During the final few years of my extended graduate student lifestyle, I wondered if I’d ever spend money like a normal person.
House-sharing in my early 40s was still fun. I lived with an old friend – a should-be standup comic – and my picaresque romantic life was heavier on the romance than the ‘life’ part. So I never had to level up my spending on that account either.
My income was good if unspectacular by London standards. It dwarfed my needs.
I was lucky that my job provided global travel and a paid-up social life.
Combine a lifetime of saving with investing mania, and any rare splurge on a fancy meal or even a modest holiday felt like scrumping apples from an orchard.
I had growing resources at my back. But I had no desire to deploy them.
Spending money just seemed to create hassle, anyway. A new gadget to learn, or an expensive suit that needed adjusting, taking me back into the sight lines of salesmen.
I had a pet theory that the only sure way to get value from money was to either eat it via a favourite restaurant, or to take a black cab home afterwards. (This being before Uber or even Deliveroo).
Eating out and avoiding the night bus delivered the most bang for my hoarded bucks, not that I did much of either.
Everything else had catches.
What became of the likely lads
I appreciate that to some the notion of a nearly-middle-aged man living with his university friend and relishing a free-range chicken from Waitrose as a treat will seem odd. If not pathetic.
But it is not that strange in the mildly less conventional urban circles I moved in.
For a long time the unusual thing versus my peers was my portfolio, not my living arrangements.
However time did eventually tell. Generations of friends paired-up and left London. (And got divorced, but that’s another story.)
And as Morrissey once sang, the joke that me and my other half on the council tax bill were already a married couple wasn’t quite so funny anymore.
One acquaintance pitched our set-up as Men Behaving Badly meets the IT Crowd.
Another – an ex-girlfriend turned confidant – described me as chrysalis in suspended animation.
I mostly brushed this off, lying on our vast sofa watching The Wire on a Sunday night while they fretted with kids or dreaded work on Monday.
Indeed that sofa was a case in point. My housemate got it from his high-rolling sister. She couldn’t take it with her when she emigrated with her banker husband and kids to South East Asia. We got it ‘on loan’ but it was obvious she’d never want it back.
We marveled that it cost “over £1,000”. My friend almost bragged as much to visitors.
Strangely, they never seemed that amazed.
Soon enough I’d find out why.
Can’t stand me now
You see, the end was near for my long experiment in responsibility-free living.
One day I showed my pal a Help to Buy scheme and this time it grabbed his attention.
I suspect he was getting fed up with our take on The Two Ronnies, or at least becoming more sensitive to the innuendo.
Also, with my financial hat on I’d been boring him for a decade about how he should convert his dependable salary into a mortgage.
Finally he listened.
Six months later I was able to rue my advice at my leisure as I knocked about the house on my own. Having a place to myself did make a nice change. But I didn’t like the rent at all.
I decided to bite the bullet and to buy my own place, too.
My eccentric finances made this non-trivial. But I wangled a mortgage and bought a roomy space that four years on I’m still smitten with.
What a waster
Breaching my fortress balance sheet with a mortgage after a lifetime of no debt upset my equilibrium. I’m still adjusting my investing, for instance, to reflect my changed risk tolerance.
But it was spending money to make my flat into a home that presented the biggest challenge.
As I said, for many years I was fortunate to travel with work. Being in a somewhat trendy industry, we invariably stayed in hip boutique hotels.
I loved them and I wanted my own home to be as nice. I knew this would mean spending money.
But I didn’t. Not to begin with. Perhaps I couldn’t.
At first I slept on a camping mat. Snow piled up against the bi-fold doors.
I didn’t have any curtains.
My then-girlfriend got sick of this pretty quickly, so I bought a mattress. It arrived in a box and I slept like a dream.
Specifically, like someone dreaming of a dining table and perhaps a TV instead of a laptop.
I told myself and others that I was gathering my interior design thoughts. And it was true I now spent my weekends in the shops – places like Habitat and Heals and John Lewis that had previously been about as substantial to me as the facades of a Hollywood set.
The truth was I was reeling from the cost of moving – especially the obliteration of tens of thousands of pounds due to stamp duty – and I needed to regroup.
Don’t look back into the sun
It took a while. But in time I did furnish my place in the style I aspired to be accustomed to. I even splashed out on a wish list item – a coffee machine – that still makes me smile four years on.
Most people come to personal finance blogs to hear how to save and invest.
But from years of the Monevator comments, I know I’m not the only one with a not-spending habit.
So here’s how I learned to actually spend money without ruining my long-term plans.
1. Partition your finances
Unlike my co-blogger, I don’t budget. For most of my life a budget would have been as gripping as a celibate monk chronicling his sex life. I invest almost everything I can, and if I need to spend there’s money left in the current account.
I pay myself first, second, and third!
However I do track my net worth and my portfolio (and sub-portfolios) via a real-time spreadsheet.
So I created a new entry for flat furnishing. I detailed all the purchases I could think of, estimated the cost of each, and bumped the total up by 50% as a buffer.
This money was now separately bucketed for doing up my flat.
This got it into my skull that my spending would be contained. I could see my money mostly stayed invested. And because I was outfitting my first home as a 40-something after years of saving rather than straight from university, I was lucky in that the budget was only a small share of my net worth.
2. Spend money slowly
Unfortunately for you – unless you are one of half a dozen people I know who could be reading this – you haven’t been to the most beautiful home in the world.
But I have. I still have daydreams about it.
A relatively modest finca in Spain, it was refurbished and extended by the mother of another of my exes. (See, there are perks to serial heartbreak.)
Besides having an amazing eye for detail – and a bargain – she explained that the secret was to go slowly. To see how you use the space. How the light falls. And so on.
That was all a good excuse to spread out my spending and put up with short-term inconvenience while I decided what to buy for the best.
This gentle pace definitely made it easier to spend compared to bleeding cash every weekend.
3. Spend out of income (including future income)
Another benefit to drawing out my spending was I dipped into my savings less than I’d anticipated. It was more that I redirected new income towards each month’s project.
My saving rate slowed, of course. But that was pretty invisible, and easier for a lifetime saver than seeing my bank balance go south.
(To get a sense of just how deeply my saving habit runs, I once worked out that some of the deposit on my flat originally came from a teenage paper round.)
I also put a lot of spending on a 0% credit card. There was no interest to pay for a couple of years. I ran this into five-figures. That might seem irresponsible but – without wanting to sound like a dick – even four years ago it was only as much as a daily fluctuation in my portfolio.
Before the term was up, I transferred the balance to a new 0% card for a small fee.
Honestly – with inflation running at 7% I’m happy to kick repaying this into the long grass.
4. Amortize everything
I soon learned the reason our old £1,000 sofa didn’t faze anyone is that because even for a very big sofa, a grand is not especially indulgent.
I spent several times that on a leather one with a three-month lead time from an Italian factory.
Buying this sofa did give me pause. I wondered who I’d become. I was not actually running a boutique hotel, after all. This was spending on expenses, not an investment for income.
However it was a very well-made and timeless sofa. I estimated it would last me at least five years and very probably ten. A few years in, my guesstimate is looking good.
Buying a big TV for £700 – even in the Amazon sales – was similarly hard for a lifelong saver.
But spending £140 a year to own a great TV (assuming a five-year lifespan) was palatable.
Again, for most of you this is trivial stuff. For me it was a breakthrough.
5. Consider the Joneses…
I thought of other people and what they owned and spent far more during this period.
Thinking of how certain better-off friends had been through this spending cycle several times – they were onto their fourth home and at least their third sofa – made me appreciate it was normal.
I was still being sensible and frugal-minded, I told myself. I was only now getting to this, and I was mostly buying stuff that would last.
And I have no intention of moving again anytime soon.
Clearly this was a life-phase I had put off. The savings had been banked and compounded, but now it was time to spend.
6. …ignore the Kardashians
All that being said, I was careful whose example I looked to.
In your early years after leaving education, you and your mates are mostly in the same boat. But over time – definitely by your 30s – the divergences emerge.
Some of you are still trying to find your balance at the start of an egg-and-spoon race.
Others are halfway down the track and apparently competing in a different sport altogether.
So I was careful who I compared my spending against. For example I’m pleased a couple of my friends have made several million; I put them out of mind when furnishing my flat.
Obviously I also took no lessons from those who’d always lived well beyond their means.
7. In the long run we’re all dead
I have an old friend with a divergent life and location who I only see once every couple of years.
When we do meet up he never fails to remind me how a few years ago I said we’d probably only see each other another 20 times in our lives.
My friend was shocked by the maths. But I’m very future-orientated and think this way all the time.
Being forward-focused is why compound interest is my North Star, and Buffett’s Folly my downfall.
Everyone comes to understand their mortality sooner or later. Maybe it’s the death of a parent. Maybe it’s the Twitter thread I saw yesterday where someone else ran the numbers just as I do.
Thinking about how I’d waited 20 years to kit out my first home made it easier to get spending. But thinking how long I had left to enjoy it made me think – perhaps for the first time – about what I was really accumulating all this money for, beyond wanting to be financially free.
That’s a weighty subject for another day.
But life changes. Don’t put everything off forever.
Up the bracket
Nowadays I find it easier to spend money. Buying and furnishing my flat – helped by the tactics just detailed – seemed to break some kind of spell.
Today I’m more likely to buy something because I want it, rather than only when I need it.
I appreciate that I’m saying this from the privileged position of financial security. But I don’t feel any great shame about that.
I was fortunate to be born fairly smart and to good role models in a safe, capitalist country. But beyond that I’ve earned and saved every penny.
For many years I heard about friends’ swanky holidays, smiled at their new cars, and admired their shoes and handbags. All the time shopping myself for yellow-labelled food at the supermarket and bargain clothes at TK Maxx.
And guess what? I still enjoy a pot of marked-down pesto as much as I used to. I’m no spendthrift.
The difference is that today, if I really want to make some pasta and there are no bargains to hand, I’ve learned how to bite the bullet and just buy it.
Have you get on a mental tips or tricks to help with sensible spending? Please share them in the comments below.
The whole post is a fascinating read. And I’m really looking forward to you write about the above quote. Thanks, TI.
This is a great read. Many people are in the same boat.
We bought our first new build home in the last few years and even to this day, the ‘spare room’ (the extravagence!!) that became my work from home office during and after covid still only has a light bulb in the main light fitting. I bought that LED bulb for £11 and at the time I replaced the light bulbs from the CFL 15W’s to LED 11W or 9W for each room, doing some calculations to work out the payback time… yes, that is a tough admission to make. The CFLs got used in the loft and such for myself and some given to my parents for loft and cellar, the spares still in a cupboard. Unnecessary rooms didn’t get a light fitting; my office bulb is now a running joke with my partner, despite the fact it still really does not get any usage. I have no plans to fit a light fitting that no one other than me and my partner see, that rarely gets turned on, in a room I only work in during the day. We still don’t have blinds, but did get thermal black out curtains, including custom made ones for our main living room – the cost of these was rediculous, I justified it by it keeping my partner happy.
These sorts of posts and the underlying attitudes are why many people can manage financial independence and others cannot.
“In the long run we’re all dead” is a great quote and relevant to recent work I was doing in the field of survival theory. Such statistical models assume that as time goes to infinity, the event of interest probability tends to one – the entire mathematics depends on it. In reality, these models are applied to contexts where the probability of failure/death/outcome does not always happen and may even be rare, and instead you get censoring e.g. an account may never default or a patient may never die from a disease. The theory still holds and the models useful, as you just let such data enter the calculations as being right censored, so the event would have happened after some last observed time, t>T.
Textbook survival modelling is far from what most people ever worry about but it does provide an interesting lense on the events and probabilities involved, and how to measure them. In many life decisions such as when to stop working or when to stop investing money, you are effectively making the decision to censor/remove yourself from a population prior to some more significant even happening e.g. dropping out of the workplace, hopefully long before other actual events that get recorded (such as sickness or death) take place. This thought process is important for FI as the danger for someone who can save and invest is continuing to remain in the population even after they could have dropped out – most of the long-term outcomes that happen as time increments are not good ones. Eventually, you need your stopping rules, and to know when you have already won in the game of chance you are playing.
This post resonates so much with me. While I was happy in my comfortable, below market rental, I kept an eye on real estate listings during COVID. Last summer I came across a deal which was too good to pass up. I bought myself a condo I felt had good short to medium term potential. I was quite happy to sleep on my old mattress on the floor for the first few months, and only purchased a bed and new mattress last December (during Christmas sales of course). The rest of the place however remains unfurnished, my windows remains unadorned. I’ve been browsing the shops for “all the things” I need in my condo but often return home disappointed. What I see, feel, sit on, just does not excite me enough to part with my money. My friends think I am being cheap but a lack of “stuff” does not faze me. I am quite happy to slowly curate a space where my aesthetic, quality expectations and price expectations align. As a life long saver, it’s also been really hard adjusting to a lower capacity to save. I knew home ownership would increase my expenses, which my salary can comfortably afford. I did not however anticipate the mental angst that materialized with a reduced capacity to save. Hard to wrap my head around only being able to save/invest 20% of what I previously was able to. I guess I can take solace in the fact that my condo has appreciated 30% in 8 months however, nothing beats seeing ones and zeros in my brokerage account.
I am encouraged to hear you’re now more comfortable buying things you want, rather than only things you need. There might be hope for me yet!
Please tell me you have a separate Instagram account as an interiors influencer, complete with pics of the Italian leather sofa and coffee machine, as it would entertain me no end
It’s one of the biggest challenges of retirement IMHO – switching from saving and investing your income, to spending your pile with nothing coming in (and sometimes less than nothing if the markets go the wrong way.) Best tip I’ve found is the old one, to sleep on any purchase decisions for 24 hours, as long as that 24 hours is deferred right from the moment of intended purchase. And also recognising that “You’re a long time dead”, “There are no pockets in a shroud” and that it might be a good idea to try and “Die with Zero”.
Most people have a much easier answer to this question of “how to spend money” – just have kids.
Interestingly, I’m yet to read a fascinating story of a financially independent parent.
Such an entertaining read -like a novel
I was /am a great reader and chose a different path -probably through reading about rather than living your exciting life style and deciding that it was not for me
Read my “Cold Comfort Farm” and headed out into the British countryside as far as I could go with a partner that was up for the adventure
We were quite well equipped as a vet and a teacher which is good survival kit in “La Profonde”
3 kids later-all now long gone -we managed our world travel before Covid
Italy next week for some sun
Discovering JohnBogle and Vanguard many years ago saved me from the ravages of the British financial system
Your great work on this website reminds of my first financial lessons on the Vanguard Diehards and now Bogleheads forums albeit with a U.K. twist
Keep up the good work -you site has helped a lot of people
What to do with accumulated money? Share it: with family, with friends, with charity and volunteering. Helps them; helps your character.
Super post! From the man who once quoted Wordsworth back in the early days –
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
Monevator made a big difference to my financial education and security, because I’d been an ordinary, poor person tossed around by world events.
Once I actually thought that I’d gotten onto my feet with some investment savings (after the last 25 years of our previous century – inflation, riots, squalid housing, nowhere to live, mortgage rate 14%, Poll Tax, more riots). Then the dot.cm crash happened.
I got a fantastic job and was doing well but knocked back again with the 2008 financial crash. Redundant from my well paid job (they paid legal minimum) and I saw my savings and DC pension massively hit.
I discovered Monevator! Thank you! I’m more a slow and steady portfolio type than the many clever people who come here now. So why did I save so much if I’m not going to spend it? Because I know from my experience that the world and the government can go crazy and having my little stash means I don’t have to fear those rising bills and worse. And I can help others out if needed.
The poem still resonates with me, but I’ve never been able to find that Monevator page again. Did you change it?
Excuse me now as I need to go out and listen to the skylarks singing. And maybe photograph a few trees…..
I had wondered about the need for a FIRE deprogrammer at the end of the journey so I can stop accumulating and spend it. Though I am finding its just like the FI journey – which ironically is an accumulation of small behavioural changes and new techniques over time.
I found myself nodding along with this post in self-recognition. Saving money has always been incredibly easy for me but spending it is the hard part. I bought my first house in my mid-30s seven years ago, and I still have no curtains on the lounge windows and mismatched inherited furniture from late family members. People think I’m a tightwad, but that’s really not the case – I just hate shopping with a passion. I’m the exact opposite of the ‘women love shoes and handbags’ stereotype. Like you said, ‘stuff’ just seems to bring me more hassle when it comes to things to set up, things to maintain and tidy, finding time to use them, making decisions on interior decor, researching the best option, time to shop for them, getting frustrated when I don’t immediately find exactly what I want etc etc.
There’s definitely a strong perfectionism trait in the mindset of many people in the FI community, myself included, but it doesn’t manifest itself the way most people think. I’m not some Hyacinth Bucket character fussing over smudges on the silverware, very far from it. I live in a fixer-upper house with a 22 year old van, and I’m pretty sure that my neighbours think I’m near the poverty line. The thing is, I’d just rather wait to buy something until I find the elusive ‘right thing’ that I love. I don’t mind spending money on something, but the pleasure I get from the item has to outweigh the pleasure I get from the feeling of financial security in knowing that the funds are otherwise available if needed. It’s entirely ridiculous, because buying a set of curtains isn’t going to put me into debt. It’s just hard to shake off decades of a financial saver mindset, in the same way that people growing up in food poverty often have food hoarding/guarding tendencies in later life.
I must have forced myself to look through curtain samples a dozen times, and five minutes later I’m bored, they all look the same, and I’d rather be doing several dozen other things instead. It always ends up with me giving up, because what’s the point in shopping when you’re not very materialistic and ‘stuff’ doesn’t bring pleasure? I guess it’s the flip-side of the recent Marie Kondo trend; instead of decluttering and only keeping things that ‘spark joy’, us perfectionists have trouble finding things that bring joy in the first place.
A while back, I read a little bit about perfectionist psychology, and I think it’s something that a lot of people in the FI community would benefit from. For example, one of the concepts is learning to regulate when something is ‘good enough’ and not waiting for the perfect opportunity. This applies whether it’s buying stocks, learning to pull the trigger on de-accumulation, or finding ‘exactly right’ purchases. As I’ve got older I’m learning to be better about ‘good enough,’ and the bizarre sense of freedom that this brings would be vastly disproportionate to most people.
For example, last week I impulse-bought some dinner plates. Not a big deal to most people perhaps, but mine have been chipped and cracked ever since I managed to upend my kitchen shelf onto the floor months and months ago. I’m not in love with them, but they do the job. I don’t smile whenever I see them, but they exist in the kitchen instead of on my eternal list of ‘things I need to buy when I find something that I love’. The pleasure of having that off my to-do list is better than the pleasure I get from the plates themselves. It’s ‘good enough’. Whatever next, curtains??
“One day I showed my pal a Help to Buy scheme and this time it grabbed his attention.
I suspect he was getting fed up with our take on The Two Ronnies,”
Are you sure he wasn’t thinking about one of Ronnie Barker’s other comedies, “Porridge”?!
Great post, a couple of similarities between you and me (though sadly, I didn’t get into investing as early as you did!), except rather than house-sharing, I was rattling about on my own in the family home paying below-market-rate rent to my folks. Close friends have always said that I lived like a student. Although I’ve yet to recover properly from the shock of my own house-moving costs, next month, I’ll be using the work bonus I’ve just received to sort out the front drive (both for safety and cosmetic reasons). Then, in the words of your friend, I will spend money slowly, which means the other stuff that needs doing around the house will have to wait (although I could do with a new fence put up for more garden privacy). I pay into a ‘house fund’ to keep this money separate from my other finances. I am however struggling on how to balance paying into this fund and what to add towards investing for my retirement – decisions, decisions.
As for when I retire, I know it will be hard for me to turn on the spending taps but I fear a little that once I turn them on, I might struggle to turn them off again!
Anyway, thinking of your swanky Italian sofa, none of my furniture is new and I don’t care that it looks old-fashioned; in fact, wait a couple more years and it’ll resemble expensive ‘vintage-style’ furniture!
@Slavo (6) – this UK blogger has reached FI and has 6 kids: https://fiukmoney.co.uk/february-22-net-worth-and-monthly-update-43-808102-7300-109-fi/#more-1307 – obviously an exception to the rule!
Good for you, money that is hoarded does nobody any good. We live on a fraction of what we could spend but when there is something we both see value in there is not a limit on what we’ll do. We just bought 25 acres on the side of a mountain in a wilderness area and are building a vacation home on it. All paid in cash up front. We won’t live there or rent it out, but will just visit it from time to time. The half million or so we put into it would otherwise just sit in investments until we die and then go to our kids. This way we will get some joy out of having a place to stay where we love to hike.
New sofa – expected lifespan 20 years absolute minimum, then reupholster it (if you must) TV 10 years plus, just get a new stick for £35 every few years.
Also, spend less time on the sofa watching TV, you’ll only wear them out
This post struck several chords with me, thank-you !
Somewhat like you, I have had a modestly-paid career in an interesting field which has provided me with plenty of overseas travel and cultural stimulation – which means I have spent much less of own money on these enriching experiences.
And somewhat like you, I was a confirmed flat / house-sharer until I was bounced into home ownership by the remorseless coupling up and procreating of my house-mates.
Luckily for me, though, this moment arrived when I was in my late 20s rather than in my 40s. By co-incidence, this was roughly at the last time that London housing could have been described as affordable (late 1990s).
I know that there are arguments in favour of paying off the mortgage early, and also in favour of letting it run to concentrate financial firepower on long-term investing. I did my best to do both, increasing ISA contributions and mortgage overpayments whenever I got a salary bump. These were not large amounts of money – I remain a basic rate taxpayer even now – but somehow I arrived at the age of 50 owning my home outright and with a handy 6 figure sum invested.
In order to do this, I’ve obviously had to remain vigilant about what I spend. But that doesn’t necessarily mean not having nice things – it just means choosing them carefully ! I still get daily pleasure from the turntable / amplifier / loudspeaker set-up I bought from what seemed like a ridiculous amount of money in 1995. And, at the risk of going all Vimes on you, the shoes I have on as I’m typing this cost £400 – in 2014 – eight years later, they still (to me, at least) look fantastic. I have many similar examples. And, of course, save up for these things – don’t borrow ! I have only ever had trivial amounts on my credit card and I’ve never taken out a personal loan / hire purchase / PCP agreement.
The key here (as all Monevator readers will know) is to spend mindfully. Think really hard about how much you want or need something. I use your trick of amortising – dividing the cost by the number of times I use any possession – habitually. £50 a year, or way less than £1 per wear – on a nice pair of shoes is something I can persuade myself to spend. A fancy holiday, much less so… Although never say never !
I don’t like spending money… and I love a bargain… but I agree that there are times when you just need to treat yourself if there isn’t actually something financial stopping you.
Your point about amortizing everything rang true as well, with it actually being a saving over the lifespan of your purchase.
@SK – well, my fancy honeymoon on the Grand Canal, absolutely priceless.
Nice pair of shoes, so-so. They do a job. (Though I do have a pair of Loakes brogues in the bottom of wardrobe somewhere. Do they count as nice?)
A great holiday – like this Easter driving through France to Spain (Tours, Bordeaux, Pamplona, Madrid, Tarragona and back maybe by Andorra, Toulouse and Orleans) with the family and dog – memories stay forever.*
* I reserve the right to change my mind.
Oh, and used the amortization view lots with the Financial Controller.
I don’t need any help spending money.
Great reading, thanks.
I certainly used to be guilty on buying the next shiny thing, which is often (/usually) not needed.
Got the travelling bug out of my system a few years ago but this also taught me to live cheaply and for value, not to spend money on ridiculous things, as a result I’m a lot more frugal with things now, but not to the point of not spending or being a hermit, although that is also largely due to knowing what i like, having a small circle of friends with similar interests and values and being able to be content with what i have, tend to walk or public transport to most places, even though we have a small campervan. Simple pleasures and all that. I definitely research and look for value – do I need £500 TV? We spent £150 on one a few years back, does the job. Ditto with phones. Despair when i see people queuing outside the Apple store for the next iPhone for £1300 or whatever. Still chugging along on a five year old £100 motorola. Again, does the job.
The mattress mention made me laugh, that again was something very similar, took us five years after buying our house to graduate up sleeping on a relatively old mattress on the floor, to decent grown up bed and an comfy Emma mattress. Our friends called us the crack addicts. Even though we *could* afford it, just never felt like we *needed* too. Quite a big outlay for us but, whisper it, actually one I wish we had done sooner to be sooner. It helps my partner is the most sensible and cautious in spending person I know, despite have a far larger asset pot that I do, in stark contrast to her sister, my in-laws, who send two kids to private school, have a social circle of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, and have just moved into a 6 bed house, two top of the range cars, just because…..
I would much rather *do* things than *buy* things.
Thank you for a(nother) great post. Two weeks ago I made an “impulse” purchase of something which I had to pay for by drawing down from my off set mortgage savings account.
My definition of “impulse” was taking three weeks of arguing with myself because I would usually prefer to save not spend. But I did it because I realised life is short and it’s sometimes better to do things now than wait.
I can probably recoup most of the money if I need to – but the memories and experiences are all going to go into the intangible asset category (although there isn’t an entry for that in my spreadsheet)!
Great post! Thank you, TI, and thank you all for your comments. Actually, when you are used to have a big saving rate it is difficult to spend…I put a part of my income in a different account and with that amount I live: it tends to grow, but I “force”/invite myself to look at it as to an available amount of cash that can be spent with no regret. For sure I avoid to buy the top tool when I know I will use it two times. But for the “Italian sofa” and for things I consider important: I buy quality! And in those moments, when the good saver in me peeps out, I remind myself an ancient Latin proverb: “Semel in anno licet insanire” (Once in a year it is allowed to be mad/to go crazy). The fact of having the target of FI has not to stop the concept of [self]rewarding and this last point is something that can be learnt in the same way one learnt many things during the journey to FI. I was happy to read what you all wrote above, because I understand that the awareness of having a stash and the fact of keeping such information confidential, put you in the situation of playing a completely different game. Particularly when friends (luckily not all), colleagues and people around you are continuously complaining because… “I spend every month the whole salary and I don’t know how”…or: “It is better to spend all the cash you get, because in the bank account you just lose money”. And then you buy your house in cash and they don’t understand. Many years of Monevator (thanks!) et similia make us taking for granted some considerations that are not.
As usual, a big “Ciao!” from Italy to you all and, TI, the Italian sofa is a great choice!
What timing! I read the article this morning just an hour after finally buying, in my late thirties, a new sofa – cheers to many years of comfort ahead for both of us (definitely more than 10!).
p.s. is there an appropriate multiplier for how much to spend on a sofa – mine was 0.1% of my net worth, perhaps I went too cheap?
Wonderful article. Must chime in to agree that your target sofa lifespan seems lowball…
We are on year 12 and going strong, my parents have had their main sofa for over 40 years!
I never knew that sofas were such a hot discussion topic. Although I’d guess that the lifespan of a sofa is inversely proportionate to how many small kids and pets you have…
Here’s hoping that all you new sofa people are luckier than my teenage school-friend’s parents, who spent £XX thousands ordering a custom handmade white Italian leather sofa as a long-promised anniversary present. This was back in the mid-90s, so who knows what it works out to today. It was definitely a lot for an average family with a single radio ad salesman income, anyway. As I recall, the delivery estimate was about 8 months for it to be made and shipped over from Italy. While they waited, my friend’s parents would excitedly boast to anyone they met about the fine Italian craftsmanship that they’d splashed out on, much to the embarrassed horror of my 15 year old friend.
The months passed, and this sofa finally arrived. It took them hours to get it in the house because they hadn’t thought to measure the width of the doors, and a favour had to be begged from the builder down the road to dismantle the doorframe. But eventually it was in the house, and the family sat down to enjoy their expected decades of padded bliss.
Until the next morning, when my friend woke up to the sound of her mother shrieking in the living room. It turned out that the cats had also very much enjoyed their new scratching post during the night, and the entire sofa was shredded from end to end, including the fancy varnished wood armrests.
Years later, I was still going around to their house and sitting on the shredded sofa that they were determined to get their use out of. I don’t think they were boasting about it much anymore though.
The only way I can stand to make unnecessary purchases is either through budgeting – I have lots of virtual pots that I add to each month for clothes, holidays etc. – or from the annual bonuses that I’m fortunate enough to get through work.
I honestly believe that my drawdown strategy in retirement will need to include some sort of variable annual bonus, even if it’s based on a dice throw, to encourage me to spend.
Thanks for the wonderful comments all. Great to hear that as I suspected it struck a chord with many of you. (We had a very slight uptick in ‘unsubscribes‘ all the same… perhaps a coincidence, but I couldn’t help wondering if those half-a-dozen people decided Monevator was a consumerist bait-and-switch! 😉 )
A few quick replies:
@NewInvestor — Cheers. That would possibly require another website though… if not a novel!
@random coder — Well, quite. As the philosopher (nearly) said: “If there’s nobody in the spare bedroom to benefit from the lampshade, then does the lampshade need to exist”? 😉
@alana — Congrats on your new home, and I don’t think there’s any reason to rush. When I come home and look about my space, very nearly everything still pleases me as much as the day I bought it and it’s all chosen (curated as you say) by me. I underestimated the strange comfort in this before I owned my own place, at least for me. I do have some more transient comings and goings like cut flowers (often from my garden) and calatheas (which I can’t keep alive for more than two years 🙁 )
@Faith — Haha. Well, I sent an artist a photo of a friend of mine sitting on said sofa beneath some limited edition prints I’d bought direct from her, and she was full of gushing about my ‘staging’ and asked to (and did!) use the photo on her Instagram feed. 🙂 However I think one venue where I hold forth on my opinions is probably enough for my ego… some might say slightly more than enough haha.
@JimMcG — Indeed, how’s take two going from you? Will you ever write an update?
@Slavo — I have had a half-finished article in drafts for more than ten years called “Don’t have kids”. Every year I mellow and get less likely to publish it… 😉
@xx09 — Thank you, and while I’m at it thanks for your many sage comments around the site. It’s really helpful to have someone like yourself taking the time to comment from the destination-end of the journey we’re all on here.
More replies to come in the next comment… first version of this was eaten by an accidental browser window close and I can’t bear to risk writing it a third time…
@Laurene — Being a little more generous in-person is something that has come when I’ve felt more able to afford it, and I agree it feels good. I hope I’ve always been somewhat generous with advice when asked, and I know I have with entertaining etc. But I’ve definitely work to-do when it comes to buying an extra round or whatnot. 🙂
@Rowan Tree — Thanks for reading us for all these years, and glad you enjoyed the post. I wouldn’t worry too much about the commentors; a couple of them intimidate me and @TA too but as you’ve discovered (and it sounds like implementing so well!) good investing can be simple, albeit not easy. I’ve loved that poem from an early age and I’m sure I’ve referenced it a few times, but I can’t recall ever quoting it. I did site it in this post though:
@John K — It’s difficult, isn’t it? I’m finding watching @TA enjoy his FIRE is helping me a bit, which is only fair as I’ve managed to persuade him to do a little paid work in his retirement. Balance is the key, perhaps, even if it helps to be a little bit crazy like some of us to get to that point of the luxury of choice in the first place.
@Natonia — I think you’re right about perfectionism. It’s come up with me as a strength and a problem for many years; it’s definitely held me back from things like learning languages or even a musical instrument. But perhaps it helped me with investing. I still don’t have curtains in my big open plan living space; I tell myself it’s because I like the outdoors being inside (huge bifold doors) which is true, and it’s also true I don’t like the clutter of curtains in this particular . Blinds are hard to fit here also. I think I’d have to get an electric winding thing to satisfy my perfectionism, which is obviously bonkers and something I will postpone until the next ‘two commas’ I think haha. (Although rising energy prices may see to that sooner.) I’m the same with crockery also. I still have a surviving plate and a bowl in the mix that I brought with me to university. One day I’ll get a complete set where everything matches, but it very possibly might just be the crazy affordable and perfectly nice Amazon Basics ones.
Okay… I’m going to have so speed up with the last few…
@MarkR — Hah, well he had his own keys… 😉
@Weenie — There is some amazing secondhand furniture around at incredible prices. The trouble is transporting it, I found. Also for the record I bought most of my stuff in some sale or another. 🙂 Admittedly semi-permanent sales seems to be a feature of this corner of retail, but I did get a couple of ex-display pieces at crazy reductions (80%+!)
@Steveark — Wow, that sounds like an incredible project! Must be a challenge to contribute to an area you presumably love so much without feeling a new building detracts from it?
@Tony Pearson @MrNewSofa @e17jack @Sarah — Well one reason I haven’t gone for a very extended lifespan for my sofa is that it is analine leather, which I soon discovered is code for ‘easily stained’. The salesperson said to me “well, the way I always put it is that if your partner throws a glass of wine on you while you’re sitting on it you’ll never forget it”. Which appears directionally very true! For the first couple of years I had throws over it in what I imagined was a sort of Parisian boho style. But then I decided to embrace it and let it become unique. Slash scruffy 😉
@Stonebridge Kestrel — Well played sir! Yes, I can always see the argument for paying off the mortgage. I think the more ‘nesty’ I feel the more it appeals. Certainly if I ever get bored of active investing I may switch to that route; it’s having firepower for the game that keeps me levered as much as anything else. (No, don’t try this at home kids etc etc 🙂 )
@Adem – Exactly. It also makes buying quality that will last more reasonable, which also appeals to me for sustainability reasons.
@Brod — The trouble I have with the experiences/memories argument is that in reality people forget. Also as you get older you hear so many people making stuff up that they actually seem to believe. (The number of people my age who claimed to be at a particular small Nirvana gig in the early 1990s is hilarious. And I know because I was there haha.)
@JDW — Cheers for those thoughts! Yes, my mattress is still delivering too. So comfy. That’s valuable across so many nights/hours.
@FlybyNight — Glad you liked the post. Maybe you could make an ‘intangibles’ category on your spreadsheet? I am actually semi-serious, in a sort of thought experiment way.
@SirRik — Haha, “Ciao!” and glad you approve of the sofa choice 🙂 🙂
@DaveS — Interesting concept, and I can relate to the problem. Have you ever read The Diceman? (Warning, it can be a bit of a mind-bender, or at least it was for me and a few of my peers back in university. It does make you think “what if”…)
Okay, going to go have a rest on my sofa and enjoy my bargain yellow-labelled yogurt that I bought on the way home this afternoon!
I agree, you have to live a little. Can this be called mindfulness in spending?
Good call re: the sofa 😉 nothing beats custom made. I bought a few items, including a sofa and armchairs, from loungin’ on Battersea Rise when I got my first place. It will be 10 years soon, and I still have and love them, and they look great. It goes to show, quality pays for itself in the long run, and it’s better for the environment 🙂
As no one else mentioned it as far as I can tell, the Libertines references were very well done
I dwindled a 100k of savings to zero in 5 years recently. I got a girlfriend with a ready made family. And a Tesla and I backfilled my pension allowance to the full 40k for each of the last 3 years, but we’ll ignore that.
I’m enjoying in a perverse way now not having a cash buffer. In this inflationary environment, it’s character building to have started to tell the kids ‘no, can’t afford it’ and getting back to my frugal roots. We are genuinely having to budget – hard – and it’s giving great perspective.
Great article, thanks for sharing the story.
Ooh, just seen your mention of The Diceman @TI, which was a bit of a mind-bender, but which has also given me the idea of considering at least a couple of days in a month (in my retirement) where what I do that day is decided upon the roll of a dice! It won’t have anything weird (or illegal) like in the book however! The options would be something I haven’t done before, to keep things fresh! I might flesh out the idea as I get closer to my goal!