You skip coffee and drink the free stuff at work. Or for those unlucky souls without free work coffee bring it from home. You have stopped going out for brunch and enjoying some avocado toast at that funky little restaurant in your neighborhood that makes their own bread.
Yet, your bank account is still empty? Not moving any closer to that down payment you’re saving for?
Well, here you have my permission to buy a latte every once in a while. Or god forbid even go out for lunch every once in a while.
I’m sorry Graham Stephen — really, I am.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly that frugality is a good trait. And I practice it in my own life.
But I still go to Starbucks on weekends to hangout and write. I try and shop at Safeway and King Sooper’s but every once in a while, I go to Whole Foods and buy a ridiculously overpriced breakfast or dinner or pay $6 for some blueberries.
There are better ways to save
But here’s the thing. Money is a necessary evil. You still need it to live a good life. You need to pay for your living expenses, but also you want to buy a house, take vacations, pay for a wedding, pay for your kids colleges and retire eventually.
All of these things take money, and you need to be saving and investing. Again, you need to be saving and investing, full stop. You need to figure out a way to live below your means and take that difference and put it away into stocks, bonds, real estate etc.
But here are a couple of things that will move the needle more than skipping avocado toast.
Start with the big stuff
The little stuff is great, and if you are fully focused on saving up a down payment for a house and start making coffee at home, eating in for all meals etc. Then great go for it.
But make sure your life is optimized for the big stuff. That is housing and transportation and food.
Saving $50 a month by revamping your coffee routine doesn’t compare to saving $500 or $1,000 or more a month by revamping your housing situation.
I lived with roommates for much longer than most of my friends and saved hundreds of dollars in rent.
In my thirties I then bought a condo well within my price range. I now rent that condo out and have repeated the process buying a second and am now renting that one out.
One of the reasons, I know I was able to rent out the condo (and manage it myself) was that the total payment was not a remarkably high percentage of my income. So, I was willing to take the risk of having two payments for a month or two in between tenants.
So, live with roommates longer than you think you should. I know you want your own space, it makes dating harder etc. but you will thank your younger self for making that decision in 5 or 10 years when you look at your bank account while sitting in your place that you own.
Perhaps, then in a couple years after you have a pile a money look into house hacking and buying a duplex or triplex. Or at least a fixer upper where you can add your own sweat equity into it.
I have bought three cars over the last 15 years and I have never bought a new car. I always paid cash and never paid more than $8K. Right now, I drive a fully paid for five year old Subaru with a few too many miles on it.
I have also lived a few years in a big east coast city and a couple years overseas and made do with no car in those places. It wasn’t always easy but I managed with a bike and a zip car membership.
So, option A, make do without for a while. It’s not just the cost of the car. Its insurance, registration fees, taxes, gas, oil changes, repairs etc. that you would be saving if you can do without for a couple of years.
Or option B, at least just buy what you need. Older cars with a lot of miles are getting better and better every year. You don’t have to worry about constant breakdowns and repair costs even if you buy a car with a few miles on it these days.
See now here’s the thing.
Go ahead and drink Starbucks… just try not to get a fancy Venti whatever that costs $8. See if you can cut that in half. I promise you, you will be just as happy and probably lose some weight as well.
And go ahead and shop at Whole Foods… but maybe only occasionally. Try to get most of your food at the less expensive grocery stores.
Because the extra $50, $100 or $200 a month you might be able to save here by being frugal. Now that you are saving $500, $1,000 or $2,000 a month by optimizing your housing and transportation. Not as big of a deal.