I’ve been on the road for over a year now. During this time I’ve had periods of extreme frugality. I’ve had times where I’d skip the bus and walk for an hour to save $0.30. I’ve had times where working at home was difficult due to slow internet speeds, yet I’d refuse to go to a cafe with faster internet because I wanted to save the $1.40 a drink would cost me. I’ve had times where I’ve stayed in hotels as cheap as $6/night.
I’ve also had times where I’d basically said fuck it to budgeting. I’ve had times where I’ve stayed in luxurious hotels with rooftop pools costing $400 a night. I’ve had times where I’d get a taxi to the mall when it was only a 5 minute walk away. I’ve had times where I’d take my dates to any restaurant in the city and pay for them without a second thought.
You can probably guess that one’s quality of life isn’t being maximized if they’re willing to spend an hour walking to save just $0.30. Yet contrary to what you expect, I also wasn’t happiest during the times I’d allowed myself to spend money without any concern for the future.
However, before I tell you the conclusion I’ve come to in regards to personal spending, let’s quickly compare some behavioral differences between the man that protects his pennies and the man that’s quick to throw his money at any perceived need or desire.
*Is willing to spend signficant time researching how they can reduce their expenses
*Often inconvenience themselves to conserve money
*Often sacrifice or live repetitive social lives (spending less time with others, doing the same activities, and/or eating at the same restaurants)
*Willing to sacrifice personal comfort to save some money
*Sometimes passes on experiences or material goods they money could purchase even if spending that money would lead to a true increase in their quality of life
*May use the law of compounding interest to convince themselves their extreme frugality will be worth it one day
The Impulsive Purchaser
*Often willing to spend the majority, if not the entirety of his salary to get the most luxurious lifestyle his income will provide.
*May think spending money is a way of impressing others.
*May be using money as a way to avoid discomfort (taking taxis instead of walking short distances, leading with money in their dating lives because they feel lonely and desperately want someone to share their time with, etc.
*Usually fails to see how the money they spend obligates them to future work commitments (ex. If someone making $15/hour after tax spends $5 on ice cream they’ve effectively enslaved themselves to 20 minutes of work to pay for their ice cream.)
The Best Personal Spending Philosophy
You don’t have to be a genius to recognize that neither the penny protector, nor the impulsive purchaser are managing their money in the ideal way. There’s elements of both that you’ll want to incorporate in your personal spending philosophy. Your personal motivations and goals will determine just how far you’ll lean towards slumming it up or living a baller lifestyle.
In general however, the list below should give you a baseline for how to manage your finances. The intelligent spender understands that…
*Time is more valuable than money. If one can use money to buy back their time it’s often worth it. (Ex. taking a bus instead of walking, hiring a maid to do your cleaning and laundry, etc.)
*Spending a sufficient amount of money on your social life will help provide you with a healthy quantity and variety of social interactions.
*Using money isn’t an effective means of impressing or gaining the affection of women. At the same time, it can still be used to in a number of ways to make you a more attractive man with a better dating life. Money can purchase you a gym membership, quality food, the means to practice interesting hobbies (guitar, martial arts, travel, etc.) as well as an attractive and well-located apartment to bring your girl(s) back to.
*Purchases are contracts that bind you to the number of hours you’ll have to work to pay for them. (Ex. at $15/hour after tax a $450/month apartment requires 30 hours of work/month. However, a $750/month apartment will require 50 monthly hours of work at $15/hour after tax.)
*It’s worth spending extra money if doing so will lead to a marked improvement in quality of life. There’s no use saving $30/month on your apartment if it’s filled with bugs and gets you a toilet that doesn’t flush.
*Spending money on activities or tools likely to lead to a future increase in earnings is never a bad idea. Purchasing a faster computer that doesn’t spend an hour everyday loading while you work is an investment that’ll pay for itself and more over time.
*Managing one’s energy is hugely important. Spending money on high-quality food, a gym membership, and a good bed will give you more energy to produce well paid work. Even hiring someone to do your taxes or visa papers is often a good use of your money as it saves you time and preserves your energy and focus for the activies you use to generate income.
*Sometimes living simply can inspire greater creativity. Without the internet or an abundance of recreational activities available to you, it’s often easier to focus on work and the other important fundamentals in your life.
Was inspired to write this post while staying in a $6/night hotel room in Phnom Penh. I was amused at the contrast after staying at the internationally reknown Singapore Marina Bay ($300-$400+ per night) last year. Completing this post was made significantly easier as this simple guesthouse doesn’t even include free wi-fi.