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In general, we seem to have a tendency to focus a lot of our time and money on the things that don’t really matter. It’s time to stop it and instead concentrate on what does matter…
So far this summer we’ve taken a fantastic trip to Panama and spent a few days at a cottage on Kelleys Island on Lake Erie. We’re starting to pack for a week-long vacation trip to Tennessee we have coming up in the next couple of weeks.
I’m also going on a backpacking weekend in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania in September. And, of course, I’m more than excited about my first trip to FinCon in Dallas in October. In the meantime, we’re trying to fit in a camping weekend with some friends, but we’re struggling to find room to fit it in (woe is me!).
Am I trying to rub it in that we’re having tons of fun? Not at all.
If you’re in a position where you think you need to be rich to take regular vacations and trips, I want you to know that this is definitely not the case. I make a pretty good income, but nothing extraordinary. Mrs. R2R works part-time at a non-profit job she enjoys, but she’s really not bringing in a whole lot of dough.
And guess what? We’re still saving around 35% of our income.
With as much as we want to save every penny we can to reach financial independence, we’ve learned that we need to make sure that we don’t forget to enjoy the present as well.
So how is it possible to have so much fun, but still save a solid portion of our income?
Um, it’s easy – we don’t buy crap.
Spending your money on useless garbage is an easy way to ruin any person’s finances. If you’re keeping up with the Joneses or buying “stuff”, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation.
The first problem is that you’re going to find yourself behind the eight ball and have a hard time reaching financial independence because you’re wasting your money on stuff you don’t need.
The second problem is that you’re likely not going to be any happier. In 2014, Thomas Gilovich published the results of a study that showed that “experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having).”
In other words, you’ll be happier doing fun things than you will be buying crap.
Spending your money on frivolous “stuff” won’t make you happy, so stop it!
If you can dig yourself out of the problems that all this junk brings with it, you’ll have an opportunity to build up your future savings and spend your present day making memories instead.
So what are some of the traps that can lock you in and keep you from enjoying your life? Here are a few examples…
Too much house
This is easily the most detrimental weight you can have on your personal finances. Having too large of a house payment can crush you. Don’t let the banks tell you how much house you can afford because they’re going to give you a number that’s probably too high for you.
Instead, figure out a number that’s much better suited for you. And realize that the smaller the number, the sooner you can reach financial independence.
This was one area in which we didn’t excel. We bought a really nice, 4-bedroom house in a very friendly suburban development at the end of 2008. I love the area and I love the house. We were also able to refinance it a few years after we bought it for a 15-year loan at a low 2.875%… fantastic.
Here’s the issue though… it’s more house than we need.
We would be better suited to have a 3-bedroom house in an area with a little more flexibility (our housing development won’t even let us put up a shed!). Having the bigger house also means we have more to clean, maintain, and repair. We’re working to get the house paid off sooner than later, but we’re actually considering downsizing to help us reach FI even sooner.
Ah, who doesn’t love the new car smell and the idea of a brand new automobile?
New cars are great – oh, yeah… except for that cost part of the purchase. You’re either laying out a huge chunk of dough or putting yourself in debt with a perpetual payment that Edmund’s says is creeping up past an average of six-and-a-half years!
And the worst part is that these loans are for depreciating assets. Why take a loan out on something that is going to be worth much less the moment you drive it off the lot?!
I used to be a new car guy. I never even questioned it. Every 5 years or so, I’d go out, trade my car in and buy a new one… that is, until I made my last new car purchase in 2009.
A couple years after I bought that car, I suddenly realized what a waste of money the past few new cars were. My awakening seemed to happen around the same time as Mrs. R2R’s.
Both cars have been paid off for a number of years and we’ve both decided to run our current vehicles until they die (mine’s a 2009 Malibu and hers is a 2011 Escape). Once that happens, we’re going to buy used.
Stop wasting your hard-earned money on cars. Think about how freeing it would be without that stupid car payment every month!
Either you or someone you know is paying a ridiculous amount every month for cable, Internet, and maybe even a home phone. This has gotten beyond ridiculous. The costs are no longer palatable and a lot of us are starting to cut the cord.
If you’re not one of those people who has made that switch, it might be time to rethink it. There are so many options now that you should be able to find what works for you. A great place to start is Untangle.TV – it’s a free service with no registration needed and it can help you save some good money.
We were one of the early people to jump ship on the expensive cable bills (around 2010) and have been using a Home Theater PC (HTPC) since that time. It’s a great setup and has worked well for us. I’ll try to write about that in a later post.
Our bill is now $62 out-the-door for Internet. That’s it. Moreover, we don’t feel like we’re missing anything by not shelling out the $100-$200 per month that others are paying.
Expensive cell phone plans
As I worked to trim the fat, one of the areas that I found that made sense was to scale back on the expensive cell phone plans, which also have a tendency to get out-of-hand.
We’ve always been on the Verizon network because it’s always provided the best coverage in our area. But the cost was starting to get a little crazy.
Earlier this year, we switched over to Total Wireless and haven’t looked back. It’s a pre-paid cell company (run by the reliable TracFone Wireless) and they lease the lines from Verizon.
In other words, we’re still on the Verizon network, but now we’re not paying the daunting prices that you get from Verizon. Nothing has changed for us except we now have a lower cost and more data.
Our bill is now $62.11 (taxes included) for unlimited talk, texting, and a shared 8 GB of data. We even got to keep using our Verizon phones instead of needing to purchase new ones!
Expensive clothes and haircuts
Maybe this is an area that might drum up a little controversy, but unless you’re a model, who the #$% cares if your clothes are out of style? I’m still wearing clothes from 10-15 years ago because they still do their job.
Periodically, the clothes get a hole in ’em and I send them off to an early grave or charity. And maybe once or twice a year, I’ll pick up a new shirt or pants at Walmart or Kohl’s, but that’s about it.
Why in the heck would I do that? Because it doesn’t matter.
If you notice, a lot of older people tend to stop caring as much about always buying new clothes. The reason is that they finally figured it out… it doesn’t matter.
And the sooner each of us figures that out, the more money you can bankroll for more important things – your future and the fun experiences you should be having. Maybe you don’t have to be as cheap as me on clothes, but there’s no reason we all need to be fashion models either.
On that same note, it doesn’t make sense to pay big bucks for a haircut when it’s going to grow back in a few weeks. I push it to the extreme and cut my own hair (thanks to my brother for getting me on that page!), but that might be a jaw-dropper for a lot of the ladies out there to even consider. For you, skip the fancy overpriced salon and go to Great Clips or something along those lines… you’ll save a fortune over the course of a year.
So getting back to my point, our family continues to have so much fun because we’ve learned to live a simpler lifestyle without feeling like we’re missing out on anything. Even though we’re taking trip after trip, we’re still socking away tons of money because we don’t have the noose around our neck.
If you feel like you’re not having as much fun as you should be, it might be time to just stop it and review your finances. Get rid of the crap, simplify, and focus on what’s really important instead – it’s time to put yourself in a position to be happy!
Have you figured out how to “stop it” and focus on experiences more than buying useless stuff?
Thanks for reading!!