There are a lot of awesome things about living below your means. I’ve written about many of them over the last few months and you’ll hear them all over the personal finance world as well. Now that I’ve been living below my means for 2 years, I’ve experienced both the fun things and the not-so-fun things about living this way. Some of the not-so-fun things I’m experiencing will be no brainers, while others may be new ideas for you. Here are those not-so-fun things about living below your means:
1. You don’t get to have all the latest gadgets like everyone else does
This is the obvious thing about living below your means that everyone dreads when thinking about living this way. Of course, if you lower your spending, that means you don’t get the latest and greatest iPads, iPhones, 3d TV’s, cars, boats, motorcycles, bicycles and clothes. In an age where all of your friends have all of the new, expensive gadgets, it’s pretty darn hard to be the one who looks like he’s on welfare. Living this way may attract questions like, “What, you don’t have an iPad?” or comments like, “You should really buy a DSLR camera since you like photography so much!” It’s hard to handle those comments in a time where what you have and how you look are closely observed by, well, everyone you come into contact with.
Plain and simple. If you’re going to live below your means, you’ll always look poorer than you actually are. As Dave Ramsey says, when people are making fun of you, you know you’re on the right track. Thankfully, people aren’t making fun of me because I have a nice car (which I regretfully bought before I became financially smart) and an iPhone (which my work pays for). If I were to have nothing now and needed a car and a cell phone, I’d buy a $3-7,000 car and use my 5 year old cell phone. Then, I think I’d get made fun of a little more.
2. When you actually decide to go on vacation, good luck finding someone else who can afford it
This had been a major issue lately. My last vacation (excluding work trips), was two years ago this month when my friend Matt and I went to the Pacific Northwest. This was really the end of my previous financial life of not living below my means. After that vacation, I tightened my belt like a mad man and started living below my means. You can read about that here. Well, two years is a long time and I’m antsy to take another vacation. Do you know what my problem is? I can’t find anyone to go on vacation with me who can pay their own way. Perhaps it’s too much for me to expect to only have to pay for myself, but I feel like that’s pretty standard practice for people at this age. When two or more adults (who aren’t married or in a serious relationship) go on a vacation together, they usually pay their own way, right? Unfortunately, most/all of my friends that I’d want to travel with don’t have the disposable income right now to take a trip somewhere. Bummer for me, huh? My options right now are either to wait until they do have the money or pay for their entire trip in addition to mine. Hmm…. That is a tough one to swallow.
3. Your life looks boring to other people and therefore, you probably look boring
I’m pretty sure my life looks VERY boring to a lot of people I know. Why? Because I live in a run-of-the-mill apartment in a run-of-the-mill neighborhood. They live in cool neighborhoods in the city while I’m in the boring suburbs. The people I know go out a lot more than me. They are always going out to the nice restaurants, enjoying the finest cuisine in the Twin Cities. I’m eating frozen pizzas and leftovers in my apartment. My friends and co-workers take 2-3 trips every year it seems like, going to: Mexico, New York City, San Diego and Las Vegas while I’m hanging out in the suburb over the weekend or working during the week. I lost track of my vacation days (I think I have 2-3 weeks built up) a couple of years ago when I started living below my means because I basically stopped using them. I barely ever take a day off from work. How lame.
So, in a nutshell, I eat at home a lot, I don’t buy any new cool things, I go out to the boring bars for happy hour and two-for-one specials, I live in a boring apartment in a lame neighborhood and I never leave the state (except for work). Yeah, I’m pretty sure that looks boring to everyone else. It’s a definite downside of living below my means.
4. No one wants to hear about how much money you have or save each month
This one I struggle with a lot. Usually, when I do something I’m proud of, I can’t wait to go tell everyone else about it. It’s fun to hear “great job” and “way to go”. It’s usually what keeps me going and striving toward accomplishment. Positive reinforcement from people you know and care about is a great thing! Well, as soon as you start bragging about something like how much saving you are doing and how much money you have, people stop giving you positive reinforcement. Instead, they give you a fake congratulations when on the inside saying to themselves, “Wow, I don’t want to hear another word about how much money you have”. I don’t remember if I ever even figured that out the way I just described. I just felt it right away that no one wants to hear about how much money I have. So, what’s the big deal? Well, that means that after working so hard to cut my lifestyle and save money, I don’t get to brag about it to anyone.
If you buy a new car, you can go drive your friends around in it. It makes you feel great. When you buy a new iPhone, you can play Words with Friends or Draw Something or even Face Time with them. When you buy a new TV, you can have your friends over for the big game. But if you put that money in the bank instead of spending it on something ridiculous and start living below your means, you can’t say a dang word to anyone about it, or they’ll resent you for it. What a shame. It sucks and yes I’m complaining right now. If I can’t say anything to people about it, then I won’t get any positive reinforcement like we all yearn to hear once in a while.
5. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get to enjoy the fruits of your labor
Right now, I’m able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’m in my late twenties, in pretty good physical shape and have a flexible job. If I decided to go travel 1 month every year or buy a brand new car or treat my friends to a vacation, I could do it and I would enjoy every minute of it. Instead, I’m putting all of my money away for a later date with the intention of being able to enjoy it at a later date. Maybe the enjoyment is just having financial security or flexibility. Maybe that enjoyment will be in a house I will buy from it someday. Maybe it will be saved all the way until retirement, when I will then enjoy it or spend it on my traveling then.
That’s a big maybe. Maybe, I’ll enjoy the fruits of my labor today someday from living below my means. It’s not a sure thing. My dad, 4 uncles and one of my grandpa’s, all died very young. My mom has been struggling for the past year pretty intensely (I hope she recovers very soon). You just never know what will happen to you in the future. There are too many people I hear about who work all their lives and save everything for the future, only to up and have a stroke, die or lose everything out of the blue. Yes, that’s a negative view, but one that could happen. Putting everything away for the future is a risk. Living in the future completely can have its downsides. Of course, living for the present can definitely have its downsides too. I’m not saying I’m going to stop saving money and go enjoy it all today, but I am expressing my frustration about the unknowns of the future. I do want to enjoy what I’ve worked for. Taking all of your potential fun and just stockpiling it for “some day” is a risk. A risk that you may never get to enjoy it.