“Aren’t you bored not spending money? I mean, what do you DO?” I get this a lot yet I’m shocked every time. Shocked I tell you. No, we are not bored! We do not need to spend money to enjoy our lives! On the contrary, it’s freeing. You should try it.
- We don’t worry about “keeping up” or “competing” over material goods. We just don’t play that way.
- We never fight about money. For realsies.
- We don’t fret about money–we know we have enough because we live way, WAY below our means.
I’m not jealous of people who spend like mad; frankly I pity them because it seems as though they’re struggling to find meaning through money. For us, money sustains our basic needs–food, shelter, clothing, the hound–but it’s not a goal in and of itself. We’re not hoarding money just to have money, we’re doing it to free ourselves from the vicious cycle of lifestyle inflation.
Once you start saving (I mean really saving), you’ll baulk at how much your former self spent and you’ll be flabbergasted by how little you miss your past “necessities.” Seriously. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, you don’t need it!
Q: So why aren’t we bored?
While the overarching key to an early retirement lifestyle is prioritizing long-term goals, short-term delights are still important. Mr. Frugalwoods and I employ the method of substitution. We don’t deprive ourselves of the things we relish, we just do them on the cheap. Substitution is basically finding the frugal analog of your hobbies.
- Date nights: instead of spending ungodly amounts at restaurants, we cook special meals at home, set the table all classy, light candles, open our boxed wine (I told you it was classy), and gaze into each other’s eyes. Frugal Hound serves as maître d‘.
- Clothes: we shop at garage sales and thrift stores (I’m currently wearing a hot pink belt I got for 50 cents!).
- Coffee shops: ok this one is pretty much just us making coffee at home. And then drinking it.
- Snag free stuff: we attend any and all free events. Last Saturday, we walked 6 miles around our city to hear
random peoplebands playing on their porches during an annual free festival called, well, Porch Fest. Quality varied, but it was interesting and we certainly heard music we wouldn’t had we spent $50 on a show. Bonus: we packed a frugal picnic!
- Investigate your public library: books, yes, but also–free museum tickets! I don’t know if libraries nationwide do this, but ours does.
In addition to substitution, we derive joy from the little things, like watching our dog act ridiculous and finding a deal on sweet potatoes (full disclosure: we’re a tad obsessed w/produce prices).
Plus, we cultivate hobbies that are cheap or free to begin with:
- Hiking and walking
- Making our own music (I sing in a choir, which is totally free entertainment for me! And possibly even entertaining for some of the audience.)
Eschew the Mainstream
I’ve never been keen on other people “entertaining” me. And I don’t sit still well during movies or plays, so no need to go to the theatre. As a former dancer, I adore watching ballet, but I find plenty of free opportunities with student performances and the like. I also don’t appreciate being told what food to savor, when to laugh, or what I should be purchasing.
Let go of it all. Don’t be a slave to cultural norms–just because other people throw money down the drain every weekend at the latest oxygen cocktail bar doesn’t mean you should. I mean seriously you guys it’s oxygen, as in a natural component of the free air we breathe. Obviously don’t get me started on bottled water. Point is, don’t confine your entertainment standards to people trying to sell you things.
Spend When It Matters
I firmly believe there ARE times when one should spend money. We buy plane tickets a few times a year in order to visit family and friends. Yah, we’d save a couple hundred more if we didn’t do that, but it’s an expense that facilitates quality life experiences. Spend on meaningful value-added opportunities, not inconsequential throw-aways like lunch out every day (which, btw, is annually WAY more than a couple of plane tickets. No joke; do the math right now).
So how do you entertain yourself?