Five Things You Should Feel Good About Spending Money On

by Frost on March 14, 2011

Call me what you like – minimalist, anti-consumerist, cheap-ass motherfucker – but I have ruthlessly cut expenses in my life to the point that I’m saving 50-70% of my net income. I do this by living at home, refusing to buy crap I don’t need, and letting the girls I date pay their own way through life.

My friends all think I’m nuts. So how do I do it?

As a young, healthy man with no dependents and a good job, I earn way more than I need. Think about it: If men twice my age can support their 6-person families with my income, I have no problem supporting myself with less than half of it. And one day, when (if?) I do have a family, I’ll have enough saved up to provide my kids with a high quality of life.

Saving is good for emergency preparedness, too. You never know when shit will hit the fan: Houses burn down, illnesses manifest, family members need help, tsunamis hit, midget race wars break out – how are you going to feel when your comfortable life is shattered by events beyond your control and you chose to spend $500 a month on fancy shampoo, designer t-shirts and fair-trade lattes?

Finally, abstaining from the consumption merry-go-round of contemporary western culture is an important step toward freeing yourself from our unhealthy culture. For a guy in my position, the conventional life path we’re taught is:

1) Calculate an overly optimistic projected future income stream.
2) Buy a house, car, and all the rest under that constraint, with an even more optimistically low estimate of how much our expenses will be
3) Live the next 40 years as walking cortisol factories, working our souls raw to keep the raises coming.

No thanks.

That said, intelligent budgeting doesn’t mean eliminating every possible expense from my life. Frugality is a virtue, but it’s one among many. Here’s a list of 5 items that you should guiltlessly indulge in, regardless of the financial cost:

1) Food

This was brought up by Raliv in the comments of my last post. He asked, how do I save money on food?

The answer is: I don’t. I buy organic produce and nuts whenever possible, grass-fed beef, prime cuts of meat and fish, and I do a lot of expensive substituting when I eat out to keep my meals relatively Paleolithic. I save a bit by eating a lot at home and at girls’ places, but I still spend about twice as much on food as I could get away with if I ate a conventional diet. I also spend liberally on supplements and vitamins.

As a large and active man, this adds up to thousands of dollars a year.

Well, so what? It sounds cheesy, but your health is your most important asset, and there are very few opportunities out there with a higher ROI than putting time and money into your body. Health directly translates into energy, drive and focus, which means a few thousands of dollars spent today will probably be earned back when you’re old and rich because you had the mojo to hustle throughout your life, rather than decay into a fat, alcoholic 40 year old corporate drone with the blood-testosterone levels of a pre-teen girl.

2) Sports

I play on two hockey teams, two ultimate frisbee teams, beach volleyball, yoga, and dodgeball (don’t laugh – that shit is serious business). I also pay for my brother to play hockey because he’s a broke-ass student. Adding up team fees and equipment, it all comes to well over $3000 per year.

I would be willing to pay twice that if I needed to. Sure, I could replace it all by doing wind sprints in a parking lot four nights a week and still have the same fitness level, but fuck that. A man needs competition like he needs air and water.

3) Location, Location, Location

Not everyone has the option of living at home. For those who don’t, I recommend skimping on your lodging in all but one criteria: Location.

Buy the smallest place you can fit into, but make sure it’s close to both work and play.

Living close to work means you waste fewer of your precious hours commuting, and chances are you’ll save having to own a car and transit pass in addition to rent. Being close to the nightlife is a no-brainer: It’s a lot easier to say, “Let’s get out of here, I live across the street” than it is to convince a girl to take a ½ hour bus ride to your tract house.

4) Work clothes, and one good weekend outfit

My friends make fun of me because I wear the same shirt every time we go anywhere to meet girls. Fuck ’em. I only go out once a week, at most. Why do I need multiple bar shirts to pick from?

As for work clothes, the optimal amount to spend will vary by your career. In some professions, $5,000 on suits is the bare necessity, and $10,000 is not out of the question. If you think spending a shit-ton of money on clothes will pay off in the long run, go for it. Ideally though, go on a long vacation to Southeast Asia and find a good tailor to hook you up for 1/5th of first world prices. Or just quit your job, take your 10k and stay there for a few years.

5) Books

I buy a ton of books. Many don’t get finished. Some don’t even get started. In my pre-Kindle days, I would put in a ~$200 Amazon order about once a month, but the E-reader has brought that number down significantly.

Fortunately though for the budget-conscious Infovore, a sad consequence of western civilization’s autumn period is that very little of worth has been written in the years that copyright applies to. If you’re interested in history and politics, most of what’s worth reading can be downloaded for free in a variety of formats.

The early 21st century also has some interesting and eloquent dissidents, but most of their work is available for free online, in what are known as “blogs.”

Still, there are enough interesting contemporary authors demanding (or requesting) payment for their work to put a dent in my budget. Whenever I come across a book I might be interested in, I immediately send an email to myself with a link to it and the subject line “Read.” Every week or so, I go through the emails and buy almost every one. It’s not pretty when credit card statement time comes.

Reflecting on that list, I think it’s possible to break smart, non-essential purchases into three categories:

– Investments in yourself and your career (Books, food, suits)
– Spending money to increase your free time (central apartment, but also things like a cleaning lady and eating out when it’s convenient)
– Purchases that aren’t about self-improvement, but rather just about enjoying your life by spending money on what you’re passionate about.

Budgeting isn’t about being cheap. It’s about taking stock of which purchases actually contribute to your happiness and success in life, splurging on those, then skimping on the rest.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sunny October 22, 2012 at 7:54 am

Right there with you mate. I scour my local bookstore every goddammed chance I get. A few thousand books later, and about a third of them read, I’m still adding to my collection.
My fiance’ thinks I’m crazy for only liking organic foods. Fuck it. I know what’s good for me.

Dan March 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

To me, living cheap isn’t about being miserable…it’s about having money for stuff you actually want to do. I notice a TON of people today who have no hobbies or interests whatsoever…their whole lives are all about pop culture and they spend all their spare change on stupid gadgets, new cars, clothes, bar tabs, etc that really don’t add to life at all. I would kill myself.

I live cheaply so I can try to do enjoyable things and have hobbies that make life worth living…instead of going to bars and lounges all the time get your own humidor and liquor cabinet and just hang out with friends that way; you won’t be paying the outrageous bar markups so you’ll be able to afford better drinks and smokes. (I for one don’t like the ‘get overdressed and make a public ass out of yourself’ aspect of barhopping so YMMV) Instead of getting a new car all the time…take good care of the one you’ve got and use the money saved to gear up and go on trips. Or do the traditional manly activity of buying an old classic and restoring it. Start a functional gun collection and make regular range trips. Go do cool stuff in foriegn countries…seriously you’ll be surprised how much you can do with a modest income if you spend it wisely.

Zen Buddhist March 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm
Zen Buddhist March 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

You are right to deprive the consumer beast of nutrients.

Watch this 4 hour BBC documentary about how this culture was fabricated during WWI when Sigmund Freud’s nephew was hired by the US government and US corporate business to embed psychoanalysis in everything from our politics to our media to our economy.

MarcTheEngineer March 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Big yeps on 1) and 2) – I have a tendency to go overboard on 1… Food brings me enormous enjoyment and I spend way to much indulging it.

3) I agree with and actually ended up spending the extra cash on buying a house in a more expensive area – but that was mostly an investment decision on a house that was rather underpriced considering the area during December 2008 (The only dip that occurred in my regional housing market was during the winter of 2008, the house I bought is already worth at least 60K or approximately 30% more than my purchasing price… going to sell it soon and pay off all my old university debt)

Frost March 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I refuse to let any of my friends and family buy suburban or exurban property without a fight. Sooner or later, the western world is going to wake up and realize how awful (and unnecessary) commuting is, and non-central property values are going to plummet.

Or maybe not, and people will continue to give up 3 hours/day in traffic for their McMansions. If that’s the case, it might push my misanthropy far enough that I’ll go on welfare and get a WoW account to avoid ever having to leave my house, so losing money on real estate won’t be my biggest concern.

Jokah Macpherson March 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Hey, I found your blog a couple days ago through a link from the Audacious Epigone. I just wanted to say that I really like these budgeting lists, especially the second one. It describes my natural tendencies almost perfectly. I currently save over 20% of my gross income, although this is about to take a serious hit when I move from the suburbs to my downtown metro area, but I think the premium is worth it for being able to walk to work – commuting bores me to death.

Frost March 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Welcome! Happy to see he’s a reader, although he may rescind the link if I reveal that I’ve probably ruined a few of his DMB concerts as the drunk, screaming 18-year old asshole in the row behind him…. “PLAAAAYY FORRRTY ONNNNE!!!!” Sorry AE.

I don’t mind commuting. I do ~30m each way several days a week when I sleep at home, and it’s the easiest time of the day to read for me. Driving is a bitch though.

sestamibi March 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Next to the term “square footage”, all too frequently used in place of the proper concept “floor space” in realestate-ese, nothing is more irritating to me than the term “living at home”. WTF does that mean??! I live at home too, and so do my wife and son here with me. If you want to say “I live with my parents” you should say that. There’s nothing shameful about it–no matter how old you are! I did it during my 30’s before I got married and during a bad down time in my life. I wasn’t happy about it (since I was a homeowner before and since), but I never concealed it either.

NomadicNeill March 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I’m very similar in my spending habits.

A distinction I also make when spending is trying to choose Experiences over Things.

I more willing to spend on something that will provide me memories than something that brings clutter to my life.

Once exception is guitar playing but I don’t feel guilty about that because it’s my reason for being and it’s a very efficient investment. I get thousands of hours of entertainment for the money that I spend.

Frost March 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I love people who complain about not being able to afford traveling, but own late-model cars and $3000 sofas. If you want to know what a person truly values in life, ignore what he says and look at his bank statement.

I’ll have to remember to ask you for tips on taking a bulky guitar with me on the road when the time comes…

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