Why do we save our money and not spend everything we have the second we have the money? What is it we are accomplishing with our money when it sits in a bank account adding a tiny bit each month, instead of using it to buy delicious meals, beautiful clothes, fun experiences, or other equally desirous things? I want to use this post to take a philosophical approach on the topic and, more importantly, I want to get your feedback below.
Many people who are frugal say that they could afford to buy something more expensive, but that they will only pay what they feel is appropriate and only for something that is necessary. This is a great strategy, but it’s hard to develop this mindset on your own, and if you used to have more money, it’s difficult to comprehend and adopt this lifestyle. For example, I used to make a great deal more money, and hardly cared what things cost. Since that’s definitely not the case now, I am shocked when I look back and realize that I once thought nothing of taking six friends to dinner and footing the bill, since that cost roughly what I now spend on all necessities every two weeks. It has taken a lot of readjusting for me to change my spendthrift lifestyle.
Now that I am somewhat reformed, I understand the saver’s pleasure of simply having money in the bank and knowing that it is there. For me, I save money for security – to know that if my car breaks down, the furnace stops working, if my dog gets sick or I get sick, nothing worse will happen than the balance on that account getting a little lower. I won’t have to run up debt to buy food and keep the lights on, and my life won’t change much. As you can tell, I’m a big proponent of the emergency fund.
Some of my desire to save also arises out of my long-standing problem with accepting help from others. This may sound like a good thing, but when you need help, sometimes you need to be able to accept it without feeling bad about yourself or losing your sense of pride. Since I don’t like being in debt or taking things that I believe others need, having a good savings cushion gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I can fully care of myself and won’t have to bum off my parents. (Thanks for the car loan, Mom and Dad!)
If you are primarily saving for retirement, you’re essentially asking your current self to take care of your future self. You’re giving yourself the ability to depend on you for a while longer. You’re earning money now because you won’t be able to later.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” You don’t know what’s coming in the future, but saving now means you’ll be able to make the most of whatever does come. You’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities that others who weren’t as prepared won’t be able to jump on as quickly as you can. And the future might contain surprises (hello triplets!) that could potentially alter your lifestyle, but if you’re financially prepared, you will be able to provide the life for yourself and your family that you have always desired. This is why I also take special pleasure in having money set aside for no particular purpose whatsoever – because you never know what you’re going to want in the future, and there’s no greater pleasure than your past self giving your present self exactly what you want!
So for me, it seems that it is my independent mindset and the desire to never have to turn down an enticing opportunity in the future that motivates my desire to save. But what is it that drives you to realign your goals so that saving money and spending less is such a big priority. Are you saving for a specific item or a less tangible goal? Can you even quite put your finger on it? Let’s get a healthy discussion going!
(photo credit: Alan Cleaver)