Traveling wallet, The roamer savings

Big Savings & Happiness, Can you have both?

Last year we saved $72,360.

(Deep breath)

You have to give it a moment to let it sink in.

At the start of 2015 we had made big goals to max out our 401k and IRA accounts. Then we also committed to saving $30,000 in an account to build up our home fund. We made aggressive money goals that we were committed to achieving.

But the one thing we hadn’t counted on was how miserable we’d be doing it. With a yearly spend of just $46,380.67 how could we be happy. With spending so low and savings so high, you know we made sacrifices.

We didn’t get to fly first class to visit relatives, we didn’t get to satisfy our foodie needs by eating Umami burgers every week, and we deprived our poor kids by not buying every toy they asked for at the store. And all for what!? to save $72,360. Whoop dee do.

Can you believe that?

Can you?

Well, while meeting this big saving goal might be a little hard to believe, what I think most of us struggle with is believing it can be done while simultaneously living a good life.

Telling you that saving $72,360 dollars in one year made me miserable make sense.

Well duh!I could have told you that! you might be saying

But if I told you that last year was in fact an awesome year, and oh yeah, we saved $72,320. Well, now maybe you’re thinking, “umm, yeah, sure”(queue eye roll).

It’s not about Ramen noodles

After seeing our savings what was your first reaction? Most people’s reaction is, it can’t be done.  Which isn’t  a surprise, since most Americans are saving somewhere between $1690– $2400  a year according to credit donkey.  With such a big difference between the average savings and ours. Our number is probably more then just a little hard to swallow, there must be a catch. The catch?! Life probably sucked. We were probably subsisting on cheap food. Ramen noodles anyone?

Whether we’re eating Ramen or something tasty, the biggest push back from people, who think saving 50% or more of your income is illogical, is that saving that much most certainly means that you don’t have a life. You don’t have friends, you eat Ramen noodles everyday. You sit at home all day and all night because that’s the only way to not spend money.

Big savers just don’t enjoy their lives.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Seriously, having yourself think so negatively about big savings is going to get you down and keep you down. Not only will it keep you from making the effort, if you do decided to try aggressive savings with a negative mentality everything is going to suck.

Give your perspective a 180 and get your head in the game

Personally, we had saved money before. Never as aggressively as we did last year. Last year’s savings were for the record books.

Do you want to have a record breaking year in savings?

The first thing you need to do is change your perspective. Why? Because it’s unlikely you’ll succeed if you’re having a miserable time doing it.

Henry Ford once said “If you think you can, you’re right, if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Want to save money and be happy. Stop assuming the worst. Don’t start picturing yourself in tattered jeans and faded holey T-shirts. Don’t picture yourself missing out on restaurants or the movies.

Instead start imagining all those wonderful things you can do, that just so happen, don’t cost you much money. Picture yourself taking your family to the beach with a picnic packed. Taking a leisurely walk with your husband. Snuggling on the couch reading more books with your kids. Joining the rest of your community for a summer movie out on a park lawn.

My son, Jr, doesn’t feel deprived when we eat beans, eggs, and rice. Actually it’s one of his favorite meals. He even requests it for his birthday. No joke. Now I’d say that’s a win for perspective. 😉 Comfort food.

Start accepting the simple truth that how you see things does impact how you enjoy them.

Find something to be happy about with saving and you’ll be living a good life. Food is a great example. Some people would associate eating rice and beans with being poor. Their affordability for some reason is negative. Save money on an outfit and that means you’re clever. Save money on food and that means you’re poor?

Sure you could feel deprived that you are eating beans but you could also be happy realizing you have food on your plate instead of being  one of the 795 million people world wide who suffer from hunger.

Shockingly our big year of savings was actually not a miserable year. We didn’t spend the year focusing on everything we weren’t doing. We were just to busy enjoying the things we were getting to do, like spending every weekend of summer at the beach.

Need someone else’s opinion? Well Mr.Money Mustache has publish articles debunking how not deprived his family is on their low spending. 

If I could sum up this point into 1 word it would be gratitude. Being grateful is a great way to shift your perspective. Instead of thinking about all the outfits you aren’t buying you can be thankful you already have a closet full of clothes to pick from.

Instead of pouting about all the money you aren’t spending you can be grateful to have a savings account that keeps growing and growing.

Happiness with growth

When you can’t rely on money for entertainment ( entertainment often associated to happiness) what else can you do?

How about taking up a challenge?

A challenge that stretches you outside your comfort zone.

I’ve done mud runs ( I know not the frugalist example) but before doing many I had to do 1. When I signed up for my first mud run I didn’t know what to expect. I had never gone to see one in person.  All I could do was rely on the pictures posted on the site. High ropes, steep slides, crawling and balancing high up over a water pit. (Did I mention I am scared of heights).  But it looked like fun (that’s a win for perspective) so I signed up knowing full well it would challenge me. After my first run I was exhausted and muddy but I was also super happy and wound up.

When I surpass a challenge I feel elated, even rejuvenated. The growth of overcoming perceived limits is happiness. Surprisingly, you don’t need to scale a 20 ft wall to feel that way. Why? because we can all have break through in many areas. Not only am I happy after a mud run. I can find happiness by trying to make a new dish for dinner, or starting my first ever compost pile.  Or by finally checking my credit score. It was a hurdle. For some reason it was a challenge, but yesterday I finally jumped the hurdle. It didn’t cost me any money. And you know what I felt? Happiness along with relief. I was so proud I even bragged to my husband. “Guess what?! I finally checked my credit score.”

Have you felt that feeling before?

I’m sure you have.

So use it.

Saving lots of money is a challenge. So find a number you can live with that is doable.  But push yourself. If you feel you could automatically invest $20 every month… Force $40 out of your account. I hope you’ll be a lot more aggressive then that but at least start. Then automate your savings. No need to make it more challenging then it has to be.

Saving money is a challenge you can feel good about. Taking away money you would normally use to entertain yourself will challenge you to find new alternatives. Remember happiness can come from other fountains, not just from the jolt of spending money.

So can you save lots of money and still be happy?

It’s not ALL or NOTHING

A view from a trail we hiked in Denver, CO. Beauty that's free.
A view from a trail we hiked in Denver, CO. Beauty that’s free.

In the beginning of this post I told you to change your perspective. Stop imagining the worst and seeing the glass half empty.

But even I’ll admit perspective isn’t everything. If your glass is empty, then it’s empty. It’s not an opinion, when you actually have nothing. Luckily, most of us aren’t even close to being left with nothing due to allocating more to savings.

So let’s look at the part of the glass that’s full. Even though we saved $72,360 last year. Oh man did we still have a lot of cushion in our spending. And there is the good news about saving money, everything doesn’t get cut.

Of course, by cushion, I mean we still spent money on more then just needs. We spent money on wants.

What I want more then anything is to travel. This is the Traveling Wallet after all. I almost want to say it’s a need. But I recognize that traveling wasn’t always so easy. That it’s a luxury for us 21 century humans. Luxury clearly equals a want.

Well guess what? Us saving 72 k didn’t mean that we cross out traveling from our yearly agenda. In fact we spent 21 days traveling as a family. That’s 3 weeks. And I even squeezed in 4 days on my own to a new location that cost $1,078, clocking in as the most expensive trip of the year.

Snowy Fun? Check! Happiness? Check!
Snowy Fun? Check! Happiness? Check!

Mr. Roamer and the kids didn’t suffer either as those trips included visits to his family. With lots of Snowy fun.

Some more luxurious spending also included.

  • A shinny new commuter bike for Mr. Roamer.
  • $100/month for each of us to spend. Mr. Roamer usually spends it on end of the week lunch out with coworkers.
  • The purchase of an online course by Ramit Sethi. (Sheesh those things are expensive)

That’s the thing about your big savings is that it lets you know that its okay to spend on stuff you value. A big savings rate can only happen once you’ve evaluated everything and cut out the junk. So when you have something you really do value and therefore want, you can open your wallet with no regrets.

At the end of the week or month or year you wont be wondering where all your money went. You’ll know this much went to savings, this much went to living, and oh yeah you still spent a good chunk on wants.

Everything doesn’t get cut, so you still have plenty of water in your cup to drink.

Finally; Earnings vs. Spending vs. Savings

So it occurred to me. While some people might be thinking that the Roamer clan lived under a rock to achieve such a savings. Surely others, reaction was that we just pull in a lot of money as engineers and so $72,360 might be a small portion of our earnings.

If that was the case let me set you straight.

We make a healthy income, but our savings still required us to put in some work. We are not rolling in the dough. Though if we keep up a savings like that I’m sure some day we will be.

Our total earning before tax were about $130,000, (which I don’t mind sharing now since my lay off means we are no longer earning that much). We spent $46,380 and saved $72,360. Also of the $46,380 we spent last year, $19,052 of that was on frills. Things mentioned above like travel, eating out, allowances and self improvement endeavors. You can check out our Yearly spend revealed post for more details.

Curious about our numbers?

Here’s how our $72,360 savings broke out.

  • 18 K Mr.’s 401k
  • 17.22 k My 401K
  • 5.5 K Mr.’s IRA
  • 5.5 K  My IRA
  • $26,140.23 in the house fund

What do you think?

Is it possible to live happily and save money. I hope that if at the start of this article your answer was no, that now, you are thinking you might just give it a shot and see.

Traveling wallet, The roamer savings

Tips for living a happy life while saving loads of money

  1. Change your perspective. Think of what you’re gaining.
  2. Find a challenge that helps you grow. Financial or otherwise.
  3. Spend on what you value.

What new heights in savings did you reach last year? Was your happiness affected? What are your goals for this year?

The Roamer traveling wallet

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24 thoughts on “Big Savings & Happiness, Can you have both?”

  1. I used to MAKE less than 46k per year GROSS so I know it’s possible. Good article. I’m thinking of doing a living off half my income challenge for a month (or really darn close). My living expenses aren’t that bad, but it would affect my grocery budget a lot, which would definitely be the hardest. I “choose” not to live off rice and beans and other inexpensive food options because for me it’s better for my health, so that part will be tough! Still, we can always stretch ourselves just a tiny bit more.

    1. Hi Tonya, that would be a great challenge to take special since you’ve recently said your new job pays well and often.

      Since its short term you could really push your limits. Kind of like the Frugalwoods uber frugal challenge. 🙂

  2. Roamer, great post! I would add that the activities that me and my family have done when we haven’t spent a lot of money (or any money at all for that matter) have been the most memorable.

    Congrats on the awesome savings rate by the way! Hopefully we can accomplish something similar this year as well.

    1. Hi Bill and thanks for participating in the comments.

      Yeah there are so many memorable moments that don’t cost a lot of money. I’ve also had the same experience.

      I wish you the best of luck on accomplishing your savings goal this year.

  3. I love your positive attitude around aggressive saving! We’re in a similar boat — high savings percentage, low spending — but it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all because of how we approach it. We don’t buy much stuff but we still get out and do plenty of activities, most of them free or inexpensive. But you’re so right that it’s a choice how you view it: you can see saving as some major drag and get negative about it, or you can be excited to keep hitting your milestones, stay grateful for what you have and then it’s not a drag at all. 🙂

  4. Love your positive attitude around aggressive saving! It’s all about having the right balance. What’s right for you may not be right for me. Very happy to hear that you’ve found the right balance between savings and happiness. 🙂

    1. Thanks! yeah finding a balance is important and great point about it being personal. Better still that balance can shift even within a family. So it’s always important to reassess.

  5. I find that when we are constantly out and about doing fun things, I don’t have the time or desire to spend money. Some times we splurge, like the theme park we are heading to this weekend. But even our 6 week road trip this summer will be low cost. Mostly gas and campsites. Although 6 weeks in a pop up camper with 5 kids might add a bit of expense to our “beer and wine” budget. =)

    1. Theme parks are lots of fun. Well probably do those one day once the kids are much older.

      Your six week road trip sound like just the kind of trip I’d like to take with my family. Can wait to read about how it went.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Edifi!
      We are old school and use dry beans we soak over night. We’ve been able to survive without the pressure cooker thus far. 🙂 Maybe one in the future.

  6. Wow, are we as a society really at the point that ~$46k in spending is rightly characterized as “so low” and necessitating big sacrifice and deprivation? 🙂

    1. hahah I’m sure you noted I was being overly dramatic in that part of the post. But if we have to speak frankly that is about the average earning and most average citizens are living paycheck to paycheck. Living paycheck to paycheck makes you feel poor. So even though like I stated at the end, that 46K included a lot of fluff. The greater population would feel that, that spending is indeed a sacrifice.

  7. Last year I opened my IRA and fully funded it. This year, I’ll do that while saving for a down payment and paying off credit card debt. It’s been a heady journey, but I’m on the path now.

    1. Great job!!! It sounds like you are on the path. 🙂 Don’t forget though your debt probably is eating lots of extra cash due to the interest. It’s amazing how much faster you can save once debt is paid off.

  8. Incredible article!

    I find a lot of similarities between our two cases: we’re also saving for a house, we pull in the ~same income, we talk about our perspective a bit, BUT you’re crushing us in the savings department. 🙂

    We might be on pace to save around 50k this year, so reading your post is inspiration for us.

    Time to make rice, beans & eggs tonight…mainly because that sounds like a great meal!

    1. Hi Matt! thanks so much for joining the conversation.

      50K is an amazing saving amount no matter what! So far ahead the average american so don’t forget to celebrate it! Yup it was pretty amazing last year but since I was laid off this year will be much less, but we are staying as aggressive as possible.

      Beans, eggs, and rice is pretty filling I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  9. AMAZING! Wow! It doesn’t sound like you deprived yourself at all…you sound like a smart and financially prudent family if I must say so myself. I’m going to start thinking of something to challenge myself…that sounds like something I can get with. Thanks for sharing this post, it is truly not only inspirational and mind blowing, but it also gives me hope that I can move forward and achieve the same great thing!

    1. Hi Latoya
      Thanks so much, that is why we shared it. To hopefully inspire and to break down preconceived notions. I hope you do find something that pushes your limits but is still within grasp. 🙂 happy journey.

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