(This post is part of the 30 for 30 Challenge).
At some point in our adult lives, we’ve all said some degree of the following: “If only I had more money, I could take care of XYZ and everything would be better.” After living with this mentality for years, and after having received multiple promotions and raises, I realized after a while that I continually ended up in the same place that I started at the end of every month: broke.
Each pay period I would pay my bills, save a small portion, and then see how much I had leftover. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this money was a motivator for more spending. The more I had leftover, the more I felt obliged to spend it on nicer things for myself. The way I figured it, I had done my part by saving a little and paying all my bills on time, so I “deserve” to get these other things as a young professional for my career, health, lifestyle – name your spending category.
We convince ourselves that having more money will close the gap between having money and not having money at the end of every pay period. If only we could see that it is not so much the lack of money coming in, but the amount of money going out that keeps us in a perpetual rat race. It takes time for most to realize this, some never do.
Not letting what you spend define who you are is the first step to changing one’s attitude and mindset towards “needs” and “wants”. I admit, this is an extremely difficult idea when you realize just how much pressure there is from our consumerist culture to separate us from our money. The daily amount of ads we are exposed to has more than doubled in the last fifty years, all with hints on how to spend our money. One-click shopping is no help either.
A great resource for inspiration on personal financial independence – a virtual financial boot camp, if you will – is the blog Mr. Money Mustache. He offers many pieces of advice that are financially inspired, the bulk of which have to do with how one can modify one’s behavior to curtail unnecessary spending spurred on by our culture of consumerism, towards habits of savings and frugality.
He offers three important steps to financial independence that, while certainly no easy task, are clear and straightforward.
Simply put, they are:
- Figure out how much money you are taking home and subtract the amount you are spending.
- Be sure to keep all that surplus money at work, by paying down high interest debt first and then investing the rest.
- Once the total value of all your investments reaches 25-30 times your annual spending, paid work is now entirely at your discretion. For life.
He’s not an accredited financial analyst, or ivy league economist. He’s just your average guy who’s own actions have shown that what he is talking about is possible. His credibility lies in his results.
I’m in the early stages of this new financial mindset – only a few months. But, I plan on continuing with it, and reporting on the things I learn about spending and saving along the way. My guess is I’m about to figure out quite soon exactly what the term “conspicuous consumption” really means.