You may have noticed that I’m not normal. I have paid off all of my debt, grown my net worth drastically, and still have no problem spending money (even the big bucks) on things that are important to me, all on the salary of a fairly new teacher (this is my fourth year). I have accomplished all of this without depriving myself of the things I value, and with paying my own way through college and life (AKA not inheriting any money). They way I got to this point is obviously a complicated picture where my privilege intersects with my choices and my shifting mindset, and I wanted to give you guys a picture of that through these 4 ways that I choose to live differently.
1. Practicing minimalism
I don’t buy a lot of stuff. I might buy maybe one or two things each month, which allows me to prioritize quality over quantity and also remain as sustainable as possible with my purchases. For example, I don’t ever purchase fast fashion items, because I value classic and comfortable looks over trends and want to make sure that my money is supporting as many sustainable and ethical companies as possible instead of going towards companies whose values don’t align with mine.
2. Questioning the status quo
The status quo of the world at large really instills the message in you that you’re aren’t good enough if you don’t make a certain amount or have certain status symbols. These pressures tend to also be affected by your level of privilege. For instance, women are more pressured to make big purchases for cosmetics, as our appearance is overemphasized. Yes, that may mean smaller purchases like makeup items, but it often means expensive hair and nail appointments and pricey products that can add up to thousands of dollars per year. This is even more exaggerated for women of color whose natural hair and other physical features don’t fit into what the world deems as “better” (AKA whiter, in most cases) and, in the workplace, even “professional.” These pricey products and appointments, which also notably suck up time as well as money, are more compulsory than we admit as a society. For example, we have had to create actual laws, such as the CROWN Act, to combat this discrimination.
For these types of “status quo” beliefs, I often resist even talking about what we can do on an individual level, because it’s such a structural problem. That being said, with many things in this life, it’s a both-and. I first have to acknowledge my privilege as a straight-haired, thin white woman, because that informs why I’m able to make these choices. But I do not get my hair cut more than twice or even sometimes once a year, I don’t wear makeup daily (just when filming videos or going out with friends), I don’t get my nails done, so on and so forth.
There are also much bigger pressures of the status quo that affect everyone. Two examples that come to mind are cars and houses. I definitely live differently in that I drive a 21-year-old car and will continue to do so until it dies, at which point I’ll buy another old, used vehicle. Despite messaging from my culture, peers, and advertising, I have chosen not to care about cars as anything more than a way to get where I need to go. I also won’t be purchasing a home maybe ever, which is actually a money-saving choice in my case.
3. I live my life unfrugally
Aside from the status quo of our country and world, there are also smaller status quos in the peer groups we belong to. The status quo of my own communities, specifically as a personal finance creator, teacher, and former poor person, tend to be very frugality-focused, while I’m aiming to live a more balanced, unfrugal life, where I use money to improve my life instead of trying to spend as little as possible at all costs. Living unfrugally means:
You prioritize the costs that matter most to you & question everything else. One aspect of the frugality mindset I grew up with was that spending more money was always bad. The cheapest option was the option you chose, regardless of considering quality or value. This left no room for considering the most appropriate option, and I believe it led to me undervalue things. In a world where everything was always breaking, items had less value. It’s part of why I never batted an eye over spending $3 on a shirt from a fast fashion store, not even thinking about the impact of my consumer choices. Now, I truly consider every one of my consumer choices– and sometimes I spend more money to purchase the best option for myself. Of course cost always weighs into my considerations, but I no longer default to the cheapest option.
You don’t fret about your money because you control exactly where it goes. This certainly doesn’t hold true for all frugal folk, but I know that frugality in my family was often a mask for money insecurity. They wouldn’t budget, but they felt like they didn’t need to because they were always living as inexpensively as possible, and that’s all you can do, right? Nope. Being frugal won’t work as a scapegoat for actually knowing where all your money is going each month. Scrimping and saving won’t give you the real peace of mind that having a full picture of your money will.
You invest in yourself. This is one aspect of my ideal unfrugal life that I’m still growing accustomed to. As always, I am working on combating my own deprivation mindset, and one of the ways I am actively taking action is through investing in myself. That means putting money into my own education, business, and personal growth. I used to be willing to put time and effort into all of these things, but I drew the line at money.
4. Having a plan for my money (keeping a budget)
Seriously, don’t skip this one. This is crucial to many of the points above, but especially living an unfrugal life. For some ungodly reason, it’s not normal to keep a budget. We think that budgeting means cutting back on spending or that it’s too difficult or unnecessary to learn. In reality, it just means that you have a plan for your money. Without one, reaching your goals will either be significantly harder or, in some cases, impossible. Budgets don’t have to be hard or bad. Keep one.
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