Author Topic: Reducing your desires vs spending money on what's important to you  (Read 2595 times)


  • Bristles
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Define what is truly important to you, and spend money on that.  Cut out the rest.

We don't care so much about eating out.  Or cars.  Or clothes.  Or TV (including Netflix).  Or a giant living space. Or many other things many people spend money on.

That doesn't mean deprive yourself of stuff you do want - I do like having unlimited iPhone data, so I'm willing to pay monthly for that (actually, now that I run the numbers, my $54/mo cell plan is 3.6% of our 18k annual spending last year - the wife's cell is $0/mo., because she doesn't care as much about having the Internet on a computer in her pocket).

Be happy with what you have.  Reduce your desires.

Like J.S. Mill said: "I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them."

That being said, while we naturally spend ~20k currently, I'm targeting ~45k annual FIRE budget for full time around the world travel with us and a kid.  I wouldn't be surprised if we come in lower than that (Maybe 35k?  Maybe less, depending on how much time we spend in cheap countries versus expensive countries, and maybe less depending on how much travel hacking we do.), and we might come in higher.   I'm planning on having 65-70k net annual real estate income, so if it comes up more, fine.. if it's less, fine.

We currently spend all the money we want to, and buy everything we want, and that comes to our natural spending level of ~20k.  We'll continue to do the same thing in FIRE, we're not going to go to cheaper places just because they're cheaper.  We'll go to where we want to go, and if that's cheap, okay. If it's not, okay.  However much that turns out to be is fine.

But I'm not worried about it, because those philosophies I mentioned earlier, to be happy with what you have and not want a whole lot are a mindset thing, and once you set that in, you'll be happy and it won't cost much at all.

Spending and happiness are both a mindset thing (as is most things in life).  It has nothing to do with trying to trim a budget here or there. The budget trimming happens naturally as things fall away when you realize they aren't important to you.

The post above from Arebelspy's journal really resonated with me, and is something I find myself really grappling with a lot, as I try to become a more bad-ass mustachian. 

I'm curious how other mustachians determine the difference between something that is important enough to spend money on vs just reducing your desires and cutting out that something?  (assuming there is no debt/hair on fire situation) 

For instance, we've cut out basically all types of TV in the last year or so, and spend almost no money on things like itunes, netflix, etc.. 
We also don't spend much at all on clothes, or fancy electronics, and don't really need much space either. However, our grocery spending is still pretty high at least relative to folks here, (~$600 per month) and hasn't really changed much in the last year, and when we try to reduce this, ultimately it causes a fair amount of stress in the household, as someone ultimately feels deprived. 

Is this an example of our spending matching our priorities, or should the facepunches be flying because we haven't reduced our desires enough for certain foods and beverages?   

How do folks look at spending and determine something as truly important vs something that isn't? 

Rika Non

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Re: Reducing your desires vs spending money on what's important to you
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 03:15:30 PM »
Everyone's internal balancing scale for this will be a little bit differnt.

As for "desires" goes, that one is so personal.  I think the main point is to not want random stuff just because the next guy wants it.  If you have real intersts, then it's something of value.  But the face-punches IMO are for the spending on "things" with no meaning. 

As far as how people reduce the spending.  I tended to follow the wait a year rule.  If I was still interested in a thing / hobby / concept a year later, then sure it will probably stick with you for a while, and I'll spend some money on it (within reason).  After a habit of waiting you just end up not really wanting much.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Reducing your desires vs spending money on what's important to you
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 03:32:12 PM »
You have to eat, right? As long as you're not wasting a bunch of food, eating a very poor diet, or buying high end crap that is simply for convenience, I don't think any face-punching is in order. Spend money on what you want, just try to want less as often as possible. That includes food, but only to a certain extent.

If the grocery budget is really "eating" at you, consider slightly smaller portions, or cheaper nutrients like beans, eggs, oils, or try making more from scratch. On the portion size thing "hedonic adaptation" is applicable, meaning your body will adjust. The less you eat, the less hungry you will be, and vice-versa. Try it out, it works. Just make sure you get enough nutrition.

I've been fairly successful limiting my desires, but I receive a lot of collateral benefits (like the opposite of collateral damage) from my work and my wife, so most of my desires are met for me without having to spend much.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Reducing your desires vs spending money on what's important to you
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 05:12:07 PM »
I like to assign a relative value for stuff which is an idea I got from "The Tightwad Gazette".

This helps me to make decisions based on my personal preferences.

Example: I like carrots.  I can buy whole, regular carrots for $ X dollars.  Or I can buy the prewashed, prepeeled,  baby carrots for about 4 times that price.  Will I be 4 times happier with the convenience carrots? No.  I am happy to peel my own.  So there's my answer. They aren't worth it to me.
OTOH I am a mushroom SNOB. I do get X times more happiness with morels over button mushrooms, so I sometimes splurge for those without guilt or regret.
I will gladly cut back on other stuff to balance out the mushroom splurge.
I know a family who routinely springs for prepped carrots and other produce and would never buy any mushroom, ever.

Our grocery spending reflects dozens of these tradeoffs - and we eat amazingly well for a small budget.

My question is, do you feel you are getting value on the food budget or are you feeling like your experience isn't matching your cost?