I’ve mentioned before that my husband is extremely un-materialistic and fiscally responsible. One of his hobbies is personal finance, and I call it a hobby because his idea of a really relaxing activity at the end of a long day is creating financial spreadsheets. I find this utterly adorable, and I’m thankful for his skills in this area because I don’t have them.
Hubby introduced me to the Mr. Money Mustache blog, which has inspired me to take on the mantle of financial responsibility. Mr. Money Mustache is a badass who retired at age 30, solely by living far below his means and saving the majority of his (not outrageous) income. Hubby and I have taken on the goal of early retirement through frugality, though our goals also include being able to pay for college for our daughter and future children.
The “Mustachian” way won me over with two revelations. The first is hedonic adaptation, the principle that material things don’t bring lasting happiness because we very quickly adapt to them. Each new purchase or elevation in lifestyle quickly becomes the new baseline, so there is no real difference in happiness, and the more you have, the more you want. The goal of being frugal is recognizing that you can be just as happy no matter how much money you spend and how much stuff you have. It’s not about buying or having less, it’s about training yourself to want less.
The second is the principle that money equals time. I now think about each unnecessary purchase I might make as being paid for not in dollars, but in the time that my husband or I have to spend apart from our family in order to pay for it. Money can equal time, or it can equal things, and the exchange rate for things is not favorable. Our ultimate goal is to end up with more time than things, by retiring while we are young and healthy enough to spend time doing what we love.
Being frugal also allows us to lead a more balanced life now. If we can live far below our means while saving aggressively, we don’t have to work for the highest bidder at the expense of our family life. We can choose jobs that allow us to spend more time with our family but have lower pay. (Being a stay-at-home-mom falls into this category.) You can always turn time into money and money into things, but not the other way around.