My darling, hyper-intelligent baby deer, I am going to share with you one of the best, most secret methods of saving money. It cuts down on wasteful spending. It increases your savings. It encourages you to be intentional. It even empowers you to live your best life.
Please hold onto something and prepare yourself spiritually. Ready? Here goes:
Don’t spend money on things you don’t like.
Wait, come back! I know it sounds obvious… but I find myself breaking this personal rule all the damn time. And whenever I do, I regret it, and not just for the wasted dollars I will never ever see again. So take my hand and let’s break it down, shall we?
You only have so much money to spend
You’re probably thinking this is a problem unique to the weak-willed and those susceptible to peer pressure. Fair! And I congratulate you on your iron will and independent nature.
So let me ask you this: when was the last time you bought something because you needed it, not because you wanted it? When was the last time you spent money because you had to? And did you bother to see if you could somehow pay less for that obligation?
You only have so much money to spend. And while some costs are unavoidable, like food and shelter, a big chunk of the money you have to spend is entirely at your discretion.
So why not maximize the amount of joy you get out of your money by minimizing the amount of money you spend on things you don’t truly love or enjoy?
For example: I don’t actually love my car’s windshield wipers, but I need them to see when it’s raining. So when they broke recently, did I buy top-of-the-line, full-price replacements from the dealership? Fuck no. I got myself a coupon to the discount auto parts warehouse. So now I can spend the money I didn’t spend on the fancy dealership windshield wipers on something I like a whole lot more.
I minimized the amount of money I spent on something I didn’t like so that I could maximize the money I had to spend on things I do like.
We’re all subject to various fixed costs in life. (Except for the Maine Hermit. That guy had it made.) I don’t technically like my insurance, or my electric company, or my dry cleaner. But I pay money to them anyway.
If you can’t avoid these expenses you don’t like, then you should at least find a way to pay less for them. Don’t spend more than you have to on things you don’t like. And if you can cut them out altogether, even better.
My personal struggle
I fucking hate yoga. It manages to simultaneously be both boring and stressful and frankly, I have other shit to do. Yet I am surrounded by yoga-peddling harpies (aka my dear friends) pressuring me to join them for some uncomfortable stretching while listening to maddeningly tuneless “””music””” and trying not to think about how culturally appropriative the whole thing is.
Friends? I am embarrassed to admit that I used to cave to this peer pressure. That’s right: I yogaed.
And it was while trying to arch my back like a feral cat and contemplate how serene and #blessed I am that I realized: I just spent $10 to do something I hate.
I didn’t pay for yoga because it would make me happy. I did it because it would make the yogavangelists happy.
I have never yogaed again. And when I feel tempted to agree to an activity or purchase that I don’t actually like, I remember the spine-contorting revelation of pointlessness and misallocated resources. I remember that I squandered money that I could have spent on new hiking boots, or guitar strings, or the greatest prize of all: financial independence.
So yoga? Go chakra yourself.
Ok but how?
Shop around for cheaper insurance! Use coupons at the grocery store and Jiffy Lube! Negotiate with your cell phone carrier to lower your bill! Buy generic! You only have so much discretionary spending. Why waste it on things you don’t love or enjoy? Why watch your hard-earned dollars drain away in service to inflated service charges, fees, bills, and social obligations?
Don’t feel obligated to accept social invitations that won’t actually bring you any joy. Don’t feel compelled to buy a thing just because everyone else has it and they think it’s weird that you don’t. As the great philosophers Bill and Ted once said, “To thine own self be true.” (This quote is 1000% accurate why are you questioning me?)
I have not yet fully mastered this method of saving. Strategically speaking, I’m like a Level Two Conjurer at this point. But I’m trying hard to level up, and I practice as often as possible.
So whenever I’m feeling lazy, spendy, or weak, I just ask myself:
- Do I actually like this thing?
- If not, do I need this thing?
- If so, can I somehow pay less for the thing?
And finally, I think of all the things I’d rather spend my money on. A yoga social obligation is so much less appealing than the idea of paying off my mortgage early. And paying off my mortgage feels way better when I know I’m cutting my interest payments in half.