Has Spending Less Changed My Happiness Level?

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Hey guys, I’ve got another treat for you. When I wrote the post about synthetic happiness a couple weeks back, I got a comment from Raquel. I liked what she said and decided to go check out her Practical Cents Blog. I’d been there in the past and loved it. So, I wanted to see what was new. It’s been a while so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I fell back in love. I really enjoy Raquel’s writing style. So, I asked her to write a guest post in follow up conversation about her comment. She was kind enough to do it. Check it out….

I was contacted by Joshua to write a post exploring the idea of whether or not spending less has changed my happiness level.

It all began almost two years agowhen my husband and I became first time homeowners.  Before that we had always rented.  Our last rental included everything except for electricity so our monthly living expenses were low.  We had plenty of discretionary income to enjoy life’s little luxuries.  However, we grew tired of renting and we decided the time was right for us to buy.

We bought a fixer upper that needed some work and we were fine with that.  As you may know, once you start breaking down walls you never know what you will find.  Well, we quickly went over budget on our renovations.  I’ll admit some of it was our choice because we decided to just get all of the interior renovations finished while the construction crew was here.  Renovations are messy and we just didn’t want to deal with more construction down the line.  After all was said and done, we ended up with an additional $18k of debt from our home renovations.

The first thing I did was take a look at our budget.   I knew we could cut back on some luxuries that we were used too.  I’ll admit in the beginning it was difficult to break the old habits of eating out, having plenty in our allowance to buy whatever we wanted and taking our yearly vacation.   It was also hard on our friends and family, since they we were used to all of us going out on a regular basis.   But we explained the situation and for the most part they understood.

My happiness levels in the beginning were a rollercoaster.  Some days I felt good about knocking down that debt but others I felt bad about having to give up those luxuries we were used to.   My husband tells me that he was fine with it from the start because he got something that was more valuable to him which was our home and the perks of homeownership.

It all turned around for me when I saw the progress we were making on paying down the debt.  Seeing the positive results of our debt going down made me really happy.   To be honest, I really don’t miss shopping for clothes.  I realized when I bought my house that I had more clothes than I needed.   I don’t really miss not having the latest gadgets.  I’m just fine with my old iPhone and thrilled that I am now saving over $80 per month by switching to prepaid cell service.

The key to being happy with spending less for me was that we didn’t cut everything out completely.  We still go out to eat but we just go out less.  We still have an allowance we just get less money.  For clothing, we just buy them when we need something.  The grocery budget has been reduced by almost $100 per month but we don’t stress if we go over a little.  I do miss my vacations but I’m already working on a plan to get back to vacationing next year and the plan involves spending less on that too.

This whole experience has made me realize just how much more money we could have saved years ago if we had just cut back a little here and there.  The fact that we have been able to cut $883 from our monthly budget has actually made me love finding new ways of spending less.  And that makes me very happy.

Great Posts From Around The Blogosphere!

7 Reasons To Turn Down A Higher Paying Job – If you haven’t been to Young Adult Money yet, you should definitely make your way over there. DC’s got a great blog with great advice. This is one of my favorite posts yet!

How To Deal With Online Criticism – Holly is awesome and so is her blog Club Thrifty. In this post, she reminds us that as personal finance bloggers, we’re bad asses!

Special Thanks!

Raquel, you rock. Thank you soooo much for writing this awesome post for me and my audience. I really appreciate it! Everyone, if you haven’t been to Raquel’s blog Practical Cents, you’ve gotta check it out! Click here!

19 COMMENTS

  1. LOVE this, Raquel and Joshua, and we’ve found the same thing to be true here. We used to love to go out to eat, now we’re perfectly fine with not going. We hardly miss it, as we are now in love with paying down our debt. 🙂

  2. I think not cutting out everything is KEY to being happy during a season of paying down debt. I keep my gym membership ($20/month), spotify ($10/month), and finally cable. These three things bring a ton of entertainment value to my life, make me healthier, and just keep me in a good mood. So I keep them, even though we have a lot of debt to pay down.

    Thanks for including a link to my post, I appreciate it!

    • Hey DC, I’d have to agree there. I’m not a gym membership guy, but if I don’t spend my $50 or so a season to park on the mountain and go hiking or $35 a year for my Sauvie Island parking pass, my quality of life just wouldn’t be the same.

      Also, my pleasure on the link, it was a great post!

    • You know this whole moderation thing is kind of the key to life in general. I was watching a 60 minutes report recently about the 90+ study, which studies the lives of men and women and what allowed them to live into their 90s. Very interesting stuff but it really all has to do with living a life in moderation.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Raquel! And cutting $883 from your monthly budget is HUGE!! We have done the same thing where we haven’t gone to extremes and given up everything, we just do things in smaller and more manageable chunks. And my happiness level has actually improved because we are hitting goals financially that I never thought were possible.

  4. Cutting down on spending has improved happiness level for me because now I’m in control whereas I was out of control before. Spending money to satisfy a need that money couldn’t satisfy.

  5. We’re completely happy spending less. This has allowed us to pay off our mortgage faster. Which is something we’re super happy about! We’re about to have our first kid and day now and we’re also just about to pay off our mortgage (May 19th). All of our lower spending is about to payoff in a big way!

  6. I do sometimes think about how much we could have saved and how much further along in the game we’d be if we had used our current habits from day one. We still spend on what we value, but it’s not spending out of habit or to try and fill some sort of void. I’m much happier that way.

    • I know, it’s the old coulda, woulda, shoulda. I guess many people go though that once they realize the difference spending less makes. I’m happy that at least our eyes were opened sooner rather than much much later.

  7. Great post! I feel like we’re in a similar situation as I just bought a home not too long ago too! To get to that down payment my husband and I have had to cut back on a lot of things, but not cut out entirely. The house renovations were definitely more than we expected and we weren’t knocking down any walls. I’m pretty darn happy in my life too:P

    • Yea, we saved for a 20% down payment also. It was easier to save up while we rented as we had a lot more income remaining every month. Best thing to do is to save as much as you can while you’re renting.

      The one thing that really was very costly in our renovations was the labor. That alone was about $20k. So it pays off if you know a little DIY.

      Congrats on your new home!

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