A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine who had read this blog, and explaining that I make the effort to save as much as I do because my long-term goals are more important to me than my short-term desires. She asked a very reasonable question: what if you get hit by a bus?
If I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow (and not be as lucky as Regina George, who got a few broken bones and a much-needed personality transplant), then it’s true – I would never end up having a chance to achieve those long-term goals and my money would go to my family instead of being spent on things I might have enjoyed. That doesn’t worry me.
First of all, because if we make all our decisions based on the idea that we could die tomorrow, no one would go to work, or school, or do anything that they didn’t get immediate joy out of. Being a Hardcore Saver is less common than doing other things that will benefit your future, but it is a reasonable decision to make for the same reasons that getting an education is a reasonable decision to make.
More importantly, though: I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
I don’t tell myself, “No, you can’t buy that dress because you want those savings on hand in two decades.” I ask myself if the dress fills a real purpose in my life other than being pretty: if the answer is yes, I’ll buy it.
Very shortly after you start focusing on needs instead of wants, the wants just go away.
Now, I might buy new clothes if I don’t already have something appropriate for the occasion (I’m going to a couple of weddings this summer and will probably look for a new dress to wear to them), but I don’t get that desire to buy things for the sake of buying things anymore.
It’s hard to explain how it feels to get rid of a huge portion of consumer desire. When I’ve lived on a bare-bones budget before, it was out of necessity – I was in school and after rent and food there wasn’t much left over. Then, I would see things and think, “ugh, that coat is gorgeous, too bad I only have $50 in my checking account.” Now, it doesn’t matter how much I have in my account – I buy things because I have a need for them. It’s like coming out of the Matrix – you suddenly see how much of the world exists to convince you to buy things you don’t need.
Very, very, very few people on this planet have enough money to buy everything they want. At some point, we all have to decide that we’ve reached our limit, and there will always be endless more restaurants to try, nicer apartments to rent, and designer clothes to wear. If you stop when you hit $0, or when you’re tens of thousands of dollars in debt, your money is controlling you. If you stop when you’re in the black, you’re controlling your money.
That, in itself, is a huge source of both calm and happiness for me.
I don’t save money by depriving myself – that would be a very short-term solution. I save by prioritizing and taking a close look at where my happiness really comes from.
If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I will have spent lots of time with people I care about, traveled a ton, lived in a variety of places, learned all sorts of cool things, and my little brother’s college fund will get a boost. I am very okay with that.