Updated: Sep 17, 2018
Written By: Mrs. Horizon
Sometimes when people hear frugal they think of the college lifestyle. Living solely on ramen noodles, doing homework on a ratty couch, and sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the room you share. Although this is a great way to save money in college this is not necessarily a comfortable way to live long term. So how do we live frugally and live comfortably? It is simple really. With every purchase that helps make our lives more comfortable, we ask ourselves, does this truly increase our happiness or make our lives more fulfilling? Maybe it will but maybe it won’t. We contemplate this on almost every purchase even the small purchases because even those can really add up.
Case and point: I don’t really like the crappy coffee I make at home while I am half asleep, so it would make me more comfortable (and probably happier) to buy a coffee every morning on the way to work. It seems like a small price, only $3 to $5 a day. But I need to pay for that for 250 days a year and that little bit of comfort will set me back about $1000 every year! It seems a little more expensive but not terribly crazy. Well, let’s look at what that $1000 a year is over a 20 year timeline getting an 8% return investing in low cost index funds. The true cost of that coffee everyday on the way to work is ... NEARLY $50,000!!! I will stick to my subpar, home brewed daily joe, thank you very much. To me the comfort and happiness of buying a coffee every morning doesn’t come close to offsetting the freedom and options I will gain in my life by having that $50,000. In many financial independence books this is known as "The Latte Factor."
On the other hand I do spend more money on items I believe add value to my lifestyle. This could be helping me explore my passions or grow as a person. As you know from our bio, Mr. Horizon and I enjoy outdoor escapades but nothing puts a damper on an adventure like blisters from ill-fitting boots. One day we went to an outdoor shop to look at high quality hiking boots. I was prepared to pay $130-$150 but the pair that fit me the best were $250! Initially I thought to just stick with the less expensive boot and hope they worked but considering how often I would be wearing them I decided to pay the extra money to get the right fit. To me the comfort of the perfectly fitting boot and the happiness of avoiding foot injuries justified the cost. AND, unlike the previous example, this was a once in a while purchase rather than a daily, monthly, or yearly purchase. I have 800 miles on them and have no intention of getting new ones yet!
But singular purchases can definitely put a kink in your saving plan too. Buying a house that is more than one person in your house can afford, vacations to far away destinations that weren’t planned early, buying top end, brand new cars, or buying all brand new things for a baby on the way, are all big examples of a non-frugal lifestyle. My parents saved money on all of these things and lived well below their means and I still lived a happy childhood (maybe happier if you ask me!). My parents bought a house that they could afford on the lower earners salary alone, they planned tent camping road trips across the country, always bought used cars, and bought baby and child toys and clothes at garage sales (or hand me downs). And guess what… I’m not scarred by my parent’s frugal lifestyle! I definitely feel empowered by it! They ingrained the saver’s mindset in me! With these skills Mr. Horizon and I can ensure that our money stays with us to allow us to pursue the kind of life that we want for ourselves and our future children. How cool is that???
And all this starts with is asking myself “Does this purchase increase my happiness or make my life more fulfilling; and is the happiness fleeting or will it last?” That is how we know it is worth the cost.
This sounds like a simple question to ask yourself but it can be difficult! Mr. Horizon and I are nowhere near perfect at asking this question before our purchases. We find it too easy to dish out money for fast food after a long day at work rather than cooking at home. That is something we are working on. We always find things to work on and improve. There is something called "The Kaizen Effect." It is a mindset that we try to live by. It goes a little something like this, “one should strive to make themselves just 1% better every day.” This can be transformational because of how these small stepping stones work. If you strive for just 1% every day at the end of a single year you will be 3778% better at whatever it is you do.
Talking about living frugally is a huge and broad topic so I thought to give a few examples and explain the base question behind our lifestyle philosophy. If you would like a Trekking Guides to appear about a specific topic we discussed please leave a comment below and we will work to get a more in depth Trekking Guide to help guide all of us along this journey.
Remember we are all on this journey together and we are just speaking from our own experiences and our lives might be different so as always HYOH!