5 Lessons to Help You Buy the Life You Actually Want
Late last year, we decided to radically change our lives. So we gave away practically everything we owned and moved into a 300 sqft RV to travel the country full time.
In the process, we ended up saving 80% of our income each month.
I thought that the RV would give me freedom, but I never imagined that the financial freedom it gave me would mean so much more.
It was an accident that I’ll be forever grateful for, and I’ll never be able to look at money and time the same way again.
I’ll be writing a few articles on some of the things that I’ve learned along the way so that you can start living your dream life too.
How we view our money, matters
For every lesson I’ve learned, I’ve had something to unlearn as well. Turns out, we’ve got quite a few unhelpful, if not outright toxic ideas about money that are holding us back from living the lives we actually want.
This is not going to be a personal finance article about how you should absolutely be saving every possible cent you can. I just don’t believe that.
I do believe in reframing our relationship with money so that it can serve us rather than making us a slave to it.
Towards the end, I’ll share with you the exact questions I’ve posed to myself to make sure that I’m making the best use of my money.
Let’s get started…
Default thinking: Money spent is money well used.
Today, spending is sexy and addictive. From Instagram to our inbox, we are always being sold something. In fact, it goes much further than that. I recently wrote an entire article on on why we can’t stop spending.
When payday comes, we either already have a long list of things that we want, or fill up our down-time with meandering through stores to look for things to want. Even more often, we’re relieved to get that check because we need to pay off the credit cards we already used to buy what we wanted. It’s a vicious cycle.
This behavior can make spending exciting, and make shopping a past-time. On the other hand, It can also create a lot of stress and anxiety around our money.
In a Capital One study 77% of Americans reported feeling anxious about their financial situation. Worse than that, 58% said that finances actually control their lives.
These ideas and default behaviors that we’ve picked up are clearly not serving us.
After we’ve paid for our necessities, We certainly shouldn’t be afraid to spend our money in a way that empowers us. We shouldn’t feel guilty about our purchases that move our lives in the direction we want to be going.
The problem with spending comes when we keep trading our time for money in order to buy things we’ve been convinced we want or need, but actually don’t.
Wants masquerading as necessities
A word of caution here:
Not everything we think of as a necessity actually is (or we don’t need as much of it as we’ve been led to believe we do).
You’re probably spending money on things you think you absolutely need, but don’t value as much as the price tag that comes with it.
I know we were.
Do you need shelter, a vehicle, and food? Absolutely. Just make sure that the price tag matches an amount you’re okay with allocating to it.
We’ve found that adjusting to 300 sqft took almost zero effort, our vehicles are now paid off and are both base models, and we cook from home when we don’t absolutely want to go out. We’re now perfectly happy with the amount of money it takes to maintain those habits.
Take a look at what you’re spending on your necessities to make sure the allocations are in line with your goals.
Don’t spend a cent more than you need to make yourself happy.
Default thinking: If spending is sexy, then saving is boring
Saving money gets a bad rap…and man do we have the numbers to show it. In fact, our savings rate in the US has hovered somewhere around saving just 6–8% for the past few years.
For many of us, saving means that we’ve forgone pleasures and desires today, for some distant future that we may never get to. It’s a lost opportunity to enjoy our hard-work, goes against the idea of living in the moment, and certainly doesn’t fit in with the trend of “treating yourself”.
This has led to the mentality of “save only what you MUST…if that”.
Your savings are literally the only space that you’ve allocated for your future dreams to grow from. Every dream that you have that requires your finances to be in order to achieve it, starts with your savings.
In reality, many of us aren’t giving ourselves much space to dream.
We can do better.
Depending on how much you want to allocate to saving over time, these funds can do some pretty amazing things, like:
- Keep you insulated from the stress and anxiety of a job loss or major financial meltdown
- Give you the time and opportunity to travel the world without a second thought on how you’ll support yourself
- Go to bed every night knowing that your child will never need to worry about taking care of you financially in old age
These are just a few examples of things that you can do with large sums of money, but they’re just examples to help illustrate how saving can serve you.
How exactly can your money serve you?
We know that setting big picture goals helps reduce anxiety over finances. You need to get clear (at least partially) on what your dream life even is to help it grow.
When in doubt, try to focus on what you want your life to look like, rather than what you think should want. Always question what you think you should want to make sure it’s actually your own desire.
Take a moment to write down:
- A few things you imagine when you think of the life that you want to be living. (What kind of life would you be proud of?)
- What you might need financially to get there.
- Some of the biggest expenses that are getting in the way of those dreams from being your current reality.
When you set a savings goal that is actually important to you, you now have something to weigh your spending against.
You’ve actually started to make things MUCH easier for yourself now…
Use your goals to make the best financial decisions
This is the system that I use to make sure I’m getting the best possible use out of my money. I ask myself how an expense compares to the life that I want to be living. Try this yourself, and see.
Question: Is (the expense) worth more than (your goal)?
Example: Is that beautiful kitchen remodel that you’ll spend every day in (an average price of $25,513)worth more to you than the peace of mind and excitement you might imagine in being able to walk away from your job for an entire year to travel the world? (You can fairly easily travel around South East Asia for an entire year for under $15,000, or Europe for $28,000)
If the kitchen is worth it, then go for it. You obviously care about it, and that’s exactly how you should be spending your money! Have zero guilt.
If you’d prefer to travel and take a year off, well you now have a solid reason in your mind to choose not to go through with that kitchen remodel.
You get the idea.
This doesn’t just work for big purchases. You’d be surprised how much you can save and how quickly you can get your priorities in order when you weigh even the small things against your own future goals.
Reframing how I’ve looked at spending and saving has transformed how I’ve interacted with money with my future goals at the forefront of my mind.
I experience less anxiety over purchases, we don’t struggle with our financial decisions anymore, I don’t feel any guilt, and I am very actively reaching the huge goals that I’ve set for myself.
This is how confident I want others to feel about their money.
This is how you deserve to feel too.
As long as you have the compass of your own future goals, you’ll start to feel more confident in deciding how to actually spend your money.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you found something helpful on your journey to creating your dream life!