By Rachel Puryear
Since the mid-20th century in the U.S., most of us have been brought up with a certain ideal of success: Big expensive house, luxurious car, stylish clothes, moving up the corporate ladder at a prestigious company. For some people, this model works for them.
There is also, however, a dark side to this standard of having “made it”. That dark side is perpetual debt, and a financially unsustainable lifestyle. Unless you’re exceptionally wealthy, keeping up with the Joneses requires a lifestyle built on credit rather than actual ownership.
Perpetual debt turns even a well-paying job into a pair of golden handcuffs, rather than serving as a viable and temporary route to financial independence. Deep indebtedness to continually upgrade everything demands ever-increasing time and energy, as opposed to contentedness with a simpler life which offers greater enjoyment of life.
The good news is, there are other ways. Let’s explore a different mindset.
Paying Yourself First Makes Life Much Easier:
If you have savings, just about every aspect of life gets easier. When unexpected expenses crop up, you’ve got it covered. If you want to partake in a good time, you can. If someone you love needs help, you can lend a hand. If you hate your job or want to launch your own business, you have freedom to do so and are not trapped.
If you spend everything you make, you cannot save. Sounds obvious, but lots of people max out their income and have nothing saved, even with decent earnings. This keeps people trapped in perpetual debt, spread too thin, and constantly running to keep up.
Now, to be fair, some people genuinely do not make enough money to save much after essentials. However, many people who make a decent living but believe they cannot save money; actually could do so if they gave up pursuing the conventional model of success in favor of what they can afford. A lifestyle that does not allow saving at least 10% of income before expenses, is not affordable.
A smaller home instead of a larger one, a more practical car instead of a more luxurious one, and discount clothes and goods over more expensive ones; can all go a long way towards saving more money. If you’re worried about what other people might think, always remember that it’s your life and not theirs.
And if you’re worried how a more economical lifestyle will affect your kids – do you want your kids to learn to become trapped in jobs they hate to sustain lifestyles they cannot really afford, and unable to enjoy life? Or would you rather model for your children a way of life which is economical, which offers them more free time and autonomy, and helps them avoid being trapped and stressed out in perpetual debt?
The More Money You Save, the Freer Your Life Can Become:
Adopting a more frugal lifestyle opens the possibility of saving and investing more money. Saving 10% of your income can help you build short term and emergency savings, as well as longer term investments. Saving money over time helps one become financially independent, and becoming financially independent comes with lots of freedoms.
When you become more frugal, the benefits are multifold: You save money, you are not under so much pressure to support an unsustainable lifestyle, and you can learn to become content with a more downsized way of living. Even living in a small house, or even in an RV, is better living than how many people around the world still live. Not being under so much financial pressure can give surprising benefits in terms of moods, and lowered anxiety levels.
When you become financially independent – meaning you can live off what you already have without having to do work you don’t want to do – you can do what you want with your life. You can travel, you can engage in hobbies, you can do work you want to do, you can volunteer, you can do what you want without having to factor in the need to earn a living.
Living frugally and saving money increases the chances of becoming financially independent, and accelerates the timeline. People around you who seem wealthy because they have an expensive lifestyle are often not as well off as they seem – often, they have more debt than actual wealth. Meanwhile, many truly wealthy people are not immediately recognizable as such – instead, they likely live a rather ordinary lifestyle, and are judicious in spending money.
Besides, what’s the point of paying for an overly expensive lifestyle if you need to spend precious years and decades of your waking life doing something you hate? Trapped in a cubicle in the same few square feet of space on this big planet? Feeling anxious and depressed and a sense of dread when you wake up in the morning? How do you enjoy that lifestyle with all that baggage? Frugality and savings is not just about saving money – it’s about freeing your time, your energy, and your opportunities to enjoy life more.
What if “success” is more about enjoyment of life than expensive things? About control over your time? About the freedom to choose where you want to be, what you want to be doing, and who you want to be with at any given time?
Just something to think about.
Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to your becoming financially independent, so you can do much more in life that you enjoy.