I was calculating my finances today and it made me think about saving and the different strategies one can take. I am lucky enough to be thinking about going travelling for an extended period of time. Nothing is set in stone as far as location or duration are concerned, only that I wish to go somewhere I have not been to and for a long amount of time. As I calculated, I figured I wanted to save half of the money I earn in the coming months.
After various taxes, rent and travel expenses I realised that I would be left with very little to spend if I was to meet my goal of saving half of my earnings. I worked out how much I could spend per day and per week. I was coming to terms with these figures and the stringent measures I would have to take. I thought it would not be hard to spend my evenings not going out and spending money, instead I can have friends over, read, write, watch TV or go for a run.
However, it dawned on me that this may not be the best way to live for the next few months. I realised that saving money to such an extreme will mean depriving myself of activities with friends and saying no to amenities and treats that may improve my quality of life. When I consciously thought this to myself, I realised it does not sound like a great idea at all. In effect, what I would be committing myself to is six months of hard work with little spending in exchange for one to six months (depending on my trip) of great fun. There are many who may deem this worth it, acceptable and the best possible option. One of my friends has just got back from a breathtaking, twelve month trip across Asia and Australia. The photographs and tall tales he told me were enough to make anyone jealous.
However, at the same time, he spent six months of his life doing nothing but work. He would wake up early and start work at 7am and return home at 4pm. In the evenings, he would do nothing other than watch television or play his games console. These aspects of a person’s life have their rightful place, but to do the same thing every evening is not something I can say would greatly improve my life or make it the best it could be. Moreover, when invited out to see friends he would frequently reject the opportunity and, as usual, cite the claim that he needs to save money. This would happen throughout the week and he would only venture out to spend money on himself once or twice a month.
I think I can spend my time doing the same as my friend. You can and should be able to have a happy time doing activities that require little to no money. Running, going for walks, playing sport with friends, reading, meditating are but a few activities that provide great, cost-effective rewards for your personal life. Indeed, I think there may be something almost noble about forgoing various aspects of life in the pursuit of travel. It suggests a real commitment to your aspiration of seeing a different part of the world and embracing cultures and all the chaos that comes with it. Moreover, as I have said in another article, earning the money yourself for a trip can make it all the more valuable. Doing this to the extreme of disallowing yourself to take part in activities and living off only bare necessities may go quite far to making your trip even better.
On the other hand, saving to such an extreme may actually leave you feeling bittersweet as you spend your money. The hard work and foregoing of activities with friends may actually leave you bitterly spending each and every penny. It may be the case that this in fact dampens the trip as you spend time worrying about money rather than relishing the experience you are actually spending it on.
Moreover, there are other concerns about saving to such extremes. It’s a bleak and overused hypothetical situation, but what if we were to drop dead right before we were to spend all the money we saved. Or if there were some catastrophe, natural disaster or family emergency that prevented you from ever spending the money. How could you some up the last few months of your life? If you went on the trip, the months would most likely by positively defined as the toil that led you to this trip. If the trip never went ahead, you might disdain all those activities, dinners, coffees and mini-trips that you never spent the money on. You may actually look back with regret on those months and that is something that most people will want to avoid.
Its not just this hypothetical situation that brought my financial forecasting to a standstill. Not experiencing things just for the sake of a minimal amount of money is not the type of life I want to lead. I don’t think it is good for you. I want to approach lots of activities and trips with a thirst for life and willingness to learn and enjoy myself. I don’t want to not take my girlfriend out for dinner for the sake of a few pounds. I enjoy the occasional coffee and I don’t want to forsake that so it comes in line with my budget plan. Living like this can reduce the day-to-day fun of life. Living like this places too much importance on the future and can disallow us the opportunity to live happily day to day, moment to moment. If this approach to life stays with myself or someone else saving, it may leave them always craving the next trip, the next activity or the next meal; as a result they may find themselves idly wandering through life without an awareness to what is actually happening.
This is no reason for me, or any aspiring readers to spend lots of money on everything they can. The result would most likely be no savings at all and, personally, no trip for me. However, in light of the reasons I highlighted above I am not going to forsake the opportunity to go for a meal with my friends or family, nor am I not going to go to cinema spontaneously on a weekday. Instead, I am going to aim to save somewhere in between one third and half of my earnings. Living minimally, but also not relenting from opportunities to enjoy myself in activities and in the company of others. Life is too short to live with only the future in mind, I want to enjoy all of it – not select parts.
I hope this article may further inform you on any decision regarding finance or travel. Feel free to comment or share!