When it comes to saving money, lifestyle creep is the ENEMY!
The most important piece of advice I received when I was starting out in my career was “Don’t allow your lifestyle to rise as quickly as your pay increases.” I was able to retire at 32 because I am still living a lifestyle quite similar to the one I had when I was 22-and I do not feel deprived or like I am missing out in any way...
There is a phenomenon called hedonistic adaptation that we need to be aware of when we consider upgrading our lifestyles. If you’ve always made your own coffee, but find it to be an annoying task, buying yourself coffee made by someone else feels like a treat when you do it occasionally. Change your routine so you can buy yourself a premade coffee every day and eventually, the specialness of not having to make your own coffee wears off and it’s just a new routine that you are accustomed to. If you buy a new car, or a new handbag, or a new house, initially you will be thrilled about the new features of your new thing, but eventually it will seem ordinary. So before you go out and upgrade your house or car, really think about if the purchase is going to make as big a difference in your quality of life as you think it will-and how long that feeling of a boost in quality of life will last. Once you get accustomed to your new house or car and the ‘new’ feeling has worn off, are you going to feel antsy to upgrade again? What if instead of constantly upgrading and seeking the feeling of newness and specialness, you learn to understand hedonistic adaptation, and decide to be happy with what you already have? The lovely Sheryl Crow wrote the lyric, “it’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” If you learn to want what you already have, you will feel satisfied, instead of feeling deprived.
I live in the same small studio apartment I bought at 22, and though it is 10 years later, I pay far less to live here. Rather than trading up to a bigger apartment when I got raises and could eventually afford a mortgage payment that was three times my original payment, I channelled my extra cash into paying down the principal, and paid my mortgage off when I turned 30. I met and fell in love with a wonderful man who is into living simply, and instead of us ‘upgrading’ to a bigger apartment when we decided to move in together, we decided to try out living together in the studio, and it worked! Many of our friends don’t understand how we can cohabit in such a small space, but for us the massive financial benefits of staying put far outweigh the occasional wish for a spare bedroom (or any bedroom, or that matter!). Would I be happier in a bigger place? I can honestly say, no, I wouldn’t be. A bigger place would mean more time cleaning, more clutter, and more crap to take care of. It would also mean less time in the same room with my husband who I love spending time with. I would love a garden someday, but a bigger apartment? I’ll pass.
My car is a fabulous 2001 manual transmission Corolla with 103k miles that I have had for 7 years. It’s fun to drive and, even more importantly for both my wallet & the earth, it gets 40+ mpg’s on the highway. Could I drive a more expensive car? Yes, in fact, thanks to my frugal lifestyle throughout my working years, I could now mosey on down to the Manhattan Porsche dealer and pay cash for a brand new 911. but do I want to? No! I love that I don’t feel the need to pay for collision coverage on my little corolla, and that I can street park for free and not care if it gets scratched in the contact sport that is NYC street parking. I love that my car is safe and reliable and that it will last for at least another 100k miles. I love that I am not wasting natural resources by buying a new car when my current one works so well. Would a new car make me happier than my current one? Nope, buying a new car would make me sad. I’d much rather add to my investment property collection than spend my hard earned cash on a depreciating asset!
I’ll never forget a day 4 or 5 years ago when I was making plans to go apple picking with friends. I was the only one with a car so of course I offered to pick everyone up and drive to the orchard. One friend asked what kind of car I had so she’d recognize me when I pulled up to her building, and before I could respond, another girl piped up with a snotty ‘It’s not the kind of car you would expect someone who works for hedge fund would drive.’ Her bitchy comment about my car was when it struck me how different my values were from this girl (who had a custom designed closet for all of her designer shoes). ‘Okay miss priss,’ I thought to myself, ‘ever read The Millionaire Next Door?’ Generally speaking, millionaires next door drive older, modest cars that they own outright, while people who drive ‘luxury’ cars often lease them. What’s the bigger luxury: no monthly car payment and lower insurance costs for the modest car, or no equity in your car, a high monthly lease fee and higher insurance for the BMW/Mercedes/Lexus?
The peace of mind of financial freedom is worth more to me than every designer handbag and luxury car and penthouse apartment there is. I’m happy with what I have and the life I lead, and that is an amazing feeling!
Posted by K