Ask Money

Beyonce’s surprise album and the personal finance of choice

Carmen Wong Ulrich Dec 17, 2013

I can find a money lesson in nearly anything.  Case in point, there is wisdom buried in the madness of coverage regarding Beyonce’s surprise-album-release.  A piece of feedback our blessed Mama Bey received on her Facebook page was a creative response from a fan – feedback that turned into an online sensation (language: NSFW or toddlers).  Looking beyond the well-parsed expletives and the vegan cupcakes, what caught my money-tuned eyes was this quote: “Do you realize how many people thought they were gonna buy a good ass lunch tomorrow but now have to forgo those plans … because you demanded everybody’s last coin?”

Yup, folks.  We make choices with our money.  And for some of the now nearly 1 million buyers of ‘Beyonce’, it’s between bringing the magic of Mrs. Sean Carter into their ears vs. eating more than Ramen for lunch.  Tough choices, and I sympathize.  If this happened when I was in my 20s, I’d be making the same choice. 

We talked about these daily spending decisions the other week on the show.  I was joined by a couple who talked about how the excuses we make when money is tight have a lot to do with how we choose to spend our money.  Afya Ibomu, wife of half the rap duo Dead Prez, a.k.a. Stic, noted that when it comes to people saying that healthy food costs too much:  “If you drink alcohol, if you smoke cigarettes, if you have more than basic cable, if your kids have video games, [if] you’re on name brands, if you can afford to do these things, you can afford to eat healthier. [I]t goes back to priorities.

That’s not to say that making those choices is easy.  There was an internet hullabaloo last month in response to the blogger KillerMartini who wrote about how she spent money on cigarettes even though she knew it wasn’t a good choice, for her health or her money.  When money is that tight, the stress alone makes it hard to make the right choices every single time.  I’ve been there; we’ve probably all been there.

But if we’re in a better position now, why are we still ‘there’?  If you have money now to get all your bills paid and you’re enjoying a fairly solid quality of life, why still bemoan your inability to afford the things that will give you true and real financial stability?  For example, you’re carrying credit card debt or have struggled building an emergency fund.  Are you really making the right choices day in and day out?  What have you done to set aside another $100 a month — what do you chose to spend your money on?

Our money choices start early.  I recently started my 7-year old on an allowance of $5 a week.  This weekend she asked me if I could buy her some “coins” for an app she was playing.  I told her sure, but it’s going to have to come out of your allowance.  It was $4.99.  “That’s all my allowance…” she mumbled.  Yup.  But would you rather have those coins for that one game or get two more games for $.99 each and save the rest of your money?  Her eyebrows went up: “I’m going to look for two more games … Then I’ll have two games and money left over!”  Of course, it’s all about enjoyment and personal return when it comes to choosing games, but my point was taken.  I wanted to teach her about choice and the power of thinking spending choices through.  Where do you get the most value for your money?  Are there other choices you could make that could save you money and help you reach goals?  Once a week, look at something you regularly buy and ask:  “Can I do this differently and for less?”

And for the record, “Beyonce” is slammin’.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.