We have been pretty careful with money since I decided to retire early back in 2014. Ever since, every time we get tempted to buy something, we think twice to see if it is really worth it. Not whether the object is worth the price, but whether we really need it. By practicing this kind of thinking we were able to limit our spend considerably and increase our savings. The twin effect of spending less and saving more helped us to retire early. But these habits compound over time just like money. Now, everything feels like it is probably not worth the money. The only real kind of expense we feel that is worth is the ones we spend on experiences, not objects.
If I look back at my past few spending, it feels like the narrative has been more on the side of experiences. But that did not happen easy. Not before I had to wrestle with the thoughts of saving instead of spending. For example, when we were planning to buy a car, my mind was just pulling me to buy an Alto because it is the cheapest reliable car that I could think of. Not that I don’t have enough to splurge on a good car. The mindset has been so fixed on spending less. I had to force myself to spend more and get the almost twice as expensive car.
That was one of those times, I had to get myself to see beyond the sticker price and think about the experience. Of course one should not buy the best car that money can buy. It has to be within the budget too. In my case, although I had a higher budget allocated for the car, I was trying to save as much as I can. It is not like if I buy a cheaper car I would repent. I will get used to it. Everyone does and it becomes the new baseline. Once you go up to the next level, going back to a lower lifestyle is difficult. Since i was already driving an Alto, if the new car happens to be another Alto (but a newer one), then the baseline does not go up by much so it is a safe bet. Yet, I had to think about the experience and how easy it would make some of the travel if I went for a car with my requirements.
The same thing happened when my phone started giving problems. It was already 3 years since I purchased it and I have a budget for it too. According to my budget I am allowed to buy a new phone every 3 years. I don’t buy expensive one, so I can afford to buy new phones so frequently. The reason I prefer buying some things frequently is because the technology changes too quickly in them. Anyway, going back to the point, if I have the budget. then what is the problem in buying a new phone? Well it is the saving mindset that is so ingrained in my head. I am unable to get myself to spend even when the numbers show I can.
Well, one can argue that instead of buying a new phone and creating more e-waste, one should cling on to the old one as long as possible. And that is a very good argument too. Which is why these decisions are so hard to make. It is not always about the money or the budget, but it is also about sustainable living. And then there is the fun factor if you can repair things yourself. On the other hand, having a new phone improves the experience and unlocks new possibilities like tap and go if you have NFC on the phone. I can keep on arguing on both sides and there is never a one right or wrong answer sadly.
Another time I was stuck in this loop of spending vs saving is when I was supposed to travel. On the one hand I can take a bus (no train tickets were available at the time) or I can travel by flight. Now, should I pamper myself and have a good experience taking a flight or should I take the bus and go on a rough ride? Remember that the bus ride is over night, so I am not really saving any time by taking the morning flight. It is not like I am going to work in the night and thus a flight would save me time.
Eventually I gave in and went for the flight at twice the cost because I felt the experience was worth the price. Again, I could do this because I have enough to be able to able to spend one way or the other. But I don’t have so much that I can travel first class (if that was available). For some, the cost of flight may be prohibitively expensive and they may not have this choice to even think about. In that sense, I am eternally grateful to many things that happened in my life.
You see, money is meant to be spend and I have to force myself to spend. There is no point saving all the money and never be able to spend. That is one of the primary reasons I was able to quit when I did. If I kept on saving and investing, I would be having a ton of money by the time I retire at 60. Then again what is the point of all the money if I cannot enjoy at that age?
On the flip side, the YOLO (you only live once) heads like to spend and enjoy all the time. There is nothing wrong with that thinking process either. You work hard, enjoy spending the money now but then have no free time. I prefer the other style which is to enjoy time now , but cannot spend much all the while not having to work. It is like the pick two from three choices conundrum. You have the choice of time, freedom and money, but you can only pick two :).
I don’t know the point of this post, but I guess all I wanted to say is that people like me have to remember to enjoy spending money when it makes sense. Don’t be saving so much that I end up leaving money after I die losing the opportunity to spend and enjoy when I was alive. Be frugal but not cheap. And for the other kind of people, it is that they should not get used to spending so much that it becomes their new baseline and they cannot live with anything less because one day you might have to live on less. You should not exchange you health for money and fun.