/ saving

Don't sweat the small stuff

In this blog post you will learn :

  • How to focus your energy on what matters
  • How to save money without being unhappy

I'm a big fan of Mr. MustacheMoney blog. There are no easy solutions, no easy ways to get 1 millions dollars overnight. You need consistent, hard-work everyday.

However there are a few concepts that are worth emphasizing.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Focus on what matters.

Here's a monthly budget:

Budget (monthly)
Income 5,000$
Taxes (federal and state) -1,750$
Mortgage -1,500$
Car -200
Groceries -600
Misc -500
Saving =450$

What should you focus on? Easy!! The mortgage or housing expense! That represents upward of ~40% of your expenses. Should you worry about the 30$ a month you spend on occasional latte? Maybe or maybe not, but that 30$ won't make a dent in your budget.

Now that you're focusing on a big expense, you can start to become a lot more creative. How about finding a cheaper place and rent the current place for a few years? Or maybe find a temporary roommate for that extra office room to help you save some extra money. How about building a separate unit in the house to rent it out?

We have a limited tolerance of self-restraint. Imagine you start the week or month with a total amount of "self-restraint points". Just like when you start a video-game with your health level. Some people can have more other less, but it is a fixed amount before you become insane. Use these points wisely to find the best place to use those points and maximize happiness. If you use all your self-restraint points on trying to save for small expenses, this wont make a dent in your budget and just adds frustration to your situation.

We have a limited tolerance of self-restraint.

I love the analogy of the field mouse and the antelope. I hear this from Tim Ferriss 17 questions

This is an extract from James Carville and Paul Begala who worked for the Bill Clinton campaign from the book Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room

"A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope. The distinction is important. Are you spending all your time and exhausting all your energy catching field mice? In the short term it might give you a nice, rewarding feeling. But in the long run you’re going to die. So ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?” [^1]

So ask yourself. Are you chasing a mice or an antelope? Is fighting with your significant other about a 3$ latte at Starbuck is chasing a mice or hunting an antelope? I also apply this to most of my one time expenses (such as a car repair). Coming from a lower middle-class family I was trained to go and try to spend extra time to save money for small things. You have a limited amount of "sacrifice" potential and you don't do this at the detriment of your general happiness. Finding the right balance is key.