My move to frugality did not happen overnight and was possible with two key direction changes. The first was to get more value from the money I was currently earning. Some of the techniques I have used (and continue to use) include:
- Achieve the lowest price grocery bill possible whilst satisfying my taste buds;- Ensure I am on the lowest cost tariffs for electricity, gas, broadband and mobile phone;
- Wait until shoes and clothes wear out rather than become unfashionable;
- Stop everyday little treats that really made no impact on the lifestyle I want to lead;
- Cut back on alcohol which also means less regular nights out (this also had a very noticeable effect on both my health and the sharpness of my mind);
- Generally shunning consumerism; and
- Before buying something always ask myself will this make a difference to my life 3 months from today. This means I own very few gadgets.
The second direction change I made was to not increase my standard of living as I achieved pay increases. Instead that money is saved. Some of the techniques I have used to achieve these pay rises include:
- Always do the job that is asked first and then ask for the money that job deserves once you are doing the job;
- Do whatever is required to get the job done. If the floor needs sweeping then sweep the floor even if it’s “3 pay grades below you”; and
- Use a phrase I was told many years ago – success is only 1% inspiration but 99% perspiration. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I make up for it by working exceptionally hard.
So far this journey has been a positive experience for me (I have particularly seen a massive improvement in my direct family life) however just recently I have started to really notice the possible “negatives” of this approach. The first centres on reclusiveness. The vast majority of my friends and certainly my indirect family are still from my pre-2007 days. This means that over time a big shift between our once reasonably common values and beliefs has occurred. Noticeable differences include:
- By having less nights out I see them less often so am not current. This is now a noticeable spiral where over the years the gaps between contact get greater and greater. I have tried shifting to nights in or “picnics in the park” which have not yet become a regular feature on the social calendar.
- Every time we do get together I have less in common. They want to talk about the bigger place they are looking to move in to, what great holiday they are planning this year, their new Apple iPhone 5 or new iPad. These no longer hold a great deal of interest for me. I have tried talking to them about my new lifestyle choice (maybe not as candidly as I write on this blog) which is always received with a fairly uninterested response resulting in the conversation quickly drifting back to gadgets.
At the same time I have found it very difficult to find “new” friends with common interests to my new self (it really is amazing once you have shunned consumerism to see how much it dominates people’s lives). They really do seem to be few and far between. Maybe I need to start a Retirement Investing Today Social Club? What this has meant is that I now focus more on my direct family and not a lot else. My “fear” is that I am becoming a recluse.
The second possible “negative” is my career. Since starting work, by following my simple approach above, I have seen the odd promotion and with it a real inflation adjusted salary increase of around 300%. As these promotions have occurred my day to day contacts and colleagues have changed and because their standard of living matches the salary they receive today I am now starting (if I’m not there already) to be seen as very obviously different. Some of the obvious things I see (and hence assume they see) are:
- While my clothes are clean and pressed neatly they are a little more worn and not quite as fashionable as my peers;
- When discussing what we are doing on the weekend my response is very different to theirs; and
- I can’t describe how to connect my new electronic gadget to the cloud.
So far I don’t believe this has limited my career however as each year passes the gap between my colleagues grows. I’m now starting to wonder if because I am now obviously different if I am limiting my career opportunities by continuing to follow my basic rules. This is where I arrive at a Catch 22. If I continue to follow down the current path I likely achieve retirement (work becomes optional not necessarily stopping work) in 3 and a bit years however that potentially comes with accepting that my career is now at its peak and could even go backwards. The other path is to ramp my standard of living (maybe not all the way to my colleagues but at least far enough so that I am not so obviously different) to keep further career development possible which then has the knock on effect of pushing retirement out many years. As a person who is still only in his late 30’s the path I choose is crucial because I still have a long way to go in the journey of life. For now I’m going to stay with the retire in 3 and bit years.
As always do your own research.