If most people were told they could “only” spend $16,000 per year then they would feel very deprived. Do I feel deprived while spending around these levels? Absolutely not!
I recently had my boss tell me that I need to take some vacation time and “go out to spend my hard-earned money”. He knows I’m frugal really only from my vehicle choice where my diminutive 11 year old Toyota Echo stands out amidst a sea of jacked up 3/4 ton diesel pickups and Beamers. The idea that one needs to spend a bunch of money to gain happiness and self-worth is very sad and a vicious cycle that will leave someone always chasing the fanciest car, biggest house, and newest electronic gadget constantly to validate their self-worth. So this is my counter to the concept that one needs to spend large amounts of cash to have any fun or quality of life.
My lifestyle at $16,000 annual spending still allows high quality of life and even extravagance. In the first half of this year, I embarked upon a seven day vacation to California beaches (Laguna, Newport, & Santa Monica) and even four days to the Disneyland amusement park. I have additional vacations planned to a beautiful lake where I’ll stay in a luxurious vacation rental condo, and camping trips to scenic water-front state parks.
I dine out less frequently than the average American who feasts on the salt, sugar, and fat-laden Mc-heart attack meals daily. But, I still consume copious amounts of Chipotle, meals at delicious local seafood spots, a wide assortment of ethnic foods (Cuban, Mexican, Thai, Japanese), and the occassional greasy bacon cheese burger or delectable pizza.
I drive entirely too much primarily because my work locale changes frequently. I am on pace to drive much more than the average American to the tune of a pace for 23,000 miles on the year. However, I have minimized the cost by purchasing a reliable, used vehicle that often hovers around 45 MPG.
Sure it might have manual windows and locks, but hey it was paid for in cash and has allowed me to limit my driving cost per mile to just $0.12 per mile thus far. This amount includes fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation and absolutely destroys the $0.56 personal mileage vehicle reimbursement established by the IRS.
By choosing the right vehicle, I’m able to drive at nearly 80% less cost per mile than average, negating the financial impact of my obscene driving distances. Even better, I know that after hitting FI I will realize large cuts in spending when my driving amounts are slashed.
I live in a comfortable duplex with someone I love. This place allows my girlfriend and I to walk 1/4 mile to a beautiful city park with a wonderful scenic Seattle cityscape view. The location positions us for a quick bike ride to trails meandering along the lovely Puget Sound, or rides to a park with hundreds of acres of both lush forests and great sandy beaches. It also allows us to easily travel into downtown Seattle to hit the museums, library, pro sporting event or if we’re feeling touristy, a trip into the Pike Place Market.
Sure, the place isn’t 3,000 SF and doesn’t have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and all the other features spouted as “must-haves” from the HGTV shoppers. But, it does allow us to live in a great metropolitan area for just $325 apiece monthly.
No, I’m not vegetarian, calorie-counting or by any means a light consumer of groceries. I have a large frame, 6′-5″ and consume ample protein to maintain my 220 lbs. I manage to not blow my budget by picking up the staples at Costco (eggs, chicken breasts, salmon, tuna, cottage cheese, protein powder, brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, frozen fruits & veggies, oatmeal, almonds, and olive oil). Shopping here allows me to still enjoy a wide variety of tasty healthy meals since these items are often 33-50% cheaper than a comparable supermarket product, while maintaining the steep caloric requirements of my large frame through consistent weight-training sessions.
As far as entertainment this year, I have attended local pro and minor league baseball games, beer and wine tasting festivals, purchased a three day pass to a major music festival, four day pass to Disneyland, and local music acts. I don’t have hundreds of cable channels to peruse, but I have plenty of viewing options thanks to Netflix, Redbox, and the library to still catch shows like the Walking Dead, Friday Night Lights, and the Game of Thrones and many hit Blu-Ray movies. More often than not, I’d rather not spend my free hours confined to staring at a talking box though, and would rather spend them reading, excercising, or hiking and exploring the wilderness.
I have read dozens of great books this year covering personal finance, cooking, biographies, and fiction without spending a dime or even leaving the house as they were downloaded from the library directly to my device.
I get tired of hearing complaints that living frugally means sacrificing one’s enjoyment and quality of life. Deprivation may be relative, but my life is blessed while having spending levels most of my peers would scoff at. Meanwhile, my net worth snowball continues rolling downhill as I accumulate more assets to eventually provide me with great opportunity, freedom, and financial independence.