If you haven’t been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement. In case you haven’t heard of it, people taking part in this movement aim to amass enough money to not have to work anymore as quickly as possible. While the movement is well-intentioned, getting caught up in spending as little money as possible can be easy. Hence, you can put every spare cent toward investing toward your FI (Financial Independence) number. The sooner you reach your FI number (the amount of money you need to be financially independent, the sooner you get to spend your time doing things you want to do instead of doing only what will pay the bills.
I’ve heard about people doing creative things like depending on food left over from meetings at work for meals, only replacing clothes when the ones they have fallen apart, living with five people in a two-bedroom house, and a plethora of other somewhat outlandish things all the sake of saving an almighty dollar. I understand the drive to not need to sing for your supper, but going to an immovable extreme for the sole purpose of earning your financial freedom has diminishing returns.
I’m not saying that we should eschew financial independence entirely in favor of spending with reckless abandon, but if you are completely unwilling to allow room in your budget for things that will make the potentially years-long slog to financial freedom and independence more bearable you might be too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
I recently wrote about the things I wish I spent less money on and it got me thinking about the things that are always worth spending on. Yes, I wish I would have spent less money on things that didn’t truly matter or make a meaningful difference in my life as I work toward my FI number, but there are a few things that will always be worth the spend.
Things That Are Always Money Well Spent
Higher Quality Shoes
Ladies, we have all had an experience with poorly made, low-quality shoes. They hurt, don’t last very long, and generally just look cheap. Forever 21 heels, I’m looking at you. I’m sure men have experienced their equivalent, but men’s shoes are often made more for function than fashion so you don’t see a lot of fast-fashion footwear for men. At least not in my experience.
Spending a little more money for a higher quality shoe means they will be more comfortable to wear. More expensive doesn’t automatically mean higher quality or more comfortable. Louboutins are infamous for being uncomfortable, but you can’t deny that their quality is above and beyond H&M. Sometimes a fast-fashion shoe is all that’s in the budget when you need new ones even though you wouldn’t mind getting something nicer. I’ve been there so I’m not saying that you should stretch your finances to buy nice shoes every time you need or want new shoes. I do think that it’s worth spending more on well-made shoes that you’ll wear often or for extended periods even if it means you have to save up. Your comfort matters and your feet will thank you.
If you’re a millennial I’m sure you’ve heard that spending your money on experiences is better than spending it on material things. To an extent, I agree with that. Memories are created with experiences, not material things, but there are a few material things that make your experience better—for example, walking around in shoes that don’t squeak, heels that don’t sound hollow or don’t squeeze the life out of your toes no matter what size you get. You probably won’t get the same level of satisfaction from buying an ultra-luxury designer bag. It will be exciting to buy it, but that’s going to wear off.
It is worth spending money on experiences that will allow you to develop deeper bonds and connections with other people. Spending money to go on a girls’ trip, enjoy date nights, go to cultural events, develop a hobby, try the new local restaurant, or anything that checks something off of your bucket list will be worth it.
Experiences don’t always have to have a price tag, but it’s okay to spend money on them if they do. You’ll appreciate having people around you to enjoy time with. Life is going to keep happening, even if you want to put it on hold while you’re amassing wealth. Make sure you still have people who want to spend time with you as you’re making the necessary moves to get where you want to be financially.
There is a huge difference between staying at a budget hotel versus a premium or luxury hotel. Your accommodations are nicer, some offer turn-down service, room service is usually an option, and it’s typically in a better location. Additionally, these places will sometimes offer a concierge or butler service that will do your laundry and ironing. You can also ask them for recommendations for where to eat or things to do. Depending on the level of service at the hotel, they will even make all of the arrangements for you like a car service or reservation. The quality of your experience goes up exponentially when all of the details are figured out for you. All you have to do is relax and have a great time.
If you’ve ever had to wait for your flight in the general seating area of the airport you know it’s not the best experience. It’s not the worst experience you’ll have but it isn’t the most comfortable. Getting access to airport lounges where you will have a more comfortable seat, free food and drink options, and other accommodations will make the start of your trip more enjoyable. Some lounges even have showers and suites for sleeping. Premium travel credit cards will likely grant you access to their lounges and other lounges they have partnered with so if you can snag one of those you’ll have a few options at all of the major airports worldwide.
Upgraded Plane Tickets
If you’ve taken an economy flight you know that your comfort isn’t exactly at the top of the list of things the airline is supplying you with. You don’t have a lot of legroom or seat space and you’re generally not going to have an excellent customer service experience. Getting a premium economy, business, or first-class ticket will make your trip more comfortable. On most airlines that offer upgraded seating, you’ll have more legroom and a slightly larger seat at minimum.
If you can get a first-class ticket you will have comfort and perks galore. First-class tickets often come with access to the lounge of the airline you’re flying with, priority boarding, and unlimited drinks. You get to board first and leave first so you don’t have to wait forever to get on or off the plane. It’s also nice to be referred to as Mr. or Ms./Mrs. whatever your last name is for the duration of the flight. It’s a small thing, but it makes you feel catered to and thus makes the experience more enjoyable.
TSA-Pre Check & Global Entry
TSA Pre-Check is wonderful. You don’t have to wait in the general security line or take off your shoes to gain entry to the airport. You don’t even have to take your laptop out of your bag. You are through security and on your way to a lounge in record time. The same thing happens when you have Global Entry. It’s great to have when you’re returning to the US and want to get through customs quickly. Having TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry if you travel internationally is always worth the spend because they give you your time back.
You are what you eat. I know the price of food seems to always be going up but this is an area where you can’t afford to always buy the cheap stuff. If you aren’t giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy you’ll end up paying for it with medicines and hospital visits. The longer you can stay healthy the less money you will have to spend on medical care to keep you alive. Buy organic, un-processed, or minimally processed food whenever you can. Do your best to eat a high-quality, balanced diet and figure out what feels best for your body.
Your body cannot function properly without consistent, high-quality sleep. Spending money on things that will improve your sleep quality is something you will never regret. Test out which pillow will work best for you, get some blackout curtains for your bedroom, get a mattress topper, or upgrade your mattress. All of these things can help you get an excellent night’s sleep.
Anything That Saves You Time
I had a bunch of other ideas, but I found that putting them under one category of saving time made a lot of sense. You won’t regret spending money on things that save you time. For example, having a good vacuum that picks up dirt, dust, and dander in one pass is ideal because you don’t have to spend twice as long trying to get to the same level of cleanliness. Having your meals delivered means you don’t have to spend time meal planning, but be careful with that one. Meal delivery can start to get expensive very fast. Reducing or eliminating how much time you have to spend on specific tasks will always be a good use of money.
Enjoying Life While Saving Money
If were to sum up this entire list I would have only two categories: things that save you time and things that make your experience more comfortable or enjoyable. This doesn’t mean that you can give yourself a pass to spend recklessly if you can fit your desire into one of those categories. Driving an Audi Q7 versus a Toyota Corolla when you have no kids will be more enjoyable but wildly more expensive over time. Your flight won’t be worse if you don’t get upgraded seats because you’ll still reach your destination. However, your trip will be undeniably better if you do. Upgrade your experiences as your budget allows so you won’t be knocked off course from your true goal of financial independence, but you also will get to enjoy the journey.
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