What Having Wealth Means To Me
I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t come from a family that has a lot of money. My parents grew up with very little. My dad just very recently completed a college degree, but for most of his life he’s had a GED. I’m fairly certain my mom has an actual diploma. I don’t have a degree. I’ve personally lived in low-income housing, a garage, rented spare rooms, slept on the floor, slept in my car, and convinced my parents to let me move back in with them twice. So when it comes to having money, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.
But, my grandparents do pretty well for themselves. They live in a nice house, they travel a lot, and for as long as I can remember I always thought of them as being “rich”. My grandfather always has a new idea to make money. He’s done everything. Construction. A food truck. Flipping houses. Bidding on storage units. Collecting bottles for recycling. From the lucrative to the ludicrous, he’s tried it. I’ve always found his business advice fascinating. But I think the thing he’s said that’s stuck with me the most is this,
“We don’t have nice things and get to go to nice places because we’re rich. We get to buy these things and go to these places because we’re smart. We live within our means, we budget carefully, and we take care of what we have.”
Or something along those lines. I mean I didn’t record it. But you get the idea. It totally changed my perspective on what wealth even is and how I could work to get the things I want and go to the places I want to be. I don’t need to make a lot of money to feel wealthy (that’s convenient because I don’t make a lot of money). But by being frugal and smart with what I have, I can not only keep food in my mouth and a roof over my head, but I can build up to making purchases that increase my quality of life.
A while back I switched my bank over to Simple for a number of reasons, but the really big one was Goals. Goals is a feature where you basically have unlimited virtual accounts. It’s a built-in version of the envelope-style budgeting system. You can even set Goals with dates so that money will slowly automatically transfer into an account over time.
This has been a really big deal for me in helping me to create a consistent budget, figure out how much money I actually have, and make smarter choices about the way I spend it. Currently, I have a few basic types of Goals:
Hard Spending. These are basically my recurring expenses: Rent, car insurance, oil changes, car registration, haircuts. These are things that I know how much it’s going to be and come at a regular cycle. These are the easiest goals to create and doing some of the ones that only come every few months or every year has been incredibly helpful in terms of adjusting my monthly budget.
Soft Spending. These are things where I don’t know exactly how much I’ll spend in a given month: groceries, gas, utilities. When my paycheck comes in, I allocate money into these goals based on my average spending in each category. Mint is another great tool to figure out what this is.
Debts. This is my car loan and my credit card. Having goals for these gives me a clearer picture of my progress on paying off these debts. It’s a bit soul crushing to see sometimes honestly, but if you pay into these faster than expected it is very rewarding. Being ahead of the little black bar feels really good.
Big Purchases. I’ve started doing this thing where no matter what the thing is, I create a goal for it as soon as I think of it. Doesn’t even matter if the goal is ridiculously out of my income level or something frivolous that I’m not even sure I actually want like say an Eames chair. Yeah just make a goal for it. Money will automatically trickle into these little accounts. There’s no drawback to saving money. Just do it. Make these. Lots of them. All the time.
Discretionary Spending. I don’t do this. I don’t have a goal for cheeseburgers. I don’t have a goal for booze. I don’t. I don’t budget this. And the reason why is my favorite part of goals and why I think they’re so effective at controlling spending. After I’ve allocated all my money towards other things and my Safe-to-Spend hits “$0.00” the pressure is on and I have to decide how to re-allocate my money for these little impulse purchases. The question I have to ask myself isn’t, “Do I have $7 for a cheeseburger?”. The question is now, “Do I want a cheeseburger more than I want to buy a house someday?”
But you know, sometimes I do really want a cheeseburger and sometimes I decide that I don’t really want an Eames chair and so I archive that goal and re-allocate my surprise payday to my other goals. The point is that it forces me to make decisions about the things I want and not just the number on the screen. And I think that is what having wealth or feeling wealthy is about. It’s not about having a big number on your paycheck or on your bank account. it’s about making the smart choices to invest what you have into the things that really matter to you.