I absolutely love the song by Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy ‘Billionaire’. I listen to the song at least twice a week…usually more. I do really wish to be a billionaire…but the content of the song, for me, ends after the first line. The rest of the song promotes consumerism, extravagance, and wastefulness; all of which are things I have no warm and fuzzies for at all.
The last year and a quarter have had me on a very riveting, eye opening, and conscientious journey about how I don’t need more than half the things the world tells me that I need to be happy. I have resisted buying things for the sake of buying things and I am not a favorite of sales people who wish to upsell. I have no patience for sales pitches anymore. Just…just…no…no! NOOO! I don’t want the medium drink for an extra 50 cents! What is the joy of wishing to use the bathroom halfway through the movie? I also don’t want 1,000 Q-tips for $4.99! The ones I bought three years ago are not done yet and when I need more, I will know to buy them. I don’t want the turkey or the box of mangoes for spending $250 on groceries. Out of curiosity, why don’t they offer me the box of mangoes for spending…$10? No. No. Thanks. I don’t want to bundle up to save.
I just don’t need all these things. It actually makes me feel like I didn’t know what I was coming to purchase in the first place…like I somehow just waltzed into the store because I had nothing else to do than hear what offer was up for grabs for me that day. If I sense some underlying scheme to make me part with my money when I had not planned on it, I get despondent very quickly, especially if pushed after rejecting the offer. You are standing between me and my goal of financial independence.
Prior to this journey, my life had various levels of anxiety and worry when it came to my finances. I lived from pay check to pay check. Or if you wish, pay check to credit to paycheck. That was the norm I was used to. Some of the people I surrounded myself with lived the same way so I did not know any better and was not challenged to do any better. We would actually talk about all the bits of money we were expecting and how things would be bad if a source did not materialize. Funny enough, in some circles, you were doing pretty well if you could lend people money. If they didn’t pay you back by the stipulated date, however, you were sunk. I took trips – on credit, of course. I would go shopping when I had a bad day. I did not have a budget and had no financial plan whatsoever. Instant gratification was the way of life, and so was waste and clutter. I threw out food when it got bad because I had no discipline to finish the food I had before making new food. In the same vein, I had a storage room that was so full of things I thought I needed but ended up throwing out when I had to move.
I used to watch some finance shows and I saw a few news clips where they talked about the average college student not having anything saved up. I simply thought that I would start saving when I got a ‘real’ job. I wanted to enjoy my University experience and saving didn’t seem like a priority at the time.
Thankfully, I did not encounter any emergency because truth be told, I am not sure how I would have handled it, especially if it involved money.
A year and three months ago, after graduating and getting a ‘real’ job, I had the first ‘real’ look at my finances with a financial planner. It was mildly traumatizing. I could not comprehend how I got there and the ‘real’ picture was too much for me to handle. It really felt like I would never be able to dig myself out of the pit I had flippantly gotten myself into.
Things do happen in life for a reason. The reason is more meaningful if the intended lesson is learnt or experience appreciated. I met someone who was financially prudent and had just started himself on the path of frugal living and financial mindfulness. I became the sounding board for all the things discovered or read and received recommendations to blogs and books for my reading. Without fully realizing it, I threw myself into absorbing all the information I could regarding finances.
I plunged deep into the world of Gail Vaz-Oxlade and read all her books and re-watched all her shows – I even met her and she helped me set goals and promised to cyber celebrate every met goal with me, something she has done faithfully. I also began reading a blog by Mr Money Mustache, a guy who retired at 30 alongside his wife and are raising a 9 year old son. I mention him because many people I have shared my financial aspirations with have said to me, ‘wait until you have kids!’ Mr Money Mustache and family have endeavored to reduce their carbon footprint by living on less and being mindful of the earth.
I switched to a cash only system except for automated payments. I now plan all aspects of my spending and carry cash when I need to buy something. If I have no cash, I am simply not going to spend. Yes, if I have to go out, I look at the menu ahead of time and calculate the amount plus tip before I leave the house. If I don’t, then I have to only spend what I have with me and not more. I know what things generally cost and can spot an overpriced item from a mile away. I always look forward to tallying up my receipts and seeing how much I have saved.
In a society where being cheap or being a tightwad is frowned upon, I have definitely received the odd look or the questioning comment every now and again. In a society where doing well is equated to having things, I am really failing. It can be a bit demoralizing – until I look at my upward trending net worth and I am OK. I always get to the end of the month before getting to the end of the money. I am able to live comfortably on 38 – 40% of my income and my goal is to get to 50%+ savings after my student loans are out of the way.
Wastefulness has significantly dropped and my purchases are more mindful. I have mastered the art of buying just what I need to last without going bad. I have also significantly parred down what I own in clothes, appliances, and furniture. I don’t have things in secret closets and my locker is empty. I figure that if I don’t use it, I don’t need it and therefore shouldn’t own it.
Last week, I had a check-in with my financial planner and he flat out said that I didn’t need him. Having slashed my debt in half and created a good emergency blubber with my savings, I am well on my way to financial independence. My goal is never to worry about money…and this journey has taken away a huge chunk of the anxiety because I can see progress. I do worry about wasting money. Where in the past I would not have been fazed, now, I cringe when I spend money on something I don’t need or a situation arises that makes me spend money that I had not planned on spending.
I seek financial independence because I don’t believe we were meant to punch in and punch out for the rest of our lives in order to make up for it with gifts/things in lieu of time spent with loved ones. I believe we were meant to build and thrive in the relationships that we create. Financial independence for me means being able to freely enjoy time with my partner, my children, my friends, my family, anyone that is in my life at whatever point of my life. I have no desire to miss out on life moments because I have to work. I have no desire to match or exceed the person next to me when it comes to things owned, purses carried, bling shined, cars driven, or places frequented. I want to continue drinking Pepsi-Cola like Warren Buffett even when I can afford $750 caviar with a $5,000 bottle of wine.
I do want to be a billionaire…but for different reasons than Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy. Ultimately, I yearn to continue finding joy in things that do not necessarily cost money.