How I minimise spending (and not deprive myself)

I am doing FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early. This is the 6th of the 9th steps to financial freedom. It’s best to read these first before you continue with this post:


STEP 6: VALUE YOUR LIFE ENERGY – MINIMIZING SPENDING 

If you have done step 1 – 5, you will already found out a few important things:

  • your real hourly wage
  • how you spend your money
  • and how much satisfaction you get from it.
  • You will also understand the concept of Life Energy.

This step is about using your Life Energy (money) wisely which helps lowering your spending.

WHY I WANT TO MINIMIZE SPENDING

My goal is to be financially-free. To do that, I will need to put more money into investment that will give returns that covers my life expenses. So I need to save more (and make more) to have more to invest. 

I give up hours of my life (working) to gain money. So my hours = money. I value my limited time on earth, hence I don’t want to spend frivolously on things that is not in line with my values or goals

MINIMIZE SPENDING/BEING FRUGAL DOES NOT MEAN DEPRIVING YOURSELF

I was never too into money (not even now). But know I have to handle money well to live a good life.

This is why I love this FIRE programme; this book, Your Money Or Your Life, emphasise that saving more is NOT about depriving yourself.

It is about :

  • Valuing your time (which you trade for money) so you don’t spend it frivolously on things that doesn’t make you happy
  • Spending money on what is important to you and
  • Maximizing the happiness that you get from something you bought (i.e using and enjoying things you have)

HOW I MINIMIZE SPENDING AND STILL NOT DEPRIVE MYSELF 

Minimizing spending is a huge topic. In the book there are 10 sure ways (but very general) to minimize spending.

What I want to share today is not specific tips to decrease expenses. I don’t believe in penny-pinching or using a lot of time to save little money e.g bargain hunting. 

I want to talk about the philosophy/mindset behind spending and enjoyment. How I find joy in things other than buying things. When I do buy things, it is those that I need and love. I also get a lot of satisfaction from what I bought.

This is how I do it:

(I will use my biggest weakness as example: clothes. But the mindset can be applied to anything)

1. Enjoy things that I have BUT also find joy in things other than material things

My story: A few years ago, I was into stoic philosophy; I love that stoics do enjoy, not deny materials things. But even if they lose them, it would be okay. That was my goal: to find joy in other non-material things and knowing even if I lose my material things, I would be fine.

I went on a material fast for about a year. At the same time, started to identify things that makes me happy. I found so many (non-material) things that makes me as happy or happier.

I realise love doing simple things that doesn’t cost a lot like cooking with my mother; learning Japanese and get excited when I could understand the a Japanese sales girl at Kyoto’s departmental store telling me ‘atarashi kaori’ (new fragrance), or discovering how grasshoppers mate in my garden!

What can you do? Use what you have. Enjoy them. And then find joy in things that makes you happy that doesn’t cost much or anything.

The founder of the movement encourage people to enjoy things that they have, and not chasing for one material possession after another.:

A materialist might consume the juice of five oranges…a frugal person…relish eating a single orange, enjoying the colour and texture of the whole fruit, the smell and the light spray that comes you being to peel it”

Spend less on things that don’t bring long term fulfilment

2. Not spend on things that doesn’t make me truly happy

My story: When I spend, I thought that those things makes me happy. But most of the time, spending is a symptom of underlying unhappiness. I shop for clothes when I feel bad about myself. When I overwork and look terrible, I thought I needed things like a flattering dress or concealer. But what I do need is just rest and less pressure on myself.

What can you do? Figure out what you spend on that doesn’t add to your goal or values (READ THIS: How much satisfaction do you get from your spending?)

Ask yourself what problem you are trying to fix when you buy something. Can you fix the underlying problem?

Break the vicious cycle. Find the root cause of the problem instead of throwing money at it e.g instead of shopping I just need more rest.

3. Identify my values and goals and spend on those

What can you do? Identify your goals and values. What do you want to achieve in life? What kind of life do you want to live in? What kind of world do you want? Spend your money on things that is inline with those things. Don’t spend mindlessly.

My story: I don’t agree with vanity but I spend a quite a lot of clothes. What’s more important to me is health, relationships and giving back to society. Knowing that, I spend much less on clothing.

I love clothes. But it doesn’t mean I need to have a lot of them; I just need to have enough.

4. Don’t aim for more. Aim for enough. 

My story: I have quite a lot of clothes. Two closet is not enough to put them. What I’m doing now is just having enough of them. I’m building a capsule wardrobe. In that wardrobe, I want to have a few things I can wear for different occasions that makes me feel good. 

What can you do? Don’t be tricked to think more is better. Bigger home. Bigger car. More clothes. More. More. More of everything. But more is not always better. Possessions can be a burden also – spending time and money caring for them. Sometimes we don’t even have time to use all that we have! So aim for enough. Enough things to make you happy. Not more, not less.

I buy quality items that I love and that I would use over and over again. Although some can be expensive. It cost much when you use over time.

5. Buying quality and enjoying them for a long time 

My story: I used to open my closet and feel that I have nothing to wear. That’s because I didn’t really like them. After putting more thoughts into shopping for clothes and buying only clothes that fit my style and lifestyle, I have many quality items I absolutely love and I wear them over and over again. 

What can you do? Train yourself to buy things that you love that are are of good quality and that last. Quality doesn’t means expensive, just well-chosen.

READ: 10 Fashion Items That I Wear Most & Their Cost Per Wear


I buy quality clothes made from good material. Sometimes they are expensive. Sometimes they are not.

RESULTS 

Last year, I managed to save 60% of my income. Although I spend less, my quality of life did not suffer. I still shop but more mindfully. I still get enjoy the pleasure of beautiful things.

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