, most find resourcefulness and forethought a better trend. Just do the math!

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at



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