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A group of family members recently went out for dinner.  We went to a local restaurant that we've frequented a few times because they have really good food and their prices are reasonable, with most items on the menu between $8 – $12 ranging from burgers to an entree.  Under the entree list, there's a note indicating that you can add a dinner salad for $1.49.  This is pretty reasonable considering the salad is very good and many places nowadays charge double or triple that.

My mother-in-law ordered something off the list of daily specials and she asked for a salad.  Her meal and the rest of ours were very good, as expected, but we were surprised when the bill came and her salad was listed at $2.99.  We pointed it out to the waitress.  She took the bill and when she came back, we expected it to be corrected, but instead she said: “$2.99 is the right price.  The $1.49 price is for entrees and specials are not considered entrees.  So, you have to pay for the regular price of the dinner salad.”

We paid, but we were very….confused.  There were five adults, and not a single one of us could understand how a special is not considered an entree.  It was unnecessarily complicated, so much that we could tell that the waitress and the manager were still talking about it ten minutes later as we left the restaurant (their sudden halt to the conversation as the waitress spotted us made it perfectly clear the topic of their discussion).

The cost of the item she selected was $14, so none of us could figure out why they would offer that reduced price for a salad on an entree that was $8 or $9, but wouldn't honor it for a more expensive item.

Don't complicate things.  I think this restaurant could have learned to keep things less complicated.  If a salad is offered for a dinner, then extend that to all dinner items.  Don't pick and choose, because it creates unnecessary confusion.

It ends up complicating your own life. I'm sure that the difference in price in the salad made sense to somebody at some point in time, but in the end, it just creates unnecessary confusion.  Look at the time spent by the manager and waitress discussing this.  Chances are, the waitress could have been doing something else to help other customers, and the manager could have been attending to other items.  Instead they both wasted time talking about this, so did they $1.50 really make it worthwhile in terms of the overall business?   Probably not.

We can learn from this. How many things do you do on a routine basis with your money or finances that are complicated?  How many things can you simplify?  Do you have multiple credit cards all offering the same type of rewards?  Why go through the hassle of managing each of these cards, having to spend the time to pay each of these cards, and increasing your risk of a late fee with every additional card you have?

Reduce your complications and improve elsewhere.  My guess is this price variation in the dinner salad isn't going to put them out of business.  It's not enough enough of a problem for us to stop going there (but now we know not to bother with a salad if it's a ‘special').  But, if they got rid of this unneeded and burdensome policy, they could focus their attention on making  a better customer service experience somewhere else.  Same goes with your finances.  If you close one credit card, the time you spend managing that could be applied somewhere else.  Chances are that's not a life changing amount of time, but it's been shown time and again that little things add up to big things.

Do the math.  The salad policy probably isn't the only little nitpicky thing that this restaurant does.  Maybe they could find four others. As I said above, maybe one little change isn't going to be a difference maker, but add up the positive benefits from five things, and you could suddenly be looking at a pretty big difference in how they run their restaurant.  Can't this apply to your personal finances as well?  What if you could streamline and improve five things?  Wouldn't that add up to some significant savings in terms of money, time or something else?

That something else is value.  Whatever it is you consider streamlining, the point of doing so is that it adds value somewhere else.  Going back to the restaurant example, what value were they really getting with tiered pricing for salads?  I'm no restauranteur, but I'm going to guess, probably not a heck of a lot.  Get rid of the things that aren't adding value, and figure out how to turn it into a value add.

Can you look at your finances or your life and find even one thing that you routinely do that doesn't add value?  What can you do to transform that into a net gain in your life?