I once had this memorable conversation with a mentor years ago. He said that it is important to keep track of where your money goes, else you’d end up wondering how your expenses piled up. He said that when you earn more, it doesn’t mean that your expenses or lifestyle should go up and become more lavish. Once you reach a certain lifestyle that is comfortable enough to yourself, stay there even if you continue to earn more. And while money will afford you things and experiences that can make you happy, being a slave to it is something we shouldn’t aspire for.
When it comes to acquiring more stuff as more money comes in, psychologists have long said that the lesser the stuff, the clearer the mind and the happier you become. Or perhaps it was “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” who said that. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s been proven to be true that letting go of stuff and cutting back on expenses will help you focus more on “things that matter most” in life, such as spending time with your loved ones or finally doing that trip of a lifetime.
Of course, we all have a certain lifestyle and level of financial freedom we aspire to achieve. It differs from person to person. What is comfortable to me in terms of lifestyle may not be the same with you. A friend of mine calls it “financial threshold.” He said that once you have reached that threshold, then life for you is good. On the other hand, you might have heard people say that as their income goes up, so do their expenses. This doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, if you are comfortable and happy with your lifestyle right now, there are still ways to cut back on your expenses and still enjoy life. Here are some ways:
Spend for what matters to you. (Having) more doesn’t necessarily mean better and cutting on expenses doesn’t always mean having “less” but just spending smarter. Spend for the things you want, whether it’s a pair of great shoes you’ve been eyeing for some time now, or that trip of a lifetime. Are you one who loves traveling more than shopping? Then save for it and spend for it. Does it make you feel better if you beautify or change the look of your home from time to time? Then do it because it’s worth spending money for. Choose quality over quantity. You can apply this in terms of clothes, shoes, bags, accessories and all the necessary things in your home.
Go for thoughtful gifts. Whenever you give from the heart, it comes back to you. You may have heard that phrase before. Giving makes us feel good. When it comes to gift-giving, it doesn’t have to be an expensive item, it is really the thought that counts the most. The recipient will appreciate it more if you have given deep thought into the gift that you will be giving. What are the hobbies and interests of the person? Is the recipient always on the go but loves learning new stuff? Try giving him/her an audiobook.
In my previous column, I mentioned how the Swedes practice the Lagom way in gift-giving. Lagom, is the Swedish way of not having too little and not too much. “Just enough” are the key words. In Sweden, it’s totally normal and even customary to receive handcrafted gift items. In fact, the more personal it is, the better. To them it’s very special to receive their favorite cake or bread personally made for them, or scented candle, or a bar of soap wrapped in a brown wax paper and tied in ribbon using a jute spring.
Avoid spending thoughtlessly, instead save up. Think you can walk your way to work when the weather is good? It’s good exercise and it’s a happy pill. If your office is only an easy walk from where you live, consider walking instead of driving or taking any mode of transport. Use the money you saved for things that will add value to your life or will contribute to your health, wellbeing, and happiness such as going on a vacation.
The above tips can serve as a general guide for you. Here below are other small acts that you can do to cut back on expenses and still enjoy the lifestyle you have:
• Make your own coffee
• Bring your own water jug
• Make your own smoothie
• Make or bring your own lunch to work
• Watch out for promos from your favorite brands
• Sign up for discounts/rewards
• Maximize your credit cards’ perks
• Work out at home/ follow fitness gurus and do the reps at home
• Join a travel group
• Travel locally
• Shop local paying close attention to quality
The general rule in cutting back on expenses is to focus more on things and moments that matter most to you so you can still enjoy life and not feel deprived. You don’t have to do everything above, or you don’t have to do everything all at once. Do it slowly, let go of some unnecessary expenses (hello, subscriptions you don’t even bother to check!) as well as stuff, and you’re well on your way to a better-managed and enjoyable life. And that, dear readers, is a job well done.
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