I’m no money expert, but I try to constantly learn about better ways to grow my wealth over time. I don’t want wealth to flaunt it. I want it to have more control over how I spend my time. I would be a lot closer to financial freedom now if I had learned financial literacy earlier in life, but alas I am where I am. You, however, might be in a different position or just looking for a different perspective on what is worth spending money on and what is not. These are the five things I wish I would have spent less money on to help me build wealth faster.
Things I Wish I Spent Less On
When I was younger I always wanted to minimize the ways I felt I was different from those around me, at least when it came to appearances and possessions, in order to fit in. This left me highly susceptible to trend cycles. If it was on trend I needed to have it. If there was a skincare product that all the cool girls had I needed to have it too. Same for makeup and most definitely clothes. As I got older and social media started to catch on I also needed to make sure I posted pictures of whatever trendy thing I had or I didn’t actually have it. I had to prove it so people knew I was part of the in-crowd.
Then the trends started getting more expensive like tech and designer handbags. I could finance the newest iPhone with my mobile carrier but I am very thankful that I was prevented from buying a designer bag from a lack of a way to pay for it. My credit card limit was below $1,000 at that time, thank God. If I had access to a card with a higher limit I would have maxed it without thinking twice to buy whatever I needed to look the part. Instead, I would save up just enough money to get whatever I was coveting and buy it as soon as I had enough. Saving for a $100 outfit from Forever21 was easier than saving $1,000+ for a Louis Vuitton Neverfull or Speedy with a retail sales associate wage. I needed to buy something every month to feel like I wasn’t falling behind.
I was spending more than I should have trying to keep up with the Joneses instead of saving up for the rainy days that would inevitably come. Plus, I never had enough money to truly look like I belonged with the crowd I wanted to be a part of. I was spending all my time working to have money to try to look the part, but as a result I never got the opportunity to become part of the crowd because I didn’t have the time to get to know them. I wish I would have just bought what I needed instead of trying to impress people with my possessions and saved my money.
Basic Wall Art
I’ve had the luxury of being able to attempt decorate my own spaces to my liking more than once. Each time I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like that I couldn’t accomplish for a host of reasons. I tried to make my space feel lived in by adding wall art that I probably got from IKEA or Ross. This didn’t bring any life to the place at all. It always felt generic and detached and like a hotel room. Not a nice hotel room either, but one devoid of all character and theme other than a place to lay your head.
What made it worse is that the wall art wasn’t cheap. If you’ve ever looked at the prices of the larger commercially made pieces of art they aren’t dirt cheap. Yes, they are significantly cheaper than buying something from an artist or gallery, but they still cost more than I should have been willing to spend at that time. I had a belief that my space had to be put together by popular culture’s standards for it to be a worthwhile home and for people to be delighted to come over. Never mind that I knew I didn’t have time or money to have people over.
In hindsight, I would have left my space pretty basic and just saved the money. I wouldn’t have changed my day-to-day life much other than actually having a savings account. If I just couldn’t bear to leave my walls bare I would have found a way to make my own pieces that felt more like the essence of me than what a mass-produced version of what some buyer thought I would or like.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my little white dog but she’s expensive. I would have waited longer to get a pet. I don’t even want to try to tally up how much I’ve spent on her in the more than decade that she’s been part of my family. Grooming, vet visits, ER visits, surgeries, treatments, tests, medications, food, and toys add way up over time. Having a little canine companion was popular back in the day so I had to have one. I love having her and can afford her now, but if I would have waited until I was truly ready for a pet her life and mine might have been a lot different.
I’m split 50/50 about not spending the money I did on my car. I live in Texas so having a reliable car is a must-have. Public transit here leaves much to be desired and isn’t available in the suburbs anyway. Maybe I shouldn’t have financed the amount of money I did and have gotten a cheaper car, but the one I have hasn’t given me any major problems. Yes, I could have spent less money on buying a car, but I doubt it would have been as reliable as the one I have now and might not have held up for the almost 10 years that I’ve had it. I might have needed to buy another car in that timeframe so I would have ended up spending more anyway. I’ll never know which would have been the better path for me, but if I knew then what I know now I probably would have chosen to get a cheaper car. Then again, If I knew my car would need only one costly repair in ten years I might make the same choice.
I’m never going to say that you shouldn’t invest in learning more, but everyone and their mom has an online course these days and positive reviews are shockingly easy to fake. I’ve taken a few courses and bought a few ebooks that were helpful to me and probably sped up my learning, but I’ve also spent money on some that were not helpful at all.
You can’t even fully depend on popular Masterclasses from people who truly know what you’re trying to accomplish or learn to actually give the helpful advice you’re looking for. (See Kris Jenner Masterclass review.) Often by the time the class starts to be seen as reputable its content is outdated and no longer helpful. That’s the nature of the internet and algorithmic results and feeds.
What I’ve started to do instead is try things that seem fun to me. I know I couldn’t stop the the “how to [insert accomplishment] in [insert time frame]” posts from coming to my feed. The sites will continue to serve them to me because they rightfully assume that I wouldn’t mind reaching more eyeballs simply because I’m showing up and posting. What I can do to prevent myself from being tossed into the washing machine of growth tactics is to remember why I wanted to show up snd share in the first place. I’m not online to try to grow for growths sake or to entertain. I’m here to connect with other people and help them feel seen and understood. I also want to inspire people to think about how they want to live and learn to fall in love with the process of living.
I frame all of my internet activities through that lens, even this blog post. I don’t care that some tool is telling me to add more keywords or more headings to this to give it more SEO power. I don’t think they’re necessary to help get my point across to real people. If the algorithm doesn’t like it I guess this post won’t get seen and I’m okay with that. I have faith that this will reach who it needs to reach.
So if I am going to spend money on a course I’m not looking for it to teach me growth tactics. If the course if explaining a concept or idea that I haven’t been able to understand on YouTube University or in books I’ll consider checking it out. Concepts and ideas are far more timeless than tactics so I’m willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on that.
How I Make Myself Spend Less Money on Useless Things
As much as spending no money at all and hoarding it like Smaug sounds great in theory, in application you have to spend money on somethings. You need food, clothes, and shelter. Maybe just don’t spend money you don’t actually have on the fancier versions of these. Food clothes, and shelter are far from useless but it’s easy to overspend in these categories by convincing yourself that you need more than you do.
I don’t make it a habit to spend less money simply to have a huge cash reserve. I was choosing to spend on frivolous things when I was earning less than $35,000 per year so it’s not like I would have been able to save a lot if I had started back then. However, I probably would have actually had a savings account that could save me from a small disaster and the ability to start investing earlier. As the saying goes, “time in the market is better than timing the market.” If I would have had even $500 saved up and left it alone I would have been in a much less precarious financial situation.
Now that I’ve mostly gotten my financial life together, (I don’t know if I will ever feel like I have it all the way together no matter what) that hasn’t changed the urge to spend on things that are useless or don’t serve my ultimate purpose of being financially free. To put up some guardrails for myself, I have five rules that I have to consider before buying something.
The first rule is my savings rule and is very simple. I ask myself if I have met my monthly savings or investment contribution goal. If buying whatever I have my eye on will derail my savings goal I won’t buy it.
The second rule is my two day rule. If I want something I will put it in my cart or on a wish list. If I haven’t thought about it after two days I won’t buy it. This keeps me from impulse purchasing when I’m supposed to just be window shopping.
My third rule is helpful in places like Target and the grocery store. Make a list and stick to it. Get in and get out. Physical stores are designed to get you to part ways with your money. Don’t let the deceptions fool you. Get what you came to get and go. If you don’t need a basket to carry your things don’t get one. This will keep your trip to the store from costing you more money than intended.
For my fourth rule, I have to think of more than three ways I would use it or where I would put. If I can do that without too many mental gymnastics I can buy it. I usually stack this one with being on my list or my two-day rule just to make sure I’m not tempting myself into buying five pair of shoes each month. The list is the one that really comes in handy. I have a list of clothing items that I want in my notes app so when things are on sale I know what I’m looking for and don’t get swayed to add more to my cart by a decent discount.
My fifth rule is, “if you can’t buy it twice you can’t afford it.” If I want something thats a higher ticket item like new electronics I use this rule. This keeps the purchase from feeling constraining. If I am able to buy two of them with money currently in my account designated for discretionary purchases I can buy one. This also incentivizes me to save even more money because there is always going to be a want or need for more something. Laptops aren’t designed to last forever and new phone tech upgrades are worth trading up for around every three years.
These rules are in no particular order and may change in level of importance depending on what I’m considering buying. Following these rules over time has made me want fewer things. When you are forcing yourself to wait on them you just might find that your wants weren’t actually coming from you but are coming from good marketing.