When I first started off in personal finance a good 10+ years ago… I used to be so obsessed.
I see it now, in other newer personal finance bloggers. They have the same zealous fervour in their eyes to eliminate that huge mountain of debt, mortgage, whatever, and to climb out of the financial hole they are in.
I used to do everything they did – count my pennies obsessively (and although we no longer have pennies in Canada, but I will say that I still like keeping detailed notes on what I spend mostly for statistical reasons and out of curiousity how my lifestyle has been inflated), look for ways to sell things (still sort of do it now, but not as crazily), and how best to be as cheap as possible.
I chose options just solely based on price.
I didn’t consider that cotton swabs with paper batons would be more eco-friendly than plastic ones that could end up in the ocean, choking baby animals. I just saw that they were $1 cheaper, so I bought them.
I didn’t see that buying food that was fresh and healthy, looking at the quality of the food, rather than canned goods or things that were as cheap as possible, was a better option in the long-run for my body, than to try and keep my hunger at bay by stuffing cheap junk into it.
I was truly focused on eliminating every penny of that $60,000 debt and I did not really care to see how it would affect me, those around me, and the world as a whole.
I kept that “focus” on hoarding my money all the way even past being debt-free.
I loosened up on the reins on the money and allowed myself to buy new pants rather than stapling in the waists.
I started to spend more money, and I traveled for a year, taking time off to just see the world and enjoy different countries and cultures.
…and somewhere along the way, I started to change even more.
I stopped looking at the price tag of a cute skirt, and wondering if $30 was too much for it, and looking at the skirt itself, the fabric (not polyester), the fit, and whether or not I’d wear it more than a few times.
I started shopping more secondhand, buying much higher quality garments than I could have imagined I could have afforded, and being able to spend money on luxury goods because they looked better, fit better and felt better on my body.
I was willing to increase my spending on USED CLOTHING (not new), buying less than if I shopped mainstream fast fashion at retail prices, because I looked past what it represented and saw it for what it was – a quality garment that would always look impeccable (this is especially true for coats; a cheap Zara coat no matter how cute it looks the first few times will not hold up over time especially at the shoulders), but a Dolce & Gabbana jacket for that same $100 but used, would last as a classic piece for decades, specifically this one, which is still retailing!
The biggest change of all, has to have been a couple of years ago, when I finally asked myself what all the money was for, if I was going to basically feel like I was punishing myself for wanting a nice, luxury car, and to be moderately unhappy with yet another crappy, used minivan.
What was all of my money for?
I was stumped. I couldn’t figure out what, if any goals I had, for all of this money beyond saving it for in case I would need it, and when I planned on stopping work (if I wanted to stop, in the first place!).
I didn’t really want to live a life where I drove a secondhand car that could inevitably conk out in the middle of a sub-zero winter with my child in the back, just because it was $10,000 and the cheapest I could drive.
I have a neighbour (yeah the same one here) who before knowing what car I got, waxed on and on about how it was SOOOOOO wasteful to buy a new car, and how her husband would NEVER waste money like that even though he has SOOOO much money saved in the bank.
I park my new, massive car, don’t say anything and then watch as her 6’4″ husband tries to squeeze himself into the tiny little secondhand car they bought and use constantly because it is cheaper than their SUV, and wonder what the point of it all was.
What’s the point of all this money if you are going to sit as a super tall guy in a tiny car, feeling cramped, when you have SOOOOO much money in the bank? Buy something you’re comfortable in — you’re driving it every day, for heaven’s sake, and you’re always stuck in traffic and roadworks!!!
So what if it is more expensive to buy a bigger car? You have the money – USE IT and ENJOY IT, or your children will.
I didn’t really want to live a life where I was so frugal, that I was saving all this money only to use it to live, in my old age, finding it difficult to get up out of bed and to walk, wishing I had taken more time in my younger years to relax and not be so driven towards money.
Aside from buying the house in cash, and then my new car, I did not have any other major goals to save for, except for Little Bun (but let’s face it, he is saving his own money given to us by the government for having him), and my retirement so I will not be a burden.
My change in attitude was because of these 3 main things:
- I became a parent. You start to realize that life isn’t just you any more, and money can be used to “buy back” some of that time.
- I was turned off by the extremists in the FIRE movement. What’s the point of having millions stashed away when you’re eating dented canned food on sale in a store? What’s the point? Are you living a quality life with all of this money? People with less money, live better.
- I stopped money shaming myself. It is hard to let go of that mentality that luxury is an non-essential, and any money I spend on something just because it is nicer, is a shameful, terrible waste of money when something basic could substitute for it just fine.
All of that personal finance community, FIRE (RAH RAH) guilt and shame in wanting to have nice things, drive a nice car, and do special things, even if it means spending a “ridiculous” amount of money ($800) on this hair styling tool, just because I want it so I’ll never have a bad hair day again.
I don’t need to make their priorities my priorities.
If they want to do all of those things, and save up millions to start an educational foundation in their name so that they can “live on for all eternity”, all the more power to them. It is their lives and families. (I do wish that they would consider the eco-friendly option in purchases though, that really does affect us all)..
And with my money, and my life, I can do exactly what I want and not feel bad about it because I am not being the BESTEST MONEY SAVER out there.
I no longer care to guilt or shame myself into driving crappy cars I hated to sit in and drive, because I allowed myself to mentally afford that nice car, which I now very much enjoy driving (something I never thought I’d ever say).
Life is not just an end goal of lots of money.
Sure, lots of money would be great, I wouldn’t say no to a $2 million dollar cheque, but living for the sole purpose of saving money to lord your net worth over someone else, is not living.