When my financial ship ran aground in 2006, the cause of it was glaringly obvious. We were spending too much money.
Naturally, our response was to fix that problem. We tightened our spending. We sold off some of our wasteful purchases. We took a serious look at every single financial move we made, whether it was spending a penny or spending $50.
It worked. Over the course of five years, we paid off all of our debts – even our mortgage. We have been completely debt free for years now.
At this point, we essentially live off of my wife’s income. The income I make goes almost entirely into investments – the money that doesn’t go into investments goes to taxes. (Of course, those investments are co-owned by Sarah and myself – all of our money is a shared pool.)
I was talking to a friend recently about finances and I told him that fact. He smiled and said, “That’s awesome, but haven’t you ever wondered if you’re missing out on anything?”
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Given that we have a healthy amount of money in the bank and no debts, is it really necessary that we live on only one income?
Are we afraid to spend?
The more I toss this idea around in my head, the more I think the answer is “no.”
First of all, I can’t really name anything important that we do without. There’s nothing missing in my life. There’s nothing I wish I could indulge in.
I’ve talked about wanting to travel internationally, but I don’t really want to do that with my family until the children are older. The idea of taking our three year old into a culture that we aren’t familiar with and without basic language skills makes both of us nervous, so this can wait.
I’ve talked about building a house in the country, but we’re simply patiently waiting for the right piece of land to become available, one that suits our needs.
There are very few things that I want on a day-to-day basis. Usually, if I want something, I can afford to buy it within my hobby spending limits.
Honestly, most of the time when I’m tempted to buy something and don’t buy it, it’s due to the recognition that I’m limited on time more than anything. I don’t have infinite time to devote to hobbies and interests, so why buy things for those hobbies when I don’t have time to use them?
We don’t skimp on the foods we want to buy. Our restrictions are far more dietary than financial, though we do use a shopping list and a meal plan. That’s mostly because it’s a good way to organize things and figure out what we’re going to eat this week and to make sure we aren’t buying unnecessary and unhealthy stuff at the store.
We don’t need any clothes and, honestly, I wouldn’t wear nice clothes even if we had them. I have a few nice outfits, but most days I’m comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans.
I don’t view a car as being anything more than a tool to get me from point A to point B as inexpensively and efficiently as possible.
We give to charities, too. Our children don’t miss out on educational opportunities ever.
Honestly, I don’t know how I would spend more unless I was simply throwing money toward unnecessary purchases that I wouldn’t have time to properly enjoy. In fact, even now, I sometimes feel like I’m doing that.
Am I afraid of spending? Not at all. Am I afraid of spending without a good reason? Yeah, but it’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t know why I would use my hard-earned money to buy things I have no interest in.
You don’t have to be afraid of spending to spend less than you earn. You just need to have a grasp on what’s really important to you – and it’s generally not things. For me, at least, it’s people and time.