In news that should shock absolutely no one, we don’t calculate our savings rate officially. Just like we don’t track our net worth in a formal capacity…or have a projected FI/FIRE number.
And we still have cable.
Basically, someone should just come take my money blog away.
Even without a formal savings rate calculation, I can tell you that we saved less in July than we did in June. At least a few hundred dollars less. Traditionally, summer is a spendy-ier time of year for us. I have years of spreadsheets to prove it.
I spent some time gnashing my teeth over this particular spending season on Twitter, but now that the dust has settled and we are (mercifully) tracking August’s numbers, I’ve realized two things.
- I could save more money.
- I don’t want to.
The Butter is Already Melting
The other day, we sat down to dinner like any other day. Meaning my husband and I were about to enjoy those seven minutes of time in which we attempt to choke down our food while helping HP keep a little bit of food on his tray before he starts yodeling to be set free and resume running around the house…or neighborhood.
What was different was I actually had time to take a quick glance at the food I was about to shovel into my face. And I noticed something. The tub of spread butter that I had just freed from the fridge? It had started to liquefy.
Our house is warm, butter-melting-ly so. I tell myself that it’s comfortable, but truthfully, it isn’t. It’s not uncomfortable per se, but I much prefer the library or seating at home that is so near a fan my long hair is in danger.
Our house is warm. I know it is.
Earlier that day, though, I had gone online and seen a whole litany of people pledging to either keep their thermostats above 82 or to swear off AC altogether.
I could make a whole bunch of excuses about how face-meltingly hot it’s been this summer and how humid the Midwest is in general. I could also tell you how difficult it is to get a toddler who already hates sleep to sleep through the night when it feels like our bed has been relocated to the Rainforest Room at the zoo.
Or I could confess something else.
I could live with it even warmer in my house.
But I don’t want to.
The Tiny Leaks Are Deliberate…And Not Always Tiny
When I look at our budget and our spending tracker, I know that there are places that we could scale back. The truth is, our budget is riddled with leaks, excess, and wants. We could slash our fun money, or we could try to whittle down our grocery bill once again.
I could skip on out FinCon, and we could say goodbye to traveling, whether it’s weekends away or longer vacations. I could stop buying my favorite chocolate, but how else would I truly understand financial independence? We could cut cable, I could drop our download speeds, and I could give up our cleaning service.
I could tell you all about how these things save both my precious time and my precious sanity. I could also wax poetic about the importance of optimization and how if I’m going to preserve my full-time job, my side hustles, and my fleeting time with my baby, these conveniences are essentially needs.
Or I could confess something else.
I could live without these things.
But I don’t want to.
Deprivation Isn’t Sustainable
After taking Twitter off my phone, I’ve
become much more productive devoted more time to Instagram. There, I noticed an influencer who continually talks about saving money and destroying debt. Sign. Me. Up.
She also frequently talks about how people with debt shouldn’t travel. At all. In one story, I heard her give the suggestion of having $25 of fun money a month while you’re digging out of debt.
I understand this advice. It makes sense. I mean, it is mathematically sound. It’s certainly disciplined.
It also seems like a really awful existence. Not just because it doesn’t seem sustainable for the long term. (And, friends, when you’re waving around six figures of debt on a teacher’s income? Your debt is long term. Ask me how I know.) It also seems particularly problematic because of what happens when people do make a misstep.
This all-or-nothing approach makes it too easy to give up.
I am all for teaching people to put down the shovel. I even actually believe in the latte factor (but I really strong suggest reading a personal finance book by someone other than that author).
But I also believe that we live in the real world. It isn’t a world that functions solely on math. There’s psychology, emotion, mental health, and so much more.
Plus, life is short. Painfully so.
The bacchanal nature of a YOLO Instagram lifestyle and the stoic underpinning of Tim Ferriss’s proclamations of practicing poverty are opposite sides of the same coin.
And as someone who prides herself on picking up pennies, this is actually one coin I want nothing to do with.
Yes! Live in the real world. Sometimes, I just want my debt to be done, yesterday. But it can’t be. Even the possible level of austerity would only shave off a few months from the timeline. Do the work to learn what matters to you and spend only on those things, within your earnings, and you’ll be fine!
For me, that is the hardest part. It was so easy to spend all my money on all the things I didn’t need. And it’s easy (and painful!) to not spend at all. But I’m still really learning how to exist in a way where money doesn’t dictate my life.
Or melt all my food.
Deprevation isn’t sustainable. I moved to a new area, and tried to follow a “bare bones budget” till I got ahead financially. But I quickly came to realize I needed to spend some money on eating out if I wanted to make friends. Later on I can suggest walks, picnics, etc. but not as the new person.
I agree! My dad calls that “going with the program”. Whenever he says it, it’s a good reminder (in total dad speak!) that I can’t expect everyone to live the way I do. Sometimes, you just have to meet up for coffee or a grab a bite to eat and that’s OK!
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
I lived that deprivation lifestyle for at least a decade before PiC and I married. It had a place and it was useful for my goals. It was fine – I derived a heck of a lot of satisfaction from making it work and it was enough fun leftover in trade for the huge gains I made in paying off debt that katamaried faster than I could blink twice.
But. It was so not the kind of life I’d want to live with my family now. I don’t knock people who can do that for a while or choose it long term of course but our good days are numbered and I don’t know what that last number is. I have no desire to hold that kind of deprivation close anymore and I’m glad.
I think that was a really powerful and *essential* moment for me. I was getting so caught up in that lifestyle that I was really losing perspective. Not just on what we had, but also what others don’t have. I’m much happier to spend a bit more now, especially because we’ve also beefed up our charitable giving!
Exactly, living in a constant deprivation lifestyle is not sustainable. It’s finding the right personal balance so you can keep going on this long financial journey!
So looking forward to seeing you again…and actually chat for a bit longer than 2 years ago. 🙂
Ah! I will be so nervous and excited to chat with you again. You are one of my blogger/money nerd idols! 😀
Eric @ TacticalFinancials
There is a real fine line with the advent of hustle culture and destroying your life without knowing it for years. Don’t be afraid to enjoy life a little bit is all I can tell anyone, there’s ways to be frugal and smart but don’t deprive yourself. We all have our vices and there is no point in working towards retirement and only save, that’s not living, that’s existing.
I love teasing that out — live, don’t merely exist!
Kim | Thinking of Someday
Love this! We could save more or choose to throw all our extra money at our mortgage, but we don’t want to. I don’t see the point. Honestly, we want the best of both worlds and that’s why we will always try to find balance with the decisions we make when it comes to money. Enjoy some. Save some. Perfect!
Yes! And I obviously went way too far in one direction, but upon reflection, I think I massively overcorrected. That’s no good either.
I found that by trying to not spend at all, I was still having a really unhealthy relationship with money (I just had more of it at the end of the month).
I learned to spend in spurts through the seasons of life and the actual natural seasons. I have been laying low in spending beyond the basics since May 2019 but will enjoy spending from September 2019 through October 2019 before I lay low again in November – February 2020. The next spending season will begin around March through May 2020. I will also give to family members during these spending seasons. For me, establishing these intentional times to spend and not spend have helped me maintain a better relationship with money. (Please note, I still give myself permission to participate in an expected fun adventure that I haven’t planned for but can still comfortably pay cash to enjoy it.)
I love that you’re so intentional with your spending seasons, Stephanie! What a great lesson.
This is what is so great about being conscious about your finances. It can be easy to spend so much especially on stuff you may not really need but will be painful if you have loads of debt will all that spending. The same goes with saving, it can easy but also painful too because you can be really tempted to spend more. Finding that level of spending and saving where you feel satisfied is something we all try to solve all the time.
I’m trying hard to strike that balance, Kris! I guess it’s about always making little (or big!) tweaks, right?
Ha I’m sitting here in an 82 degree house as I type this. But I’ve started turning it down to 78 at night because I was having trouble sleeping. And life is too short to make myself miserable over a few degrees.
I could cut takeout (a whopping one time a week) or $4.50 hummus (which admittedly I’ve eaten too much of this past month) but I don’t want to. I want some small joys in my life.
And like you I could cut FinCon. But I definitely don’t want to. Because that’s a big joy in my life.
Most people could park down if it became necessary but luckily many of us have the luxury of keeping luxuries in our lives even if it slows down our progress at times. Because we can’t always live for tomorrow.
I think this is so perfectly said. Little luxuries can be so worthwhile, and it’s great to remember that we’re in a position where they are OK.
I can’t wait to say hi again at FinCon!
Done by Forty
We just opened up an envelope telling us we have a $300 electricity bill for summer, thanks to running the AC. But we keep it at 79 and no way are we going back to the days of 82. I work from home, as does Mrs. Done by Forty and Baby AF is here, too. Those few degrees are worth the cost.
I’m sure there are plenty of other places we could save, too, but like you said: it’s really about finding something that’s sustainable. It’s not like we’re spending so much that we can’t achieve our financial goals. Once that’s the truth, what do you really gain by additional sacrifice/deprivation?
I think that is the problem with Fire people, and that your approach is the most balanced. I understood that I don’t agree with Fire when I read a blogger saying that once in Italy with the girlfriend he did not even let her contemplate the idea of a second drink while enjoying sunset at some touristic spot. What is the point in life, if the time you take such a long and costly trip you are not even capable of enjoying yourself? And of course, is not the second drink that matters, but the mentality. I’d prefer to have fewer trips but not to have to make numbers in my mind before making decisions.
I don’t know if I am explaining myself, but in the end what I mean is that is not the saving per se the real goal, it’s to be happy. I am all for making happiness happening sooner rather than later, but what is the point to be miserable in the meantime? Frugality makes sense, being cheap makes sense, being unhappy and being a cheap person is something that does not make sense to me.
Thanks Penny, I’ve been reading you for quite some time and although I can’t really relate, I do appreciate your point of view. For what is worth, I think you are making a great job with your life and your money, and in the end is all about what it suits you best. Though I do not agree with your opinion about AC. Most Americans just go overboard when it comes to AC or heating… (Not just Americans of course!)
Oh, wow! I’m glad I missed that comment about no second drinks in Italy! I don’t think I would have been able to keep quiet 😀
I really agree with your point about not making ourselves miserable. As for the AC…we might have to agree to disagree 😉
Love this post! I also don’t feel like it makes any sense to deprive yourself completely just for that future payout. Turn on the air conditioning! Go out to dinner! If all you focus on is getting to a magical FI date, and not enjoying the time to get there, what’s the point?
I think about this all time, Stephanie! I think it’s partly because our income potential is somewhat limited…but I’m really not in such a rush that I want to sacrifice my quality of life too too much now.