#14: On navigating by feels

You can't convert feelings to a number

I sit in a cafe, the one I’ve been visiting every day for weeks now because of needing to be near the childcare centre, wondering if I’m doing a bad thing. Not terrible, but kind of bad.

I’m talking about spending close to 8 euros every morning in this cafe, when I could be having the equivalent for 3 euros or less if I made those things at home, opening my euros by almost threefolds. That adds up quickly.

When I spend money I think about my wife and daughter. My money is their money. And money, in my mind, is meant to bring us — as a family — security, mobility, access, and comfort. Certainly not for me to splurge!

Buying coffee and a ham and cheese croissant for 8 euros feels like a splurge, and I’ve been doing it for weeks now. I feel like such a man, in the manners in which society rightly characterises us — of tending to spend on ourselves and not on our family. I fully endorse non-profits preferring to extend microloans in poorer countries to women than to men.

Image: DALL-E 3

On the other hand… these foods nourish me. I hear the voice in my head saying, a dude’s gotta eat, or he’s not going to think and act straight! Plus, it’s my breakfast, that all-important pre-work brain food. Surely I deserve to eat?

In situations like these, I’ve learned with age (and privilege) to not think in mathematical terms. Yes, 8 euros is almost 3 times more than what I could have paid for the same thing. But how do you factor in the feeling of well-being that comes from buying a little something with the money you’ve earned?

Ramit Sethi and other personal financial gurus probably have a rule for this kind of thing. Don’t save on your cappuccinos; that’s penny-wise pounds-foolish!, I hear them exclaiming. But from what I can tell, we’re all just taking blind stabs at the piñata here. You’re never going to succeed in accurately parsing feelings into numbers.

In this way, like so many things, I’m left to navigate on my own. And these days, 30-something, I like to navigate by feeling - that misused word that when interrogated seems to mean, in this case, intuition.

Today, it feels like I can afford to pay more for the ancillary benefits of sitting in this cafe without jeopardising the security, mobility, access, and comfort of my wife and daughter. So I will come to this cafe again tomorrow. My intuition is that any more guilt and calculation will vaporise much of the intangible benefits, so I shall stop.

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