It revolved around pizza.
First some background:
For many years now, we have ordered pizza from our local grocery store pizza shop almost every Friday night. It is a nice way to end the week, and the Friday night special price is a very good one - $12 for a huge party pizza that can feed a family of 6 - including 4 with teenage appetites - or $7 for a NY style pizza that feeds the 3 of us still at home, with leftovers for 1 person to have lunch the next day.
That’s without toppings, of course. The price goes up quite a bit for every topping you add. And at this stage of our lives, we often do indulge ourselves. But even with the extra cost, this pizza is certainly among the most economical take-out meals we can have in our neck of the woods.
And I also like the fact that the grocery store uses part-skim mozzarella for their pizza, so it is not swimming in grease the way a lot of pizza does.
But back to the conversation with my son.
Like many young people today, he has become accustomed to the unlimited choice in food that college cafeterias offer in this day and age. Many, if not most, universities present a real smorgasbord or all-you-can-eat buffet to the students at every single meal.
Suffice it to say that after all that choice at school, the simple fare we eat at home sometimes doesn’t quite meet my son’s expectations. He prefers, for example, the much more expensive, gourmet-style pizza sold at two local pizzerias in our town. And he said as much the other day.
“I’d rather spend a bit more and get a ‘really good’ pizza’ if I’m going to have it,” were his exact words.
I should mention that the pizza he prefers costs about twice as much as the one we buy each week, and yet yields fewer servings.
I responded by saying that’s perfectly fine if that’s how he chooses to spend his money, and we’d be very happy to accept the more expensive pizza if he was treating and paying.
However, if I’m paying, I went on to explain, then I have very different priorities for how I choose to spend my husband’s and my hard-earned dollars.
I can think of a whole host of other things we could do with $520+ per year in extra costs that ordering his pizza every week would entail.
Things that would have much more meaning for us than "gourmet" pizza that I’m hardly likely to even remember the day after I eat it.
My son went silent. The look on his face immediately told me that he'd never considered this cumulative cost of his pizza choice before. That “bit more” he mentioned earlier had suddenly ballooned to $520 and now represented real money that wasn't nearly so insignificant.
"I never thought of it that way," he said, wonderingly, and then repeated himself. "Wow, I can't believe it, but I never thought of it that way."
The fact is that we make countless, mindless, small-money decisions over the course of our daily lives and routines that collectively can add up to significant dollar amounts – sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars over the years.
And it often happens without our realizing it or taking any real enjoyment from whatever it is we've spent the money on -- if we can even remember it at all.
It’s far more advisable to calculate and be aware of the total cost of our purchasing habits. $10-$20 here and there may not seem like much, but when it's a habit and occurs regularly over a period of time, it’s often a different story altogether.
Particularly when we weigh how long we need to work to pay for those items. Then the actual price becomes evident.
Being constantly mindful of that real cost can help us avoid spending our money on things that don’t matter, and saving it for things that do.
That’s a big step in the right direction.