It has taken me SO LONG to write this post, I’ve been mulling it over at my desk in work, in the car ride home and even in my dreams. It’s such a big post to tackle because there are SO MANY things a frugal person doesn’t buy in order to save money. That’s one of the main pre-requisites to being frugal after all. So how to tackle such a big topic without giving you a big list of all the things I thought of buying this year and then eventually didn’t. That sounds pretty boring and dry and it would take a long long time. You don’t want to read that do you?
My point of writing it was not primarily to tell you what you should or shouldn’t buy. The main purpose of this post is to explain to you how you can start spending less money on things you don’t even really need!
Frugality is all hinged around the process of exploring what effects spending has on your emotions, it’s a journey of self-discovery more than anything else and so it’s naturally going to differ between each person. I could tell you a list of things I don’t buy (and likely will one day) however the things that bring me no joy could be the exact things that motivate you and keep you going! The things that you could happily live without may be my favourite vices and if we all lived the same way then the economy would die and we’d have nothing to talk about.
So instead of talking about what not to buy I want to delve into a mental exercise of contemplation and reflection. We’re just gonna sit and think for a while about what really brings us joy. I remember 2 years ago when I was first learning about becoming more frugal and taking a look at where my life was going on my current trajectory.
I am fully aware that I started my journey from a place of real privilege. That’s not something I can leave out here because my lowest point wasn’t very low, I had family and friends to support me and it happened at a young age where I was able to bounce back. Others aren’t so fortunate.
I’ve outlined exactly what happened in another blog post– which if you haven’t read, you may want to do so now. During this time I spent a lot of time in self-reflection. It was a quarter-life crisis of sorts where I was feeling slightly hopeless, bored and uninspired by the future. I’d look at where earning extra money could get me and I really didn’t care for it. My friends wanted to go out for meals or nights out and I went along expecting an amazing time but it just felt flat.
I wanted challenge not consumption. I think a lot of us experience periods like this in our lives; times that require us to change and challenge ourselves or else we become eternally complacent. These are times where our brain craves something different, sending out hormones and impulses that force us to evolve into something new.
If you’re delving into the deep dark world of financial blogs then likely you’ve been looking to change something about your life. You’re looking for security or wealth, happiness or purpose and you believe -like most of us do- that money is a tool to help you get there! The problem is that there are a million adverts every day that tell you their product will make you happy. You’ve believed them in the past and the magic always fades too soon. You’re looking for something more lasting this time.
Hopefully you can take some comfort in knowing that everyone else is still searching too. In all honestly I think we always will be, just as hedonism makes us accustomed to higher spending, it also increases our baseline for happiness. Someone who has no clean water and struggles for food would be over the moon to be offered a bottle of water and a sandwich, rightly so as this could literally change their life. You and I luckily don’t have those struggles because the modern world has easily accessible clean water almost everywhere, alongside plentiful food.
What would it take for you or I to feel that same level of joy? A PB&J likely wouldn’t cut it. For you that’s not a unique experience because you’ve had clean water and sandwiches all of your life.
Along the same vein I doubt a billionaire would feel the surge of joy that you feel when your car passes it’s MOT with no charges because a £200 bill for them is likely inconsequential.
A Thought Experiment
What if a PB&J could make you feel like your life has changed? A useful thing for you to try out is imagining that feeling. To imagine this is the first sandwich you’ve eaten in months, the first new pair of shoes you’ve bought in in years and the first time you’ve eaten out in decades. To imagine the utter joy and magic that version of yourself would feel at being given such an amazing opportunity and let those feelings overtake you.
That feeling is what everything you buy should feel like! We should be searching for the expenses that bring value to our lives. We’ve worked really hard for the money we have and have given up precious hours of our lives that we’ll never get back. So spending that money you’ve earned should be twice as hard than earning it was.
Have a think over the next few minutes- and days if you need- about what exactly you spend your money on and how much joy each of those things bring into your life. I imagine your expenses will include the home you live in, your food, a mode of transportation and basic utilities. Outside of these necessities, most other things are negotiable and if you comb through items that aren’t bringing any happiness to your life then feel free to cut them out and save towards your future instead- even if someone else insists that you ‘need’ it in your life.
I promise you’ll feel better afterwards.
Let me know on Twitter what things you no longer buy and why you held onto them for so long.