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May 13, 2022
What do buses, lentils, and pet chemotherapy have in common?
They’re the subject of Teresa Ghilarducci’s Bloomberg Opinion take on areas to fight inflation. Does your pet have cancer? Ghilarducci advocates ditching chemotherapy. Beef eater? She recommends switching to lentils. Need a car to get to work? No matter: Ghilarducci recommends you consider selling it and taking the bus.
This is bad advice, and it reveals a fundamental problem in how we talk about inflation, spending, and our sense of control.
Let’s address foregoing chemotherapy for your pet (or, more broadly, any significant medical expense, as chemotherapy for pets is ethically debated). Pets can provide a measure of joy, comfort, and love that transcend financial cost. The thought of our pets developing cancer immediately brings us to a Sophie’s Choice scenario.
If you want to think of places to cut back in spending, don’t start with the worst-case scenario! There are plenty of valid ways to reduce spending on pets without turning it into a life-or-death scenario. Worried about dental costs? While your dog may not love having their teeth brushed from time-to-time, the reaction is hilarious enough to justify the minor inconvenience. Moreover, interacting with your pet closely can help identify minor problems before they become major ones.
However, the most important part is reframing how we reduce these expenses. It’s not about imagining how everything goes wrong; it’s about building a closer relationship with your pet and caring for their health. Avoiding expensive pet care is an ancillary benefit.
Lentils are a healthy and versatile staple food. Incorporating lentils into your diet may be sound advice, but completely changing your dietary habits overnight is a recipe for failure. The premise of giving up beef for lentils lends itself to a mindset of deprivation. Beef becomes a forbidden luxury and lentils are a necessary sacrifice. This logic is the same reason people often fail at extreme diets, and why subtle changes are often more sustainable.
You should eat lentils as part of a healthy diet and because it makes a delicious dal, not as part of a one-hundred-eighty-degree food overhaul to save money. Switching in lentils for meat one day a week can be a time to focus on your health and to give yourself a pat on the back for reducing your carbon footprint. Doesn’t it sound better to save money by focusing on your health and reducing your environmental impact?
Taking public transportation has a much smaller environmental impact than driving. I personally take public transportation because it’s convenient for me. However, compared to other countries, America’s infrastructure is car-centric. For many people, it’s simply not feasible to take public transportation. While it is true that selling your car and riding the bus would reduce costs, is it practical? Chances are, you own a car because you’ve already assessed the feasibility of public transportation and determined that it doesn’t make sense for your day-to-day life.
Instead of selling your car, take the train to your next Giants game. It’s a more enjoyable experience and you save the parking fees to purchase more Gilroy garlic fries and Ghiradelli sundaes. Taking the bus for me isn’t a sacrifice; it’s about making my life more convenient, with a side benefit of feeling climate-positive.
We struggle when we feel as though we’re not in control of our own destiny. The last few years have been dominated by historic events beyond the control of any individual. It’s reasonable to view the world as things “happening” to us and having to react accordingly. Yet by focusing on the things that are within our control, we can change the conversation. Fighting inflation shouldn’t be about sacrifice, it could be about making new choices. About reducing carbon footprints. Loving our pets. It so happens that those have the positive side-effect of reducing expenses.
Life is a lot easier when you turn decisions into win-wins. Like garlic fries and a hot fudge sundae.
If you have questions or concerns about how rising inflation impacts your financial plan or retirement, contact us to discuss in more personalized detail.
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Finance and Systems Administrator