“DESIGNING” YOUR LIFE ON A BUDGET
Surrounding yourself with the things you love is important. It is important to express who you are through personal style and hobbies. You don’t have to sacrifice that aspect of your life just because you are on a budget. You simply need to be resourceful and creative to figure out ways to stay on your budget AND enjoy some of the aspects of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment.
Your life strategy should be partially driven by what makes you happy. This goes back to chapter two in my wealth optimization book, “Beat the System…Create Your Own Pathway to Wealth”. In the self-evaluation exercise you are asked to define who you are. We're all different. Some people love their pets and some people love to go fishing. Some people love to travel and others just want to play soccer. Identifying where your inspiration comes from is a critical element in knowing who you are at your core.
Once you determine what brings your life excitement, the next question is usually “How am I going to pay for it?”. I always say you only get one life (for both health and wealth optimization) and you need to stay on track. But being surrounded by the things you enjoy and having the opportunity to do the things that fulfill you is also super important in your life strategy. I want you to enjoy living your life, even while you are on a budget, and even if you are at the beginning of developing a life strategy. Surrounding yourself with what you love does not require an extreme amount of money. It starts with knowing what makes you happy. The next step is determining how you start to weave your “happy” into your current budget.
From my examples above: if fishing is your thing and you are most excited when you are reeling in those fish, then you likely spend time at the outdoor retail stores dreaming about your next rod and reel or boat! If you are an avid tennis player, then you probably want the newest racquet you can afford. I have cousins who are fishing fanatics, and they oftentimes leave home at 11 pm at night so they can get their boat in the water at the right time. They are frequently out for 12 plus hours fishing! Who does that? Someone who is inspired by the sport. They come out of the boat cold, wet, sleepy and VERY HAPPY!
If you play golf and you get the opportunity to play at Augusta National Golf Club, you will move heaven and earth to get there. This is the “happy” I am talking about! For me, I love art. My husband and I have a collection of 18th and 19th century European oil painting and sculptures. As extensive as my collection is, I can always manage to find room for one more piece, even when my husband thinks we are at capacity. I enjoy being surrounded by art, but when we first started out, I knew very little about art. I certainly didn’t have the budget to support a collection of original artwork.
My first art purchase was a print I purchased out of a catalog when I was still in college. Spiegel catalog was a favorite of mine during college and before online opportunities were available. Back then you could order direct from the catalog for both fashion and décor. That simple print purchase, much like a first set of golf clubs or a first rod and reel, was the beginning of an investment in something that brings me joy. It didn’t matter that I was on a tight budget or just getting started in my journey to wealth, I made that first small step towards something that made me happy. Having a set budget to keep you on course with your overall life strategy helps us become resourceful. Knowing how to be resourceful can save you thousands of dollars in your life and allow you to keep your money in the bank!
If you have read my wealth book, you know that Doug and I were on a strict budget when we married. We were committed to our wealth goals and that required us to enjoy our life with very clearly defined budgetary guidelines. It was very simple, if an expenditure didn’t fit the guidelines then we didn’t buy it. Period. And yet, we were constantly on the lookout for décor and fashion (my husband likes to be fashionable too!) that we could afford on our budget and that made us happy. We also love to travel, but on our budget we were forced to seek out affordable trips that did not impact our broader life goals. But we looked until we found trips that fit the budget. Think of it as a treasure hunt!
Everyone who knows us is aware we are Disney fanatics! We have taken our daughter to Disney World over 50 times in less than 16 years. Disney makes my family happy and we love being there! I often tell the story of when Doug and I would go to Disney when we first got married. We were on a tight budget, but we only lived about 4 hours from Orlando by car. We could literally come home on a Friday evening after work, decide to go to Disney for the weekend and be back for work on Monday.
Given our strict budget, we had the cost figured out almost to the penny. We would sign up for a timeshare tour (back then timeshare reps were in almost every hotel lobby in Orlando). We only attended the ones that gave out free Disney tickets as gifts. We knew the drill, and it took 3 hours to do the tour. Then we got our free tickets and off we went to the park. We did that for years. Then we realized we could buy leftover package tickets. If someone else bought a five-day ticket and they only attended the parks for four days, they had one day left on their ticket. You could purchase the leftover day for a discounted rate. Our income had increased by this time, so our budget had expanded enough to allow us to purchase the discounted tickets instead of taking a timeshare tour to get free tickets. So now we were in the theme park. But there was no way we were going to spend money on the food sold by Disney at that time. While we clearly love being at Disney, it can be extremely expensive when your budget is as tight as ours was back then.
While I do not recommend the famous Turkey Legs sold at Disney’s Magic Kingdom’s Frontier-Land from a health food perspective, to save money we would buy a Turkey leg and split it for lunch. Here is the bottom line, I've been to Disney World probably 75 times in my life and I don’t have to eat turkey legs anymore. But when my financial strategy required it, I did. I was riding the exact same rides everyone else was riding. I was having the full Disney experience on a dime. The trips I had back then on an extreme budget made me just as happy as the trip I take today.
Having to be resourceful when you are on a budget challenges you to make the wisest decisions about how you choose to spend your money.
You can still enjoy “designing” your life and pursuing the things that bring you joy and happiness without busting your budget. Be happy while you are on your journey to your ultimate life dreams!