This post and photo of a nicely-stocked fridge is brought to you by the magic that is Instacart.
Not literally, of course. Instacart didn’t pay me to write this (though I’m always open to it. Hi, Instacart.)
What I mean is that I would not have had time to complete all my work today and cook dinner and clean the house and write this post had I not been able to take 10 minutes to order the week’s groceries online.
This is the beauty of outsourcing, and using your money to buy you the one resource that’s even more important than cash: time.
Saving Money Is Great! …And Making More of It Is Even Better
About 5 years ago, I was so frugal that I thought paying $10 per month for Spotify’s premium service was an outlandish expense.
Is it something I needed then? No. Is it something I get ten bucks’ worth of value out of today? Absolutely.
Sure, some of that frugal nature was born from necessity. 5 years ago, I was a year into my first job out of college and barely making over $30,000 per year.
At the time, $10 for music without advertisements truly was outlandish.
But it wasn’t just Spotify. Any expense that I didn’t strictly need was rarely afforded room in a budget so tight a mouse couldn’t squeak through it.
If I could go back in time and tell my younger self that, today, I’d be spending money to have someone shop for my groceries and then deliver them to my door, she would have dug her way out of the pile of coupons she just clipped to give me a look that said, You’re a moron and you’ll never be rich if you spend like that.
Back then, if I could do something myself there was no way I was paying someone else to do it for me. It didn’t matter how difficult, time-consuming, or ineffective I was at the task at hand. I would do anything to not spend money.
But a lot has changed.
For one, I do have more disposable income. I don’t care how many times people say “it’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep;” life is 100% easier when you’re making at least $50,000.
And you might only need about $75,000 to be content and generally satisfied with life, but earning more than that amount means you get to some big financial goals that much faster.
That’s part of the reason I struggled with money for the first few years of my adult life: I was obsessed with savings. That’s what all the financial advice I heard — or had ever heard — told me to do.
It never occurred to me that I could channel that energy into making money, not just saving it.
None of this is to say savings is bad, pointless, or a waste of time. Far from it. I just wish we spent as much time teaching others the importance of earning more in our conversations about saving more.
The truth is, you need to be a disciplined saver and a good income earner to reach the heights of financial success. If you can learn to save money on a meager salary and stick as close to your tight budget as possible as your income goes up, you make it exponentially easier on yourself to save and invest way more money.
But then again, life is about balance. We strive to live well today while still planning responsibly for tomorrow.
So we pay for Spotify’s premium service. We hire a professional catsitter for Scout and Stormy when we’re away. (If you’re in the Boston area, we highly recommend Cat Lady Boston!)
We allow ourselves to shop at Whole Foods when we’re tight on time because it’s around the corner and we can walk to it (whereas the exponentially cheaper Market Basket requires driving outside the city to the ‘burbs and back and eats up more time).
Or, we just use Instacart and don’t go to the store at all.
We do a lot of things that would cause Past Me to cross her arms, raise a skeptical eyebrow, and think, Must be nice to just have so much money coming out your ears you can waste all of it.
Spend on What You Care About and Save the Rest
But that’s where Past Me was wrong.
For one, we’re perfecting the art of spending money on what we value.
Like I said, yes, we do spend money that technically we could save by canceling Spotify, asking our neighbors to check on the kitties while we’re away, and schlepping our own groceries to the house. But let’s not judge that until we look at what we don’t spend.
Our budget consists of some fundamental categories:
- Necessary expenses, like bills or insurance premiums
- Home goods (which is our category for things like shampoo, household cleaners, and cat food)
- Health and fitness (which consists of monthly gym memberships for Eric and me, plus a subscription to OneOEight)
- Entertainment and travel
That’s about it. Our biggest discretionary expense by far is food, because we love going out and we also enjoy coffee and treats like ice cream. Travel is at the top, too.
We keep everything else lean, but we’re not afraid to spend on what we find important, useful, or highly enjoyable.
We don’t waste money. We still save 30 to 40 percent of our income every month. Despite what Past Me thinks, we don’t throw money around willy-nilly.
I look at our spreadsheet that houses our budget at least once a day. We question almost every expense and transaction before we finalize it to make sure we reeeeally want to spend that money. Not a day goes by when we don’t have a conversation about our financial situation, where we’re on track today and how we might be able to do better tomorrow.
I’m far from frugal, but I’m nowhere near flippant about money.
I’m much, much more mindful than I was — even at the height of my frugal ways. I rarely regret any purchase I make now. When I look back on money spent, there are only a handful of transactions that make me think, eh, that wasn’t the smartest move.
Yes, I do spend more today. But I’m also smarter about using my money in a way that makes me truly happy.
Extreme Frugality Might Save You Money, But It Can Cost Something More Valuable
I woke up at 3am today to fly from Atlanta back to Boston. I worked from the time I got back home until now (and it is 9pm). I’m speaking at 3 different events this week and I have multiple consulting sessions to run for clients and networking meetings to attend.
I came home to an empty fridge and a choice to make:
Either I go spend 2 hours, start to finish, grocery shopping. Or I take 10 minutes to pull up Instacart and order my groceries so they can magically appear at my door a few hours later, in exchange for a small increase in the total price I would have paid had I gone shopping on my own.
Guess which option I went with tonight?
I will make that deal any day. For one, I value my time at a much higher rate than what I paid for Instacart’s service. We’ve done the math, and we probably pay $15-$20 more when we use Instacart. Which means I’m buying 2 hours of my time for $10 at most.
Done. Yes. Sign me up and let’s do it again.
I could have pinched my pennies and had a few dollars more to contribute to my savings and investments at the end of the month. And while small amounts do add up, you can’t fail to look at what it cost you to get those extra bucks: hours of your life. Time out of your day.
Time that you could have spent making more money than you spent — or simply time you could have spent getting as level of enjoyment out of life that was well worth the small amount you paid for it.
Saving money is the fundamental action to take when it comes to working your way to financial success. But it’s just the first action and not a spot where you need to get stuck, or find yourself obsessing over.
Once you create a strong savings habit and stop putting your focus on how much you can consume (meaning, don’t prioritize stuff over savings.. or experiences, or people) your energy is better spent working to earn more money.
Embrace an abundance mindset when it comes to money. You can always make more money.
You can’t make more time.
Save a Few Minutes of Your Own Time, Too
If you’re digging what you’ve read so far, I’d love to invite you to join us — and maybe even try your hand at going beyond wealth, too.
I’ve made it super easy for you to keep up and stay in the conversation. Feel free to use the form below, and I’ll send every single new post I write straight to your inbox so you don’t have to do a thing (or worry about missing a word).