Looking back to every time in my life when I’ve scrimped to save a few dollars here and there, it’s never made much of a difference in the end. This isn’t to say you should spend recklessly, but that you should avoid making big sacrifices that seriously compromise the quality of your life in order to save a few bucks.
I don’t like living with roommates. And yet on at least two occasions in the last five years I decided to move in with a roommate in order to save money on rent. My savings were in the ballpark of $400 a month, or $5,000 a year.
$5,000 sounds like a lot of money to save every year so many people would say “Hell yeah, save the money and live with a roommate!”
Both times I made the decision to live with a roommate were disasters that wound up costing me more than $5,000. First of all I suffered a hugely negative impact on my quality of life because I don’t like sharing my living space – I’m happy as a clam when my living room is mine alone. Secondly, I completely stopped working on my side businesses because I felt too cramped and depressed being restricted to working in my bedroom. Hence I lost more than $400 a month.
Most people who worry about money are generally stressing about somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 a month. It seems to be a magic number. If they had an extra $500 a month, they could afford live alone. Or they could afford to eat out and go out with friends. Or they could go on a nice vacation.
One of my friends rarely ever goes out, and when he does he only brings a $10 bill and forces his friends to tip for him. Another friend might soon be forced to make the tear-jerking decision to give up his own place and move in with a roommate. He has so much stuff I don’t know how he’s going to pull that off without some major downsizing. All to save $500 a month.
That may seem like a lot of money, but let’s take a step back. The world’s economic production is worth about $6 trillion dollars a month. Your $500 a month is an infinitesimally small slice of that. It barely qualifies as a rounding error. With just a small amount of effort and some clever thinking, you can increase your share of that massive pie.
You could tutor a couple of students a week in math. You could do one intuitive reading a week. You could take on more responsibilities at work and earn more salary or overtime pay. You could get a second job – preferably one that pays above minimum wage.
I’ll bet my left testicle that any smart, motivated person could make an extra $500 a month if they wanted to. It’s not rocket science.
So why don’t more people just do it and stop worrying about money?
My friend who may have to move complains about not having time. But it doesn’t take long to figure out that this is total bullshit, especially when you’re friends with him on Facebook. He posts several news articles a day, sometimes several in an hour – so he’s not that busy at work. He frequently posts pictures of himself eating out with friends – so he has both the time and the money to eat out. He proudly shows that he bought the latest Diablo game and spent all weekend playing it – yet more proof that he has plenty of time on his hands.
Maybe he thinks there’s nothing he can do, so he’s resigned himself to his fate. Yet he’s stressed out… over $500 a month.
Life is short. It’s a tragedy to be constrained by a small sum of money when so many people are flourishing in abundance. My friend in the example above isn’t a high school drop-out. He went to college and has an MBA. If anyone should be able to figure out some creative way to boost his income by a few hundred dollars a month, it’s him.
I was $30 away from bankruptcy when I was 21 years old. I needed $500 more a month, and when push came to shove, I made that – and much more. I’d argue that I’m no smarter than the average person reading this. Cue the old cliché that if I can do it, so can anyone else. Is the challenge of making an extra $500 a month beyond you?
Not every problem is easily solved, but of all problems, money is one of the most easily solvable. It’s just a number.
It kills me to see people waste so much time and energy stressing over insignificant amounts of money. It takes so much energy to save a few dollars. Think of it this way – it’s a lot easier to double your income than to cut your expenses to zero. Only the former is actually possible, for one thing.
Please don’t let a few dollars rule your life. Figure out a plan to make a little more money every month and start enjoying your life. You can do it.