I know I really baffle some people with the fact that between my wife and I we save over half our take home pay. Upon hearing that number I usually get a response of “Oh you meant to say 5%“, a confused stare or the classic “Pardon?!? How?!?”
I have tried to explain to people over the years how to do it, but it always seems to be that people just don’t get the fact the whole system of saving is really just a series of habits and cost optimizations. For example, we have the habit of not renting movies we instead borrow them from the library or we have optimized our house insurance costs by keeping our deductible as high as they will let me go. Take that and repeat over every area of your life.
Yet more recently I have developed a rather new habit that significant keeps my costs down: the habit of not spending. It’s an interesting fact when you do something long enough just about anything can become a habit. Case in point I’ve been literally so busy over the last few months that I’ve sort of fell into a new habit: I don’t spend much of anything without being fully aware of doing it.
I used to spend some money on little whims that would crop up periodically like a coffee or an afternoon snack (I would suspect most people do this). Typically this spending would be basically pure impulse. I didn’t need it and often afterward I would find myself wondering why I bothered since it didn’t always end up being that satisfying. Yet after being insanely busy for the last few months I did manage to stop some of that impulse spending.
Now when a whim comes up I tend to think a bit about it before I spend the money. Do I really want something to eat? Or am I just bored or thirsty instead? Do I really want a coffee? Or do I just need a break from what I’m working on? I’ve basically taught myself to second guess my impulses to spend. So when I do end up buying that snack or a coffee I know that I really do want it and what would best fill that want. By mastering those little things I’ve found keeping the larger spending items in check easier to do.
The other interesting side benefit of being busy is I’m generally happy with it. I’m never bored and flip through channels on the TV in the evening. My biggest issues some evening is choosing what book to read next or perhaps which writing project to work on.
So perhaps that is the key to really not spending much…stay busy working on what you love. That way you stay out of the mall unless you need to be there. So how about you? What tricks have you used to keep your spending down?