Oh, that’s a good one. One of my favorites.
If only you kept this following one sentence in mind you have already laid the foundation for a much wealthier life.
The key to financial success is spending less, not earning more.
I can’t stress this enough.
Earning more is great and it helps a massive amount in our pursuit of financial freedom. But it’s not the key to it. The key is spending less.
If you have figured out how much money you need to spend each month, then it’s time to cut the crap you don’t need to spend.
Food and Dopamine
I moved to Zurich last year. Zurich is incredibly beautiful and also incredibly expensive. In fact, in 2019 it is ranked the 4th expensive city in the world. Everything is incredibly expensive here, on the other hand, that means that the salaries are great as well.
Going out for food and drinks is brutal here.
I used to work as an anesthetist in one of the biggest hospitals here in town.
When you grab lunch at the canteen there, it’s about CHF 12–15 that you need to spend. As an employee. In the canteen.
At the time of writing CHF 1 is about 1$ or 0.91€. As a comparison: When I worked in Austria, the canteen was about 2.90€ for lunch. Admittedly it wasn’t as good as the canteen here, but that varied from hospital to hospital. Some were bad, some were great. It was cooked in bulk for the employees and wasn’t meant to make any profit for the hospital. Therefore it was that cheap.
The thing is… That’s about 1/4th of the price of the lunch here.
If we say that we’re at the hospital an average of 20–25 days a month, then that’s roughly CHF 350 a month.
I like to cook. My girlfriend and I always cook dinner together. We enjoy it and we like eating what we cook. Furthermore, we know what’s in our meal, so we know it’s healthy. And it’s way freaking cheaper.
So, usually on Saturdays, we hop in the car, buy all the stuff we need for the week and then we’re all set. It even saves us time compared to running to the stores here each day. It’s a lot cheaper and it’s a lot faster. We know what’s in our meals and we know it tastes good. It’s a win/win/win situation here.
So we end up cooking together in the evening and the following day I always took something with me to work. The lunch, therefore, cost me CHF 2 instead of CHF 15.
Next to knowing I am eating healthily and finding the time to eat most of the days (on stressful days I often didn’t have time to eat at all, chances would have been even less if I had to leave the surgery department to eat at the canteen), by bringing my own food, I saved around CHF 300 a month.
Add to that a coffee and a snack and you can easily spend CHF 25 on a normal working day at the hospital. That’s CHF 500 a month. Let that sink in.
Cooking your own food instead of going out every day will still save you a ton of money. And no, I’m not saying to never meet up for dinner with your friends and staying at home just to save a few bucks. But try to calculate what lunch costs over the course of a month at your job and see if bringing your own food wouldn’t be worth a try.
And by the way… It’s not just about saving money. I get to spend time with my girlfriend, we’re doing something together which we like, we talk about our days and connect even more. As a benefit, we also save money and eat healthily.
And that’s only one example.
Drive to work in the car each day? Is it possible to go by bike instead? It’s healthier and you save money and gas. You use your car less which means less strain on the parts and higher resale value. Often times it’s even faster. Did I mention you could also save the money on the gym membership?
Always ask yourself if there’s a better way to do something. Then cut the crap.
No, you don’t need to go shopping to buy new clothes each week. You can’t wear all that stuff anyway.
People fall for the trap of shopping all the time because of how our brains are wired. We feel a rush of excitement. Dopamine is sent out in our neurons and we get a good feeling.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. Many many studies have shown that by now.
If you buy something, you are feeling happy. But that happiness fades away over time. So we need to buy something again to get that Dopamine rushing again.
You end up buying clothing you don’t need, with the result that you need to buy a bigger closet for all that stuff. After a while, you have accumulated so much stuff that your home now feels crowded.
The next thing you do is find yourself moving to a bigger, more expensive flat so you have space for the stuff you don’t need.
So you essentially spend money to spend more money. Remember Chapter 1?
That’s also the reason why people don’t necessarily save more money when they get a raise. It usually results in them simply spending more instead of saving more, which leads to their living costs to be higher and therefore resulting in even less money saved than before.
That’s Parkinson’s law, stated previously.
I want to emphasize that I am not in any way suggesting to live like a monk here. We need what we need, but we have to reevaluate if we need the rush of Dopamine or the thing itself.
Here’s my process on evaluating if I truly need something:
- Whenever I feel like I want to buy something I write it down on a list.
- I rank it in order of how much I want the things on the list.
- Then I wait.
- Then I wait some more.
- And if after a decent amount of waiting time, say a few weeks or months I *still* want to have it, I buy it. Happily. Because I know that I truly need it and didn’t just want the Dopamine rush.
If you do it like that you outsmart your own brain. Your brain always wants to buy stuff because it craves the Dopamine rush. Denying it the immediate rush is like denying a junkie the needle.
If you find out after a long time that you still want or need something, then you probably do and it’s safe to say that you are not buying for the sake of buying but because you truly need it.
So now that we have defined what “enough” means to us and we have calculated how much money we have precisely this is the 3rd step towards a life of financial freedom.
Cutting the crap.
Reduce your expenses so you have more money left over to spend wisely.
Evaluate if there are some areas in life where you can reduce cost (bringing home-cooked meals to work, riding the bike instead of going by car etc.) and especially: Stop buying things that you don’t need just so that you can have those quick Dopamine rushes. They won’t lead to happiness and they won’t lead to wealth. They will only lead to less money and more useless stuff that only brings a net negativity for your life.
The Disclaimer: This is not financial advice but for entertainment purposes only. I am not a financial adviser and these words reflect my personal opinion only. If you need financial advice, ask a professional.