Aspiring to be frugal is a funny thing. For all my posting about how I stay entertained in downtown Toronto on the cheap to how by despite making more money nothing in my lifestyle would change, reality sure has been different.
For context, when I changed jobs, my salary jumped a whopping 22%. When I saw the offer letter, I immediately thought to myself: “Yay! Expedited FIRE here I come!”
Well, as nice as that aspiration has been, my spending from January to June 2018 has gone up 21% compared to all of 2017. Mathematically speaking, 21% of a monthly spend versus 22% of an annual increase is kind of like comparing apples to oranges, but nonetheless I realized I’ve basically inflated my lifestyle without even knowing it.
Starting in January financial update post I was making up plenty of reasons why my expenses had gone up, ranging from Christmas gifts, to the need for new shoes, to suits, etc. But all that was a list of excuses. I’m spending more and I think today is the day I’ve figured out why.
I wrote previously about how I bought shoes and a suit to “invest” in quality. Sure, they both sure are nice, but it was $1000 combined I probably would never have spent had I still been at my previous job.
The problem is these days I’m surrounded by well-dressed colleagues and I feel the need to keep up. As a naturally competitive person, I’ve started to want to outdo them, whether it be shoes, shirts, pants, ties, etc. This is a dangerous game, one I cannot afford to keep doing.
So enough is enough. I already own enough suits, shirts, ties, and shoes to dress comfortably and stylishly every day for the foreseeable future. I don’t need anymore nor do I have the space in my tiny apartment.
Oddly, this year I started to do a better job of brown bagging my lunch. The problem is my affinity for dining at nicer places for dinner has grown. Where I used to aim to spend $30 for a dinner for two has probably gone up to $50 a meal. Same restaurants, just more liberal: adding in appetizers, drinks, etc.
What can I say: Toronto has some of the best cuisine in the world, but this is something I could probably “deflate” going forward.
For those of you who follow me, I LOVE theatre. I went to school for it and worked in it in the early days of my career. The problem is that theatre and any live entertainment in Toronto has always been prohibitively expensive after you add in food and drinks on top of the tickets. The key is to keep live entertainment to perhaps once a month at most.
But this year, I’ve splurged. I’ve seen more operas, theatre shows, and concerts compared to last year and we’re not even done the year. Part of it is because I turn 30 next year and the youth discounts will come to a very sad end, but that’s still not an excuse. I love my entertainment and I keep justifying to myself that I’m keeping it reasonable, what can I say?
#4 General, Stupid Sh*t.
An additional fancy coffee here and there. An overpriced beer with friends over there. A car mechanic thing I could myself but was too lazy to. These small things add up.
Stupid sh*t is actually the most dangerous because it’s subjective to the spender. I’ve seen people boast about their $80,000 Lexus being an amazing worthwhile purchase, whereas others wouldn’t.
But at least I can say I’ve started to recognize stupid sh*t whenever I’ve purchased it. It’s a step.
Keeping In Perspective…
Luckily, I’m still very far from spending beyond my means. My automated bi-weekly index fund contributions continue, as does my manic dedication to tracking every single dollar I spend. It’s the latter reason why I can even write about this today and know where I’m loosening the purse a bit.
Still, for all my “I shall spend no more!” it really hasn’t happened.
Being frugal doesn’t mean always being perfect with how one spends their money. It just means being aware of when expenses are venturing beyond one’s comfort zone.
So at least I’m aware. The real challenge is if I take action on it.