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.
For the entirety of my adult life, I never stayed in any one spot. I rented basement apartments, condo closets dens, regular apartments, lived at home, etc. By my calculations, I had moved 11 times in the period between 2011 and 2016 mostly due to school and employment circumstances.
The brevity of these living experiences led me to meet many interesting roommates (for another day…), but also adopt the mentality of “own less”. “Own less” meant for every new purchase I made, I’d have to find a way to either throw something away or make it fit in my car upon the inevitable move. This worked very well for a period of time as it optimized my frugal habits but it got exhausting having to live knowing this particular roof over my head was temporary.
Finally when I got a full-time job, I decided it was time to get settled. I signed a one-year lease with a former roommate and we were in business. “No more moving!” I cheered, until I realized a big problem: that I owned zero furniture. Nothing except clothes and a laptop. For the past 5 years of my life, I had been subletting or renting furnished rooms. All of a sudden, I was going to be walking into a completely empty apartment.
Where do I start? What do I do? Where do I go?
I started to think about the things I’d need: a bed for sure. A desk. A dresser. A lamp. Probably a book shelf. Unwisely, the first place I started to google was Ikea and was quickly unimpressed with their pricing.
Life is hard. Between keeping your financial head above water, living in the moment, and simultaneously saving for the future, there are so many variables you have to manage. Do you buy that thing because it’d be nice to have? Do you stay in a lesser hotel to save a few dollars on your trip? For that show you’re seeing, do you spurge on orchestra seats or resolve to the upper mezzanine?
We deal with these dilemmas every day, and if you’re a saver, you probably pretty good at balancing the pros and cons of your spending options.
But despite your best efforts, there are still forces that work against you. They work against you no matter what your resolve is. And frankly, these forces suck.
Not too long ago, I used to work for minimum wage in my spare time lightwalking for the Canada Opera Company. What lightwalkers do is stand on the stage wearing some neutral colours as the lighting designer and crew adjust the lighting to make sure faces are lit and unintended shadows are mitigated. Reason: it’s cheaper than having the actual opera singer stand there doing nothing.
The gig was fun. I’d work a 4 hour shift one weekend and pocket $44 and get to hang out on the majestic stage of the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto and rekindle my love of theatre.
But one day I stopped altogether. Why? Because my marginal tax rate caught up to me. Let me explain.
I was talking to my parents and sister the other day about investments casually one weekend afternoon. They remain interested in how I’m doing and financial health is of obvious importance to them for themselves and their children.
“Make sure when you make a good enough gain, you sell it. Otherwise you haven’t made any money,” my mother confidently told me.
My sister agreed: “Yeah, I don’t hold anything really long term. Once I’ve made maybe a few grand, I’ll sell and then just buy it again later.”
At first blush, their strategy makes sense, right? Make your gain official, buy it again, rinse, repeat. But there are obvious problems with this approach, problems that would erode your long term gains.
So let’s talk about that in the context of a fictional case study.
September was a deceiving month, one that I guess is me deceiving myself into believing, I saved more than I did.
Let me explain: this month I spent $1658.59, for an incredible 74.49% savings rate… yet my net worth only went up $704.09. For reference, the month before my net worth jumped over $13,000!
So what happened? I went on vacation and I spent roughly $3000. Why is it not factored into my monthly savings rate? Because I tally vacation spending into my year-end figures, not month-to-month. Reason being is that vacation expenses might create some outliers and inconsistent month-to-month data for the purpose of analysis.
More on the vacation on a future post (it was British Columbia, which was beautiful, by the way…)