It is hard to set money aside for your future. Damn hard.
Especially when you are surrounded by people who spend money like it never runs out.
I hated being the one saying I couldn’t do something because I didn’t have the money. Really I had the money but I didn’t have the budget. So then I started saying those things weren’t in my budget.
But it got easier–people got used to us being more frugal and adjusted to it or they sort of slipped out of our lives.
Expensive dinners at fancy restaurants turned into a rotation of fabulous meals at our homes. Trust me, there’s no suffering here–our friends are some fabulous cooks!
Going shopping turned into going for a hike.
Weekend getaways turned into weekend camping trips.
Milestone birthday celebrations went from a private, crewed boat in the British Virgin Islands (seriously–it was amazing) to a VRBO home in Mexico (also amazing).
It became Ok in my social circle to not do something because we couldn’t swing it financially. When my BFF told me she couldn’t come on a trip because they had just bought a car, I was thankful. Thankful we could be real and make decisions that served us rather than feel pressure to just go along.
We can afford anything but not everything (credit Paula Pant at AffordAnything.com for the best tag line ever). We each need to decide what is important for us to spend our money on but we also need to decide what is not important and skip those things.
I’ve been making decisions to benefit my future for decades but have surprisingly few regrets.
Missing my Dad’s retirement party because I needed to be at work the next morning is the biggest. The job that helped pay for my education and laid the foundation for my great life and I couldn’t miss a couple hours of work to celebrate with him and his friends. It’s been over 15 years and I still can’t let it go (takes deep breath, recites “wrap it in a bubble and let it blow away” . . . ). Darn, still carrying that one–sorry Dad, really, really, sorry.
I missed some destination weddings but none of the participants are still in my inner circle and many of them are no longer married.
Looking back, very few of the things that seemed so important at the time remain important.
Think about your decisions in terms of how they will make you feel in five minutes, five months and five years. Saving for your future and creating financial stability for yourself (and your family) will make you feel great in five years. Compare that feeling to the purchase you’re considering . . . the purchase probably doesn’t win.
We need to eek out a bit of savings each week because it adds up. $100 saved per week becomes $5,200 saved each year. Invested, that becomes $191,000 in 20 years!
The important/not important things will be different for each of us but here are a few of mine:
For me, coffee is important–I love my vanilla lattes. But going out for coffee is not important. I buy a $5 latte only when we travel or am forced to by another human who buys $5 lattes (a coffee date). We bought a cappuccino machine and with Costco coffee beans we’re in business.
Food is important. I buy organic meat, dairy and vegies on the dirty dozen list. My fish is typically wild caught. I know I have to die of something (Mr. Ms. Liz’s line) but I hope to not die from something I ate. My health is my most important asset. But much of that food is from Costco.
Find an easy and fancy meal you can make yourself. For us, it is steaks, crab legs and mashed potatoes. When we invite friends over for this meal, they are blown away. And it’s way less expensive than going out for a nice dinner in the resort community we call home.
If you have a favorite restaurant meal, learn how to make it. Or, better yet, convince your partner they should learn. Mr. Ms. Liz makes the best sushi. Because, while sushi is expensive, sushi ingredients are not. Then teach your friends how to make it too–drinking sake with a girlfriend while our husband’s make us sushi are among my best memories.
When I worked, I didn’t go out to lunch more than once a week (unless the company was buying–darn I miss that!). My go to take out meal provided lunch for two days.
One of my pet peeves is people who pay to exercise and then pay someone to mow their lawn. Mowing your lawn is exercise people! We mow our own lawn. We also clean our own house, wash our own cars, plant our own trees etc.
We do most of our own home improvements. I’m fortunate that Mr. Ms. Liz is super handy and enjoys working on the house. He is able to fix most things that need fixing. He’s a great painter, tile setter, and wood craftsman. I’m sitting in a kitchen right now that he took down to concrete and remodeled. It is beautiful.
We research the crap out of large purchases and rarely pay full retail price for anything.
Our favorite activities are free or almost free. Hiking, biking, pickleball, and cards are virtually free once you have the equipment. With a bit of gas money, you’re good to go. I justify expensive purchases like my mountain bike by dividing it by the 10 years I will ride it and thinking of the good health it will create.
When I’m running errands, I have a thermos water bottle and some fig bars in my car. I never have to pop in to a convenience store or restaurant for a little snack.
When we are traveling, we carry our lunch supplies and a gallon of filtered tap water from home. We’ve made pb&j’s in some beautiful places. Keep a few water bottles in your freezer and make it super easy to take a cooler with snacks or lunch. This saves us money and time on the road.
We don’t leave lights on in rooms we are not in–saving money and the environment.
Speaking of saving money and the environment, we keep our home a bit cool in the winter and a bit warm in the summer. It’s hitting 95 in our desert locale this week and we have not turned on the AC. I open the windows at dawn and dusk and close them up mid-day. It’s been a bit uncomfortable on a couple days but I can jump into our community’s pool or take a cool shower if I get miserable.
Little choices–saving small amounts of money each week that allowed us to create a life I couldn’t even dream of when I was starting my career.
Think about your dream life and start making the little decisions that will help you get there!
Need some help figuring out that dream? Take an hour and craft your mission statement–JD Roth will get you going.