Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I Have Learned About Money - Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday, here are two more things that I've learned over the past ten months.

Money can buy freedom:

When looking towards my future, I had always just assumed that I would follow the traditional path of working until I'm 65.  It didn't occur to me that there was any other option.  But then I started reading the frugal blogs, and I realized that there is a whole group of people out there who are saving enough money to retire much earlier, often in their 30s.  And while the really early retirement boat has clearly sailed in my case (I'm 38), it is encouraging to think that I could reach the point where I'd be able to retire well before the age of 65.

Not that I necessarily would.  I like my work, and I get a lot of my meaning in life from helping other people, so I don't feel any urgency to get out of the working world.  But it would be nice to have that option, in case my feelings about my job change in the future or (god forbid) I become unable to work before I'm 65.

Even now, I can see ways in which having money and living frugally increase my choice and satisfaction related to my job (and therefore my life as a whole).  Part of my new position, which starts in mid-August, will be to work at an inner city clinic treating residents of the area.  When this job opportunity became available, I was ecstatic, because I've spent a lot of time working in that clinic, and I think the work they do is incredible.  I want to be a part of that clinic.  But when I discussed the job opportunity with other attendings, many of them pointed out that I would make less money there than at a more conventional clinic.  Some even suggested that I turn the position down.

Which is ridiculous.  I've worked hard for 16 years in order to do work that I enjoy and that fulfills me, not to suck every penny I can out of the medical system.  Living below my means lets me make that choice.

Sometimes it is still better to spend money than to save it:

NOLA commented on my previous post that she has "always been frugal but willing to splurge".  After all of my talk about the benefits of being frugal, I think it's important to point out that I'm the same way; I still spend (probably way too much) money on things that are not absolutely necessary but that make my life better.  I still get my apartment cleaned every week, even though it's the largest single variable expense in my budget, because without it I would live in squalor.  I recently bought a new storage unit and ottoman to hide organize the clutter essential items that I couldn't get rid of in my recent apartment purge.  My second largest variable expense in my budget is still eating out, because it's the easiest way of getting together with my friends, and I value my relationships with them more than most other things.

For me, living frugally isn't about constantly saying no to myself or living a life of deprivation.  It's really about being conscious of my spending and eliminating unnecessary things (like bland cafeteria food) so that I can become more financially secure and create more choice for myself.  Because I never want to turn down a job that I love just so that I can make a few more dollars.


  1. I had never even heard of the idea of financial independence until I started reading those blogs about 6-8 months ago. Really eye opening. Sure, at 39, the ERE ship has long sailed (and if we wanted to do that, we'd have gone into a field with a much shorter training period!) but they idea that savings=freedom was a really new and radical concept for me. I wish someone had clued me into this 10-15 years ago!

  2. oh, also...good for you for choosing the job that would make you more fulfilled vs. more money. I don't think its the higher salary that distinguishes those who burn out vs. those who don't, but more the feeling of doing something really worthwhile.