You’ve heard it. I’ve said it. Maybe you have lived it. Saving that first $100,000 is so freaking hard! And it’s not just hard because of lack of compound interest. Of course, once you have your savings snowball rolling downhill, things get fun quickly. But it’s more than that. So this is part two of Saving our first $100,000.
First things first: Frugal plus Gratitude
1. You have to learn to spend more frugally than you earn.
2. You need to learn to find joy, gratitude, and happiness without spending a lot of money.
I posted about 25 easy, affordable things to pack for lunch. You gotta learn all that stuff. I know so many people in their 20’s who don’t cook. They simply don’t know how to. Let alone cook things that are simple, nutritious, and affordable.
We have to learn how to have fun affordably. How can we enjoy our weekends with friends and NOT spend money? That takes some time to figure out. Some people never figure it out. After 16 years of dedicating ourselves to the learning curve of recreating and sharing company with those we care about for little or no cost, it’s really easy for us. Super easy.
Sometimes people compliment me on how low our expenses are, but part of me is like, “How the heck could we even spend any more money?!? Even with NO jobs, our life is filled to the brim. We don’t have time to spend any more money recreating. We don’t even have time to do all the awesome low cost, free stuff that is already going on every weekend.” But that is after years of learning how to be frugal and still really love life. At first, all we had was dinner out and the movies. AKA dropping a LOT of money for a little bit of fun. You know how many movies I’ve seen in the theater this last year. Zero. Year before? Zero. The year before that? Zero. Here’s a fun game I play with people, “Has Jillian seen this movie?” They will ask if I’ve seen it and laugh hilariously as I say, “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, and never even heard of that one.”
Because I really don’t like watching movies. And I HATE watching them in a theater. Sitting in a crowded public place with strangers doing something I don’t really enjoy and could be happening AT MY HOUSE instead!? Why? Why would I ever do that? But in my 20’s it was a thing. It seemed like the only way people knew how to recreate together.
I love spending time with my people. Talking, creating, exploring, adventuring, DOING stuff. Sitting next to them and watching a movie is lame. It took me a few years to be like, “NO. I love you. I actually want to do fun stuff with you. This is stupid. But I have a better idea. Let’s do THIS instead.”
You have to learn to be frugal. People who end up building a lot of wealth (without huge incomes) mastered the art of loving the simple joys of life without spending a ton of money.
Next up: Don’t take feedback from The Critics.
It’s SO hard not to care what the critic says. I cared—a whole bunch. You want to know one of the hardest parts of growing up poor and then trying to build financial independence? Learning not to care about the critic.
Why do we all waste money? Because we care what people think of us. We don’t want to take any crap. We want to fit in. There is no exception for poverty. You still care. Actually, I would argue that poor people care even more because they feel the judgment. They know they look poor, and it sucks. So, as soon as we have a tiny bit of cash that would allow us NOT to look poor……oh, it’s tempting to spend it!
Brene Brown talks about how we are hardwired to care. It’s how we create community, survive as a species, and find belonging. BUT and it’s a big exception – We don’t HAVE to take feedback from critics. The circle of people in my life who I will accept feedback from is small and well earned.
To reference the Roosevelt speech, “The man in the arena,” if you aren’t in the ring: creating, building, and fighting…if you are just a critic, in the stands trying to talk crap about where I’m trying to go in life….“I see you, I hear you, and I don’t give a damn about your feedback.”
That first 100k was so darn hard because I had the chance to NOT look poor for the first time, but I had to CHOOSE to still look poor.
I had to act poor. I had to act broke. I packed my cheap lunch like a loser who couldn’t afford delicious Chipotle every day. It was so crazy hard because I WAS still poor. I didn’t have 3/4 million in the bank to laugh off the haters and feel confident. Nope. I had 10k in the bank and was driving a beater and packing my lunch, and wearing all second-hand clothes.
Now you might think, “Well, that’s responsible and prudent, and it’s silly that someone would make fun of you!” Except they did make fun of me, and it wasn’t fun.
Actually, just a few years ago, a coworker was making fun of my beater car, but not in a fun, “we’re friends and I’m teasing you” kind of way. This coworker legitimately tried to ban me from parking in front of our place of work because my car was “so ugly it would give a bad impression to the customers.” Let’s just say we weren’t friends, and I was not impressed. But you know what? We had half a million dollars in net worth, and she just took out a $30,000 loan on her shiny car.
No matter your income, no matter your spending, if you are building wealth, there will always be some critic who is shocked/mocking/confused towards your spending.
Third up: Counter-Cultural Living
AKA Being “real” adults but living like college kids
Maybe this kind of falls into the not taking feedback from critics category. But saving that first 100k meant that while we were off at our first “real jobs” and trying to prove how adult and grown-up we were, fiscally, we had to live like college kids.
We had a roommate. Now folks. We had two full time “real” jobs AND two kids. We had been married for 5 years. Like….real adults. AND we had a roommate.
We ordered water if we ate out. Or worst, sometimes we would split a soda at a gas station. Because, you know, it saved 99 cents. We only bought our clothes used. We ate rice and beans every Monday.
And if I’m a little ranty: Life was awesome. Actually, college was awesome! I loved our college years. Why the heck are we knocking living like a college kid? Those were some darn great years, if you ask me.
Now maybe your first 100k will be easy. You make huge money. Your 401k match is insane.
But for everyone else, it’s hard. I don’t care if your in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. That first 100k is hard. You have to learn how to be frugal and love life. You have to learn not to let critics shape your choices. And maybe, just maybe, you need to live a little bit more like a college kid. Buy a $500 piece of crap car, get a roommate, eat rice and beans, Air BnB your guest room, move into a camper, buy all used clothes, go camping in a tent for vacation, or deliver pizzas at night. And save 100k.
The point is: Do the things no one else wants to do that will move you closer to your ideal life.
Maybe your thinking, “Sure, but I AM a real adult! I’m 50 and work at a law firm.” Therefore…..”What would my coworkers say? What would my Facebook friends say? What would my “rich” friends say? What would my mom think (but not say)? How could I ever own up to the fact that we aren’t as rich as we look?”
(Insert sarcasm) “Everyone will totally understand and be 100% on board, and it will be high fives and pats on the back ALL the time.” But you and I both know that isn’t true. Friend, hear me out on this: There will ALWAYS be critics. Of basically EVERYTHING.
1. Give up your entire life in pursuit of trying to make as many critics happy as often as possible.
2. Live your own damn life. True to your passion, purpose, and values. And to those who believe in you, cheer you on, and earn the right to give feedback: give them more space. And to the critics say, “I see you. I hear you. (And maybe, I love you) But this part of my life isn’t open for negotiation.”
Because I swear, it gets easier—all of it.
I’m naturally frugal now and know how to live WELL on less. I give a LOT less crap when critics think I’m poor or should be spending more money on things I honestly don’t care about.
And I love the college life! If we had an extra room, I’d still get a roommate. Why the heck not? I have 5 kids; it’s not like I’m losing any privacy around here. I can barely go pee by myself. A roommate would be much more respectful of my personal boundaries. I love traveling in our pop up camper. I would actually love to move into a camper again once the kid count at home goes down. Rice and beans are delish.
And last year, our net worth went up to 100k, and I didn’t even lift a finger to make that happen.
So, yeah, that first 100k sucks.
It was hard because I had to learn how to become rich. And becoming rich is learning to enjoy life while spending like you are MUCH poorer than you really are. It was a hard lesson to learn.
For Conversation: How do you deal with The Critics?
Part 3 will be how it’s not marketing or The Joneses that cause lifestyle inflation. And how to overcome it!