This February, I decided to try out spending just for the essentials. I wasn't very happy with my savings this past year, so I wanted to take a break and identify where my money goes.
What I realized is, that spending less doesn't equalize with living poorly.
So I decided to continue, but this time with a laid out plan and philosophy on spending. Strangely enough, it stopped being about money. It was about improving life quality.
Lately, I grow fond of watches. I already have two - a casual and a formal one. But I kept visiting the watches' subreddit, scanning deals in Chrono24 and convincing myself that I must buy a better watch.
I started dismissing affordable watches, thinking that only certain brands are worth it. Obviously, they were way above my budget, but I was mad enough to consider buying one.
Ultimately I came to my senses. I didn't need a fancy watch, it's just a tool for me. What I was looking to buy was the projected status.
I came to the conclusion that spendings should be aligned with my values. And in this case, it's directly in conflict with self-validation.
So I went ahead and unsubscribed from all the price drops alerts. And while I was at it, I went in my inbox and deleted any random promotional messages with discount codes. I had a couple of them saved but I didn't plan on buying. Figured that sometime they would come in handy, but this notion can only accumulate clutter. I clicked delete and moved on.
Here it goes, a decent first step detaching myself from some triggers.
One thing that helped me find my sanity, was visualizing the value offered by my spending, as hours I've worked for it. What I mean, is that I picture myself sitting in place and coding for hours.
Are these Airpods worth doing that for a day? Probably not.
What about a trip to compete at my hobby? Absolutely.
So there, I found that a good way to tackle impulse buys is to equalize them with the sacrifices made.
Now that I'm formulating a philosophy on money spending, let's throw this in.
I had the privilege to learn a valuable lesson from a young age. One time in Monastiraki, I lost my pocket money in Three-card Monte. I was devastated, I lost all my money and there was nothing to do! So a guy took me by the arm and showed me the trick. That day I realized that the only way to win was not to play.
Fast forward many years later, I visited with a friend a casino for the experience. Watching people getting obsessed, fuming and losing a serious amount of money (all while wearing patched clothes) made me sick. I don't want to be anywhere near gambling.
I'm not in the position to analyze the psychological effects of gambling, so my standing here is simple - just don't.
There are plenty of success stories, of this I'm sure, but I prefer this absolute approach.
This is something I used to do without realizing. All of us do. I simply didn't need anything. But when I actively tried to pursue it, everything was a temptation.
Which is very interesting, the cravings become plain as day. I have specific expenses but none need addressing today.
- Why does this book appear so appealing?
- I don't drink coffee at this hour, why do I need this takeaway coffee?
I don't have a good explanation for this, but it feels cathartic suppressing these cravings. People like to state "What's the point of living if I can't indulge myself", but I don't share the sentiment. To me, it seems like an addition, silenced by a fix.
Right now, my grocery list counts
- Egg whites
So I'm going to fetch these and leave. If I missed something, that's too bad. I'll put it as a single item in tomorrows list.
It might sound weird, but I found myself at one point having 5 bottles of toothpaste. And that's minor, but what about food waste? I always feel like a tool when I have to throw away food because it expired.
Returning from training and having to be patient before cooking something isn't very ideal. It's very tempting to order something and have it delivered by the time you reach home.
But I don't like doing it, and this is spending I actively avoid. And let me emphasize it, it isn't about money.
Earlier I stated that controlling expenses is about elevating the quality of life and this is a great example. It's about being personally responsible for the ingredients that my food consists of. If I order I have no control over the hygiene standards that my food was made, the ingredient's quantity and most importantly their quality.
Granted I'm overall a horrible cook, but at least I'm the one responsible.
And the same rings true for any unplanned snack on the road.
Again, I don't use these 'rules' just to save money. There are meant to elevate my quality of life, by rejecting the notion that spending money is a measure of happiness.
Are they enough? Probably not, the pressure of consumerism is very hard. And ultimately having any guidelines or tips and hacks can be annoying. So every now and then, I like to simplify things and remember Leon Tolstoy's book How much land does a man need. Just saying this phrase out loud puts things into perspective. We need money so that we afford certain experiences. But this never-ending loop of spending for items of no value leads to unfulfillment.
I believe the approach of working for X hours per week - no matter what - to make the Y amount of money is flawed. One should keep track of their expenses, and adjust their working hours accordingly. Maybe I'm wrong and it's coming from a position of safety since I'm not supporting a family.
In any way, once again the phrase "Less is more" spins around my head, and this might be the best way to summarize the core idea of this post.