Forget about the Joneses: On delayed gratification

The toughest part of maintaining a high savings rate is delayed gratification. Our income could pay for a much more luxe lifestyle than we currently live. We choose to live in a one bedroom condo. One of our vehicles is a long paid off small sedan that is ten years old. The other is newer, but it’s also the last car we ever plan to buy. To avoid paying interest, we had a mortgage sized payment on it, which constrained our other spending. For a few years, we owned two homes. The two mortgage payments combined were average for our incomes. As we have paid off those debts, we moved the payment amounts directly to our investments. Not only do we avoid the unnecessary and the pull of lifestyle inflation, we have actively deflated our lifestyle. I could list off plenty of things we’ve talked about upgrading or adding to our lives. Some of these things are easier to forego. Some of these things might be purchased eventually.  

When we downsized our home, I realized that more clothes and other things don’t make me happy. I’m in more danger of decision fatigue and if we decide to try out the nomad life, there won’t be room to take everything along. Also, we believe our professional careers are limited. Any items purchased expressly for that purpose will be obsolete in a few years. The philosophy of sustainability and making choices that are better for the world has reduced my desire to consume. How can my buying decisions make a positive impact on the earth and its inhabitants? One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to simply buy less–it also saves money. We’re not perfect, but considering the environmental impact of buying decisions often helps us to say no for reasons that feel better than saving money.

I struggle to avoid “keeping up with the Joneses.” I never believed this to be true until I realized that watching friends buy expensive new toys was a spending trigger for me. Whenever I hear this phrase, the Joneses are these mystical acquaintances or neighbors. I don’t want to show off for people I don’t know and I don’t know any Joneses. But I was blind to the friends with different last names. Like the coworker that buys a cottage on a lake, the friend that  buys a brand-new luxury car, the other friend that buys a great pair of shoes; my first reaction is often judgmental. “Who would want to waste their money on that?” It comes from a place of jealousy. Not deep-rooted envy, but I too want that instant gratification and that shiny new thing. This isn’t easy to admit. It takes work to examine our values and discern what really matters, and what purchases make our lives better, happier.

Staying the course towards financial independence requires living below our means, significantly so. We’re making salaries well above the average, but spending less than the average. Most of the time, I don’t miss what we’re giving up, even in the moment when I’m saying no. Often, it doesn’t even register as a sacrifice. In retrospect, I’m almost always happier that I declined a particular purchase. Saving money makes us more creative and helps us spend more time engaged with each other. We’ve entertained at home more frequently and had deeper conversations with our friends than ever. We routinely ask ourselves: what is it that we’re really craving? By sitting with the discomfort, rather than using a purchase to anesthetize it, we find better solutions. When the craving actually requires an expenditure to satisfy, we can identify that, too. But we don’t make the mistake of buying a new pair of shoes when what we really need is something else.  

Those moments of seeing friends buy something new and exciting are sometimes difficult.

It is in these moments where I am especially grateful for Mr. Vine–a partner who shares my vision. He also doesn’t suffer from the same FOMO that I have, or he has stronger willpower, or both. This is why, if you’re part of a couple, it’s important to be on the same page as your partner. If you’re single, you don’t have to share your priorities and life with a partner, but it is nice to have at least one person who knows, understands, and buys into your financial independence goal.

We don’t really want to buy most of that stuff. At least not as much as we want freedom over how we spend our time. We think about this quite a bit and it helps us align our values with our spending. It also helps us to spend a lot less, when we require that those expenditures are on what we value.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *