“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” —Warren Buffett
On my way home the other day I stopped at the traffic light and saw a car (Audi Q7) that came speeding around the corner before it stopped. The volume of the music broke my inner quietness and was drowned out only by the squeal of his tires when the light changed. The driver (who looked like my ex) wore a leather jacket, sunglasses, and smoked a cigarette that he casually flicked out of the window.
We didn’t exchange any words. I don’t even recall him looking in my direction. I don’t care about the person or how he acquired this car. I am passing no judgment on him because this is a story about me. When I saw him, a surprising thought entered my head. I told myself, “I could drive a car like that if I wanted. I could purchase a car like this anytime. But I choose not to.” There are, I suppose, a few cars on the planet that I could not receive enough credit to purchase. But for the most part, there is nothing stopping me from driving an expensive, flashy car. Except for maybe one thing. I enjoy living within my means. I like knowing I spend less than I make. I mean, I could take expensive vacations, buy this car, purchase expensive clothes, purchase more luxurious furniture but I find a significant amount of pleasure knowing my expenses do not exceed my income. I don’t need to rely on working overtime to afford things and pay off my credit card.
Staying out of debt means I am not being hunted down by creditors. It means I am not carrying a financial burden from my past while also trying to provide for the present. It means I have the freedom to make choices with my excess income. It means I can save if I want, give if I want, or spend if I want. I enjoy a significant level of freedom that others may not experience. This allows me to sleep better, carry less stress, and live a more calm, relaxed life.
Our society works hard to convince us to outspend our means and then provides a thousand ways for us to do it. And from the outside, a life built on credit may appear the life desired. With its bright lights, bold colors, and flashy impressions we are able to make.
But I will choose something different for my life. I will choose calm and peace and the knowledge that I have chosen responsibly. For there is a wonderful joy to be found in it. I know there is a number of uncontrollable circumstances that may make this choice impossible for some. Tragedy, medical emergencies, or unexpected career downsizing as examples. But for those who still have the choice, I don’t think you will ever regret spending less than you make. I love my life with less.