5 Ways to Save Money On Summer Cooling Costs

summer cooling costsSummer weather can be a welcome relief from the cool (and sometimes freezing) temperatures that can accompany winter and sometimes spring. Here in the Chicago area, after a brutal winter, this warm weather feels like paradise!

Of course, as great as this or many other things in life are, it’s hard to get something for nothing. As I learned years ago from my father, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of the time, there is something we give in order to receive.

In the case of this warm and sometimes humid summer weather, this means we have to pay for cooling down. Yes, air conditioning is not free. Wouldn’t it be great if it was? We have to pay for energy, so this becomes like many other purchases in that it doesn’t hurt to look for a few small, relatively painless ways to save a little bit of money.

I’ve written before about ways to save on energy costs, with tips that cut across seasons.  Specific to warm weather months, here are 5 ways to save money on air conditioning costs:

Use a Programmable Thermostat

When you’re home, of course you want to be comfortable. I’m not into the idea of being uncomfortable just to save a small amount of money. But if you’re not home, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like the carpet or furniture will be suffering if the temperature is a bit warm!

So, for example, you can have the temperature 5 degrees higher when you leave for work. When you come back, it can be cooled down pretty quickly. This concept could apply even more so to when you’re traveling. No need to cool a house that nobody is in!

Close Shades or Curtains

By keeping the windows uncovered, and sunlight going through them, you’re heating up the home a bit. Instead, keep things shuttered in rooms that you don’t need the light at that point in time. This lets your air conditioner work as hard as it needs to, instead of doing some extra work to keep things comfortable.

Replace or Clean AC Filters

Keeping filters clean is a good habit to get into. Depending on how you’re set up, it could entail cleaning a filter or replacing periodically. I’ve talked to people who rarely change a filter, as in once a year, which find crazy. Do it much more often, not only for living well but also to save on energy costs.

Minimize Oven Use

Okay, I know that it’s tough to avoid using the oven. And I’m not advocating that you stop using it, obviously! But maybe there are times we can use it a bit less when preparing food. The oven actually heats up the home more than we think, which causes the AC to work harder. Which, in turn, costs us money. Occasional substitutes could be grilling, or maybe just preparing food once in a while that doesn’t require tons of oven time.

Open Those Windows!

At night, we aren’t worried about the sun. Additionally, that warm weather during the day will likely be cooled down at night. If the temps are comfortable enough, sometimes opening the windows to let a cool breeze in the home can work just fine.

My Questions for You

How do you cut down on cooling costs in the summer?

Do you have any other tips to share?

Weddings and Money: Follow Traditions and Dreams, or Be Practical?

cash or traditional wedding giftsHow do you feel about getting cash as a gift for a birthday or holiday?

Frankly, at this point, I’m giving gifts rather than receiving them.  That’s the way it goes as a parent.  Though innocent homemade “Happy Father’s Day” cards from your kids do qualify as gifts, and mean more than anything :)

But yes, if I do get a gift, I’m totally cool with it being cash.  I’ve written about the topic of gift cards as gifts, and frankly they make sense.  After all, they’re called “gift” cards!  So ultimately cash or near-cash equivalents are nice gifts for some (even if not all) people.

So while cash might work in many cases, what about for weddings?  Do you think cash is an appropriate wedding gift?

This came to mind as I read a recent WSJ article on wedding gifts of cash.   Apparently, there are people really putting cash gifts to good use.  As in, collecting a really nice amount of money instead of traditional gifts, and saving the stash for a specific purpose.

To me, this makes sense.  Let’s stop and think about it.  What would you rather have:

  • Wedding China you’ll rarely use, or a great start to a  down payment on your first home
  • New kitchen appliances, or the beginnings of a joint retirement fund
  • Upgraded silverware, or an emergency fund to protect you financially as a couple

You get the idea.

Really, this brings to mind a bigger question of whether or not wedding spending in general can be more oriented toward starting a prosperous future together, instead of having a singular focus on one day.  Yes, I spent a fair amount on a wedding/honeymoon too.   That being said, there are people that go all out for that one day.

I suppose if the couple makes great money and/or has wealthy family footing the bill, it changes things a bit. Plus, I’ll admit, we all have the right to spend on something we truly value.  If a perfect, dream wedding day is something that’s worth more than a home down payment – then everyone has the right to what they want to do.

Just to make clear, I’m not saying that obtaining cash and saving money for practical things should be a singular focus either.  That makes life no fun, right?  I’m just thinking that maybe there should be a balance between living for today and planning for the future.

And keeping that balance might mean thinking about weddings a bit differently, in terms of traditional vs. cash gifts, and lavish versus tastefully budget-conscious celebrations.

My Questions for You

What do you think of cash gifts versus more traditional gifts?

Do you think that weddings in general should involve dreams first and practical considerations later, or should priorities be reversed?

5 Ways to Change Priorities and Spend Less Money

changing money prioritiesLike anything, our knowledge about personal finance grows over time. Or, at least we hope it does. If we’re keeping an open mind and have a desire to learn new things and improve ourselves all the time, we should naturally evolve as managers of our money.

I’d like to believe that this is the case with me. Considering I’ve been writing about money for over 4 years now, there has been ample opportunity to think about it and facilitate a change in perspective on different topics within this realm.

In an effort to step back and practice some self-awareness, I’ve thought a bit about how my spending has changed over the years.   Now, I’m not talking about from the time I was a teenager to now. Rather, I’m talking about even my 20’s and early 30’s, when I was a working professional but not a parent and in a different phase of life.

I thought I knew a lot then, but as it turns out I’ve learned a lot more since then. Some things that were valued then, are not priorities at this point. At least not to the same level.

Here are 5 ways that my spending has changed as I’ve gotten older:

1) Spending less on cars

Now, I have to say that I never went crazy with this. So, perhaps I’m not really spending a ton less than before. However, I certainly had eyes for nicer cars. Like a tiger spotting its prey, I looked at upscale cars as the type of things that would be mine someday. You know, as a part of a certain lifestyle.

Well, those thoughts are gone for the most part now. I currently drive a Honda that I bought used a little over 5 years ago, and have no interest in buying anything else. While this car won’t last forever, I’ve proven with my previous vehicle that I appreciate the value of driving a car to 200,000 miles and beyond. It beats constant payments as the alternative.

2) Less interest in home upgrades

At one point, I had a place with granite counters, new hardwood floors, a marble bath, and so on. Yes, I have to admit that it was nice.

However, I don’t see why any of this is truly necessary. Nice, yes. Worth paying and arm and a leg for? Not for me.   The quality laminate counters I have now, and basic baths, work just fine. Actually, a bigger factor for me when spending on living arrangements is simply location. The location in which I live is more important than having something nicer but in a sub-optimal location. A prior post I wrote on school districts and homes illustrates this current line of thinking I have.

3) Fewer purchases of brand name clothing

Back in the day, I enjoyed getting clothes for work at Nordstrom. Now, I should admit that I never really liked shopping at all. Rather, I would go maybe twice a year and get things purchased when on sale. In particular, they had this anniversary sale that had really high quality stuff on sale for discounted prices. I even bought non-work stuff there, for the weekends.

Well, I don’t do that anymore. While I still believe that it’s important to dress well for work, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to do so. Shopping at other more mainstream retailers, while targeting sales, can be a great way to buy good clothes at a modest price.

Further, as I’ve gotten older, I guess I don’t care about this stuff as much anyway.

4) Spending less on haircuts

In the past, I would fork over $35 or more on haircuts regularly. At some point, it became clear that a lot of money could be saved by spending half that amount, and getting an indistinguishable haircut.

Now, I don’t recommend this for everyone. However, for guys with straightforward shorter hair, there can be significant savings over the course of the year by doing this. And, with little downside – at least for some folks. I wrote about this topic in a prior post where the question of how much to spend on a haircut was asked.

5) Spending less on “things”, while valuing “experiences” more

Again, I don’t think I’ve ever been excessively materialistic. But whatever level of materialism I did have has surely been toned down quite a bit over the years.

Time with family is absolutely at the top of the list, and enjoying time with friends is important as well. Besides that, there are other activities that are prioritized too. I’m realizing that life is short, and what really makes it great are experiences as opposed to “stuff”.

Does this mean one has to live a boring life? No, absolutely not! I think it’s a matter of priorities and reframing things a bit. This might be different for everyone, but for me this means:

  • Making sure needs are taken care of before wants
  • Valuing peace of mind
  • Prioritizing people over material things
  • Realizing that people don’t need to spend tons of money to have lots of fun

My Questions for You

What are your thoughts about these 5 ways to spend less?

Have you noticed spending priorities change for you?

How to Manage the Temptation to Buy Something on Sale

temptation to buyEvery now and then, many of us like to bargain hunt. Sometimes, when presented with an opportunity to buy something for a really low price, the temptation to buy can be overwhelming. Even if we don’t truly need the item, or it’s not a smart purchase overall, we jump all over it.

Yep, the allure of getting a deal can sometimes get the better of us!

I saw this in practice at the grocery store recently, where some guy was getting caught up in buying clearance items in the frozen foods section. Yes, it was food that was actually marked down big time.

In this case, there was a “clearance” area where an entire freezer section was devoted to items that the store had at very reduced prices. Taking a closer look, there were some frozen meals that were on sale for as little as 50 cents! In this day and age, one could apparently buy a meal for that little money.

So this guy was loading up his grocery cart with these meals. There must have been at least 20 in his cart, and he just had this look of excitement about him. I could tell he was thinking something along the lines of “WOW! I’m probably saving $1 per meal right here, and I could eat 3 meals for the price of one at these bargain prices. I’ve got to buy as many as I can…this is awesome!”

Frankly, I can totally appreciate that thinking. There is something exciting about getting a great deal, and it’s a first-reaction weakness that I have had at times too.

But the thing is, I’ve learned that deals are better when they are involving things that you actually want to buy and would otherwise normally buy.

For example, many of those frozen meals are not the most nutritious of items, and quite often have sodium levels that greatly exceed what would be found in more freshly prepared food at home. Not to mention other aspects of the nutritional profile. You can’t get something for nothing!

So, would this guy ordinarily buy these meals, and he was just saving on something he would normally buy? Or, would he normally shop for something different (and healthier), but simply became captivated by the deals he saw at the store?

Who knows, but I’m guessing that there was a little bit of infatuation he had by the extreme deals. At that price, people can be persuaded to buy something they don’t need, or maybe even something that isn’t a good choice. All in the name of scoring a deal.

I’m certainly not perfect, and have made those decisions too. Been there, done that. But this was a good reminder that we should always stop and think before getting caught up in purchasing something just because it’s at a deep discount.

We can ask questions such as:

  • Would I normally buy this?
  • If not, is it a really sensible substitute for something I normally buy?
  • Will I actually use this, or is it something I’m only buying because it’s at deep discount?
  • Is this something that will actually benefit me?

This can apply to a variety of situations, beyond just the food example. Perhaps it could involve a new pair of shoes that look nice and are on sale. They may look nice, but at some point we have to ask ourselves how many shoes do we need? It can also apply to clothing, technology, an upscale car (here is an example of someone rationalizing buying an expensive car), and many other things.

If the potential purchase is a great deal but doesn’t really fit with the above questions, then it’s incremental spending. Then, the deal actually turns into money that could have been used for paying down debt, saving for retirement, or even progressing toward financial freedom.

Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit dramatic with the opportunity costs. But the bottom line is that spending money on things that are a great deal may or may not be worth it, and it just might be good to pause and ask ourselves a few questions first before parting with our hard-earned money!

My Questions for You

Do you ever get tempted to buy things because they’re on sale, or seem like a great deal?

How do you manage the temptation to buy in these situations?

Drink an Extra Glass of Water Each Week and Save $20,000

drink water to save moneyWhen you’re out to lunch or dinner, do you buy a drink with your meal?

Personally, I’ve been sticking to water.  As I wrote in a post on drinking tap water to save money, it’s likely a healthier and cost-efficient option than most other alternatives.  Having given up drinking soda – and not having had one in almost 1.5 years – I can see how a meal outside can be a lot cheaper when just having water.

But when you think about it, the amount saved can really add up.  I was at a place recently where the cost of a beverage was $2.19.  Now, I’m not talking about the grown-up type of drink, but rather just a regular fountain-type of drink.   I recall a time when such drinks were around $0.50, which most assuredly seems like this price increase has outpaced inflation.

Anyway, at $2.19 you do get the honor of getting unlimited refills.  You know, in case you have a real urge to erode your teeth in the spirit of getting the most of your money.  Good deal?

But let’s look at the $2.19 figure again.  If you go out to eat even just one time per week, and spend a drink when you do, you’re talking about $113.88 over the course of a year.  It wouldn’t be too tough to drink one glass of water each week instead, right?

So let’s say we invest that $113.88 and earn a straight up 10% rate of return, after all expenses.  Not a sure thing, but let’s run with this figure.

Then, let’s say that we make this a habit and do it for the next 30 years.  Again, just substitute 1 glass of water for a beverage when dining out, 1 time per week.  Save and invest the difference, and let it compound.  That’s it.

After 30 years, this comes out to nearly $20,000.  All for developing a simple, healthy habit and sticking with it.  Just one extra glass of water per week is all it would take.

To me, this is but one of many examples of how we can make small, incremental changes that can eventually have a big impact on our savings.  It’s easy to think of ways that we could save here and there, particularly by changing our habits.  Perhaps this can even be applied to instances where we’re making money too?  Just a little extra income can really add up over time.

Oh, and it could save on dental expenses and avoid actual pain too, which I experienced enough of in the past.  Try saving and investing those types of expenses and watch what happens!

My Questions for You

Do you order beverages when dining out, or do you stick to just water?

Do you have any other examples of how smaller expenses can really add up over time?

The “Would You Want it Publicized” Rule for Frugality

extreme_frugalityFrugality can be a funny thing.  Sometimes we think we’re frugal since we pinch pennies in certain areas of our life, but we spend quite a bit in others.  In other cases, what we consider to be frugal might pass as overspending to others.  Clearly, sometimes frugality has some gray areas.

This can also extend to the ethical side of frugality.  It seems like sometimes we have rules for what we consider to be right and wrong behavior, but occasionally might let it slide by when it comes to saving a few bucks (or pennies).  Rationalized behavior abounds!

There have been some cases of extreme frugality that I’ve witnessed.  In a few cases, I’ve done a few unconventional things to save money.  Case in point:  my approach to saving money on coffee at the drive-thru.  Yes, it wasn’t my finest moment (and it was a few years ago), but I’m cool with admitting it.  I wouldn’t do it again.

There have been other cases where I’ve actually witnessed others going too far to save a few bucks.  I’ve written quite a few posts about these instances in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.  Check out that category to read those posts about extreme frugality, some of them were quite eye-opening in my view anyway.

All that being said, when trying to save a little bit of money, I follow what I call the “would you want it publicized” rule.  It simply involves asking yourself this question:

Would you feel okay with this frugal behavior being publicized?

In other words, would you be cool with your entire network of friends, family, and even co-workers knowing about your approach to saving money on something?  That is, feeling okay with them knowing the frugal approach you took in a given circumstance?

If we don’t want others to know, or we would be ashamed to broadcast it, then it’s probably not something we should be doing in the first place.

Here are few things I’ll own up to doing:

  • Taking a couple of extra napkins from a quick-serve restaurant.  I have no problem saying that I’ve done this on occasion.  Never hurts to have a few in the car, just in case.
  • Sneaking candy or snacks into a movie theatre.  Yes, I’ve done this before too.   I’ll admit it, though I’ll also say that I don’t do this anymore.
  • Picking up pennies outside a drive-thru.  Okay, I’ve done this too, as discussed above :)  Again, I’ll own up to it despite refraining from such behavior (and avoiding drive-thrus) these days.

These are, to me, gray area moves.  But that’s as far as I’ll go.

Going further than this would be actions such as taking silverware from a restaurant, towels from a hotel room, and so on.  To me, that crosses the line and I absolutely would not do such things.  Yet some people quietly do such things even though they wouldn’t broadcast it.  There’s a good post on Making Sense of Cents on which I commented, which includes some related discussion.

If we wouldn’t want anyone else to know about something we’re doing to save money, then there’s probably a reason:  we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place!

I’m actually at a coffee shop now typing this.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple of recycled napkins to grab….

My Questions for You

What do you think about the “Would You Want it Publicized” rule for frugality?

How do you determine what’s going too far when it comes to efforts to save money?

Do you have any examples of others (or yourself) going too far crossing the line to save?

8 Ways to Save on Air Travel

save on air travelTraveling can be a lot of fun, especially if it involves doing so for a vacation or to see family and friends.  While I have kids and don’t have the flexibility to travel on a moment’s notice, it doesn’t mean that I don’t remember the times that I did.  And, it doesn’t mean that in the future I won’t pick right back up and travel!

The thing about air travel is that it can be really expensive.  With the cost of flights what they are, it can worth asking ourselves the question: should I fly or drive?  Or take the train or bus, for that matter.

If we make the decision to fly, there are ways that we can cut costs.  Here are 8 such ways to save:

Travel on off-peak days

If you fly during popular times, such as major holiday weekends, prices can often be higher than during off-season times.  For example, traveling from a cold weather locale to somewhere warm can be expensive around the winter holidays or spring break.  Travel in September, for example, and you might pay a good deal less.

Use alternate airports

Here in the Chicago area, we have two major airports.  However, there is an airport north of here – Milwaukee – that provides another option.  What I like is that it costs a lot less to park there, which adds up.  Yes, this is an indirect cost of air travel!  Also, depending on where you live, you might be able to score cheaper fares at different airports from your primary one.

Use miles

The last time I flew, I used miles.  It was nice to spend nothing on airfare!  The card I primarily use does offer miles, and I actually make sure not to consider it at all when making purchases.  As in, I don’t make any purchases based on the hope of accumulating more miles.  If you obtain them through your normal course of spending, it’s a nice bonus.

Take a red-eye flight

Okay, this is one that I will not do.  I’ve written about this before, but I think that sleep and wealth go together.  As in, getting a full night of sleep is not only good or your health but will also keep you energized and ready to be productive.  Even if you don’t plan to be overly productive on vacation, it’s nice to be able to awake enough and not sluggish when you arrive.  HOWEVER, it can be a great way to save money on a cheaper flight!

Compare fares

Shop around!  It doesn’t take much time to search different sites to compare fares.  Not every airline will be priced exactly equal all the time.  Sure, the flight times might be slightly different.  But if you have a bit of flexibility, and are willing to do just a little bit of work looking online, you can optimize your purchase.

Pack your food

Do you want to pay a pricey sum for an in-flight snack box?  Or, perhaps worse, spend an arm and a leg for a meal in the food court?  I once spent over $12 for a sub sandwich at airport, which seemed to be twice as much as one might pay elsewhere.  Airport food is expensive, and packing your own food can be good way to save money at the airport.  It’s another indirect cost of air travel!

Get bumped from a flight

If the flight is overbooked, someone may have to be bumped.  Often times, this can be an unwelcome event for a traveler, and I’ve known of a time when someone decided to turn down a free flight.  However, if it doesn’t matter to you if you take a later flight, you might be able to get some consideration for your willingness to be bumped.

Don’t check a bag

In other words, pack lightly! Checked bag fees can really add up.  Travel with a normal carry-on, and you can avoid some annoying fees.  Remember, that fee you don’t like would have to be paid on the return trip too!  Now, I did inadvertently discover a baggage fee loophole on a flight a few years ago, though I don’t recommend it J

My Questions for You

Which of these money-saving strategies have you employed?

Do you have any other tips?

The Car Payment That Can Be a Smart Move

car sinking fund

My car is not as flashy as this garage

Okay, up front I have to say that I do not like car payments.

The idea of taking out a loan for a vehicle someone really loves, versus just driving something that’s safe and good enough, is something that doesn’t resonate with me.  I know that many probably don’t agree with me on that, and that’s totally fine.

I’ve written a number of posts on cars, how much to spend, and how long to drive them.  One example of such a post is this one, where I describe driving decidedly non-glamorous car until it piled on a ton of miles.  Another example is a conversation I with someone who was actually cutting my hair at the time, telling me all about her amazing new SUV for which she took out a long-term loan.

So it might surprise you to see a post title on Squirrelers that has “car payment” and “smart” in it together!

Let me explain my thought process on this one:

The typical scenario that I suspect ends up playing out for a lot of people is that they try to buy the most desirable (as defined by them) car they can, as long as they’re able to somehow swing the monthly loan payments.  They really want a nice ride, see others they know driving nice cars, and they want that lifestyle too.  The car is not just a mode of transportation, but also a status symbol based on brand or something they just love because it’s cool.

I think it’s better to just buy a good enough car that doesn’t necessarily have to be new.  Used can be more than fine.

When buying such a car, we can still make payments.  However, the payments would work this way:

  1. Figure out the price of your favorite “good enough” safe and practical car that doesn’t cost much, and is preferably used.  Do this 3 years in advance of your purchase.
  2. Divide the price by 36.
  3. Each month, for 3 years, set aside 1/36 of the total price into a car sinking fun.  Make this a unique account, separated from your general checking account.
  4. When it’s time to buy the car, withdraw money from this fund and pay in cash
  5. Enjoy your car without the burden of taking out a loan.  Having taken out a loan for a car and paying cash for another, I would choose the latter!

Now, once you have the car, the saving doesn’t have to stop.  You can still set aside money for your next car, even a modest amount will help.  Hopefully, this car you just bought will last many years so your car sinking fund won’t need to be raided for quite a while.  When the time comes, you’ll be more than ready for your next stress-free car-buying experience.

So in effect, you’re still making a car payment.  But it’s a car payment that’s smart, since you’re only paying for what you need and you’re not actually taking out a loan.  It’s essentially the same thing as having targeted savings.

What it comes down to is that with realistic standards, and some basic planning, we can avoid taking on unnecessary debt like a car loan.  That money could be better used for retirement and financial freedom, which sounds a lot better that continuing the cycle of overspending and working forever.  At least to me it does.

My Questions for You

Do you think a car loan should be considered a totally normal expense in day-to-day life, or something that should be strongly avoided?

Do you see a car as something that’s a fun part of life that reflects your personality, or more along the lines of something that’s a functional necessity to get you where you need to go?

Can you see yourself paying cash for your next vehicle?

It’s Expensive to Impress Other People!

cost of impressing others

Do you think this guy spends to impress?

Honestly, who would impress you more as someone who has his or her act together:

  • A person driving a new upscale brand name car, or one driving an older average car?
  • A family living in a tony neighborhood, or one living in a solidly middle class one?
  • Someone who travels the world each year for a cool international vacation, or someone who stays domestic for a budget-oriented trip?

A person driving a sporty or luxury car, living in nice home in an upscale neighborhood, who travels to far-flung corners of the globe each year seems like an interesting person!  Wouldn’t it be more fun to hang out with someone like that, rather than the person driving an old car, living in some ordinary middle class home in a plain neighborhood, who doesn’t travel to exotic places regularly?

“Yes” would probably be the answer for many if not most people, I would guess.  No scientific data here, but I think that the average person out there would be more impressed by the first option in each of the 3 questions above.

Of course, in money circles the answers might be different, but us personal finance junkies are probably outliers that way :)

To be fair, many people can rightfully afford those nice things.  However, my guess is that there are far too many people who simply can’t afford to live such lives, but feel like that’s the standard they want to live up to.  They just couldn’t imagine having a life with “average” cars, homes, and vacations (among other things).  They feel like they’re deserving of something better than average.

Moreover, many people just don’t want to appear average or give off an impression that they’re not successful.  It’s Big Hat, No Cattle Syndrome at work. This can really kick in when your peer group around you has nicer things.

Again, I probably see things differently than the typical non-personal finance enthusiast, but it just doesn’t matter to me if I have things that aren’t as nice as others who I know.  Our cars, our home, and vacations are all pretty average-looking in my opinion.  Is it bad that they aren’t different?

I wasn’t always this way.  Literally, when younger, I wouldn’t wear anything to work unless it was from Nordstrom.  I took some great vacations, having visited all but 3 states in the US while also visiting Europe multiple times, China, India, and a few other locales.   Real estate dreams became an obsession of mine!

I even remember a guy I worked with, older and higher up the organizational chart than me, driving an older most car.  How lame, I thought! What a boring dude!

Yeah, that was an immature view.  He was actually smart, though I didn’t realize it then.

These days, it’s more about my kids and financial freedom.  Or, more accurately, the quest for financial freedom.   This is because I realize that time is precious, and is more important than spending hard-earned money to look successful, cool, or whatever.

It’s not that I don’t care at all about nicer things.  That would be disingenuous to say.  Rather, it’s just that they’re not as important now, and I can suppress the still-present interest in such things because other things mean more.

Case Study

Thinking in terms of time and money, let’s consider a few alternatives for each of those 3 options above.

Car:  A nice upscale car costing $40,000, or an ordinary used car costing $10,000.  Difference = $30,000.

Home: A beautiful new “McMansion” costing $500,000, or a nice but older-looking home costing $300,000.  Difference = $200,000.

Vacation: 3 years of deluxe international trips costing $25,000, or 3 years of modest domestic trips costing $5,000.  Difference = $20,000.

So, someone wanting to look good and be cool might be tempted to spend an extra $250,000 for that more “impressive” lifestyle.  Just how much time does someone have to work to spend an extra $250,000?

Let’s assume that a person has a solid salary of $100,000 pre-tax.  After taxes, how about saying this person has $70,000 in income? If the person has annual expenses of $50,000, that means that $20,000 is saved annually.

If that same person wants to upgrade to a better life, it would take 12.5 years worth of savings in order to finance the good-looking options.  There are probably a number of other ways one could do such calculations, but a quick calculation like this makes the point:  it can be very expensive to live up to a certain image.

So why do it?

It’s fascinating how so many people would probably disagree with my view, and think I’m being cheap.  Perhaps, but it’s actually more intended to put great value on time and peace of mind, instead of letting image and status control me.

Admittedly, it’s not the material things that I get jealous of; rather, it can be others achieving more success with the same level of effort that can get me envious at times in certain situations. That’s another post another post for another day.

But material things?  No, they don’t matter too much in terms of competitiveness.  Too time-intensive!  Financial security and future freedom mean more, at least to me.  That’s the intoxicating goal, rather than possession of nice things.

What Do You Think?

Do you ever get caught up in spending to impress? It’s okay to admit it if you do :)

Do you consider the time it takes in order to afford certain things?

Do you know anyone who has certain lifestyle standards that he or she just won’t compromise?