Living frugally and saving aggressively toward financial independence requires motivation and discipline, and we’ll go over strategies at length for building your savings one month at a time. The other piece to the puzzle that I’ll discuss here is that living frugally requires perspective. Next time we skip the bar to have a drink at home, or forgo the trip to Target to buy crap we don’t actually need, and then we act miserable or put out that we aren’t doing “what we really want”…let’s take a step back and assess the lifestyle we are implementing here. As a Target shareholder, I’d love to drum up some business and let you buy that 8th pair of jeans or the $25 blu-ray disk you’ll watch twice, but then I’d be failing at giving you actionable advice to better your financial situation.
Now is as good a time as any to take a second to think about everything you have and be amazed. Next, think about all the stupid purchases you’ve made over the years. There’s a good chance you’ve already thrown these things away. We have so much stuff that we just toss completely usable shit in the garbage on a regular basis. Milk is almost expired in the fridge? Toss that shit in the trash. Cell Phone screen isn't 5 inches? Get with the times and go get a new one. Got a raise at work? Better buy a more expensive car! It's these things that we run into every single day that really drives us to behave the way we do. We always need the next best thing and feel left out when we don't have it. But we need to get out of the mindset that we always need bigger and better things and realize that the stuff we have is more than sufficient for a happy life.
Everyone has a moment in time they realize life is great and they really don't NEED anything to make it better. I hope. This "moment of perspective" came for me when I started sponsoring a child in Guatemala. Other people will have completely different moments, so this is just mine. About three years ago I started sponsoring my buddy, Rafael. He was 3 years old at the time, had no running water in his “house” (which looks more like a shack), and slept on a wood plank at night. His family made $150 per month and he was in need of money to remain healthy. It is really ridiculously rewarding to send off 25 of my hard earned dollars every month to make sure Rafael stays healthy and gets what he needs on a daily basis. So getting to my moment: It came when I received a letter from his mother a few months after I started sending money that asked me “Rafael would like to know what your life is like and what your hobbies are?”
I thought about this for about ten seconds before I said “Shit, what the hell can I tell him that’s not completely embarrassing for me?”
Just running down the list of things I’ve heard complaints about in the last few days: a woman getting too much cream cheese on her bagel, no carnitas at Chipotle, long lines at Kings Dominion, tax rates, bad cell phone service (that’s probably good 99% of the day), having to call Comcast (I’ll admit it’s pretty annoying) and of course the classic, high gas prices. I bet you’ve all heard similar shit every day of your life. Next time you hear something like that, just think about how embarrassing of a complaint it is if you were to tell someone living in poverty.
This site is all about cutting spending and finding ways to gather up investment money on a monthly basis, but it’s also pitching a lifestyle where we can better ourselves in general and achieve what we ultimately want. It’s very important to develop a positive attitude, and realize your life is already so plentiful. You have money to eat and have a roof over your head, and chances are, your house is full of nice shit. Notice I said “full”, meaning you should consider not buying any more crap to put in a house that is entirely full. Our complaints (we all complain sometimes) are usually about the smallest unimportant things that might affect us for 15 minutes to an hour. My goal is to allow you to catch yourself complaining about something minor, and re-think how well off you are. That way, when we skip the bar or going out to eat a few times a week, we can find happiness in something as simple as taking a walk outside, staring up at the sky and thinking how lucky we are.
Getting back to Rafael, my $25 a month here is worth every penny because I know it’s making much more of a difference for Rafael and his family than it ever could for me and my life. It goes into my budget every month, as I have actively decided it’s worth the money. Totally separate than that, every time I receive a letter from Rafael (his mom writes them because he does not yet know how to write) it provides me with some valuable prospective to look around and know I live a ridiculously good life. We can all use a little prospective on our situations, if only for a few seconds every day to stop and think about someone who doesn’t have all the ridiculous luxuries we have become accustomed to.
We will go through the process of stripping down our finances and building towards independence, but I feel that it’s of the utmost importance to buy into the lifestyle we live or else it will never truly stick. Once we understand how lucky we are, trimming back our budget will seem like a breeze, and you’ll wonder what the hell you USED to spend all your money on!
Footnote: I have had a good experience with Children International, and in no way am I saying you need to sponsor a child to gain some personal prospective. If you want to get involved and have any questions about the process, feel free to leave me a comment or send an email! I think it’s a well-run company, and unlike some other charitable organizations that have a significant amount of overhead, I believe about 88% of the donation goes to helping others. Given that this is a financial site, I’d be remiss to say that you should first assess if you have the $25 available to sponsor 🙂