If you’ve ever bought a house, then you are probably familiar with the idea of buyer’s remorse. It’s when that voice in the back of your head questions whether lending six figures of debt for this house is really worth it. Many of us assume that buyer’s remorse is a normal part of the home-buying process. If you are purchasing something as significant as your home, then it’s natural to feel doubts or regret. It’s not like you are signing your life away to a mortgage lender and committing to decades of debt. No big deal. Those feelings don’t matter once you sign the dotted line and walk into your brand new home. It’s impossible to go through such a life-altering experience without just a little bit of anxiety.
My problem is that I feel buyer’s remorse for almost every purchase I make.
About a month ago, I made the error of trying to move too quickly while running errands. I threw my glasses onto my car’s seat, and when I came back to drive, I sat down with a nice crunch. My heart sank as I pulled up my glasses and saw that I had given them a good flattening. They’re still mostly wearable, but the lenses are just about ready to fall out, and they sit a bit crooked on my face.
As I began researching what I could do to fix them, I ran into a bit of a brick wall. Nobody seems to want to fix rando glasses – they will either offer a warranty or want you to swap them out with something else. That makes sense from a business perspective, I get it. Still, it got me thinking about vision correction and what route would be the most cost effective: glasses, contacts, or Lasik.
2016 has been the year of slashing budgets in the Rustic Walks household. Our Frugal August Challenge showed us what a difference small changes can make, so we’ve whittled down our spending to focus on the essentials. But we realized that we only cut back on everyday expenses. The easy choices like packing lunch over eating out, buying less expensive coffee beans, or resisting the urge to buy every wool sweater in sight (this can’t be just us, right?). Things like our rent, utilities, and transportation have yet to be put on the chopping block. In fact, they are staying the same even though we’re moving to a new apartment.
That’s the thing about small changes. They’re easy, but they also make us feel like we’re making a difference. Of course saving $200 each year by cutting back on everyday spending is a step in the right direction. But what difference does an extra $200 make if other expenses are higher than they should be? How much money could we save if we reduced our fixed costs? Certainly more than $200.
Nine months ago we discovered The Minimalists and fell headfirst into intentional living. The philosophy appealed to our habit of binge cleaning our apartment every few weeks. Clutter stresses us out, especially when it takes over our tiny apartment. We knew decluttering would help us confront our weak spots (like the black hole that is our closet), as well as get rid of useless junk that doesn’t bring value to our life. What we didn’t expect was the impact minimalism would have in another area: our finances.
When I first started diving deep into the personal finance community, the first tenant of Personal Finance 101 that stuck with me was the importance of a budget. There’s no way to know where your money goes without keeping track of it. It’s the same as monitoring your data usage. When you get an alert that you’re about to go over your data for the month, you start hunting down all the Wi-Fi hotspots within a three mile radius so you can stay under the limit. Budgets mean nothing if you don’t keep track of your spending.
Unfortunately, my idea of budgeting was to spend whatever I wanted and hope that it stayed within my budget. Most months this strategy was a complete fail. I logged into Mint every day to check up on my progress, but as the month continued and my budgets teetered on going over I ignored the spending alerts in my inbox and carried on my merry way. Then I’d go over my budget by $100-$200 and wonder what went wrong. Mint told me that I’d gone over on groceries, shopping, and the illusive “Everything Else”, but it offered no advice on how to change my habits. Even worse, I told myself I would do better next month to make up for it, but I didn’t identify where I’d slipped up and what adjustments I should make.
Okay, time to fess up. During our Frugal August Challenge, we brainstormed ways to travel and spend time outdoors that didn’t cost too much money. We agreed that the best way to get our nature fix is to go camping. What better way to see the country and hike our favorite trails? This would unlock so many doors to adventure, and it was frugal to boot!
After we started our first jobs out of college, we fell victim to some serious lifestyle inflation. We were living large by traveling several times per year, buying clothes and electronics just for fun, and eating out almost every day. Of course we budgeted for these expenses, but we didn’t realize we were left with little leftover at the end of the month and living paycheck-to-paycheck. We just wondered where all of our money went!
Despite all of this, we thought we were smart with our money. We paid off our credit cards every month. We never bought anything we couldn’t afford, although there’s been some close calls! No matter what we always stashed away an emergency fund. Aside from those Personal Finance 101 principles, we thought we were free to spend the rest of our money. There’s no harm in living a little in your twenties! That’s what social media and advertisements told us. Have as much fun as you can before you hit thirty and have to start worrying about kids and mortgage payments.
At some point, we looked at our paltry savings accounts and wondered if we were going overboard. We thought about our future goals and how much money it would take to get there. Things like our cabin in the woods, early retirement, and side projects we’ve considered but never pursued. How can we possibly save for these goals if we fritter away our hard-earned money? We found examples of people who have created the life we envision without going broke, like Frugalwoods and Our Next Life. We were inspired to get our act together and start saving as much as we can.
I have a confession: I’m a carrier jumper. I have commitment issues when it comes to cell phone plans. It pains me to pay more than necessary because I use my cell phone sparingly throughout the day. I thought I had it good with AT&T. My plan had 3GB of data and unlimited calling and text messages with no contract. But when I looked at my monthly usage, I realized AT&T was practically stealing my money. I used only a fraction of my data, but I was paying full price! Surely there was a way to get the same coverage for half the cost? Thus began my search for the ultimate budget carrier.
There are now hundreds of low-cost carriers that offer a variety of plans to fit any budget. The two companies I’ve tried are Ting and Project Fi. They have their own pros and cons, so I’ve broken down my experience with both carriers to help anyone looking to save money on their cell phone plans.
Our Frugal August Challenge just wrapped up. For the month of August we pledged to ban eating out, reduce our grocery spending, and cook every meal at home. Let me tell you, it was way easier than we expected! We thought this challenge would be difficult, and we feared losing steam halfway through the month. But we ate tasty meals, hosted friends and family, and saved tons of money without feeling deprived or bored. If you don’t believe us, take a look at our spending breakdown for the past 90 days.
We knew we had saved money, but we didn’t expect saving this much money! That’s hundreds of dollars saved! It goes to show how easy it can be to overspend without realizing it. The changes we made didn’t feel too significant, but they made a huge difference.