How to Enjoy Life on a Shoestring Budget [Lifestyle Design]
The other day my wife and I were in a local health food store. The woman asked us, “Why are you buying the whole box of chocolate covered coconut bars?”
“We eat them on the plane while we’re traveling.”
“Where are you off to?” she asked.
“Brazil,” we replied.
“Really?” she asked. “For how long?”
“Three months?! Are you guys millionaires?”
My wife just turned to me and smiled. We’re not millionaires. We’re not even close.
And you know what? We don’t have to be to travel the world.
Being a Millionaire is Overrated
If I got paid 5 cents for every Internet Marketing Guru’s claim that their product will make me 6 figures in 3 weeks while working at home in my stinky underwear then I’d be a millionaire by now!
Ha! But wait a second… I just stated that being a millionaire is overrated so I guess I have some explaining to do…
First off, what does it mean to be a millionaire? If you have a million bucks in the bank, does that make you one? What about your house? Does your house have to be worth a million bucks? What about your car? How about your wife and kids? Should they be worth a million bucks to make you a millionaire?
Where does this quest to become a millionaire end?
Better yet, where does it begin?
I have a better option to figuring out the answers to such “deep” questions. It’s a combination between an art and a science…
The Art and Science of Squeezing 50 Cents Out of a Quarter
My father has often told me that I have the ability to squeeze 50 cents out of a quarter. My mother, on the other hand has told me, “Jesus Christ Jefferson! Why are you so cheap?”
My response has always been: “I’m strategically using my money to achieve a lifestyle with very specific goals in mind.”
Neither my mom nor my dad has a clue about lifestyle. They’ve worked J.O.B.S. since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted something different with my life. I didn’t know what that was until I entered college.
For the first time in my life I actually saw a different way to live my life. I found a place where I could learn about new things, travel abroad and work just enough to pay for my college education. During my 5 years as an undergrad at Umass, take a look at what I achieved:
- I became fluent in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and “so-so” in Italian… “Ma, che cazzo fai?!”
- I met people from all over the world while studying on campus. That was a big deal for a country bumpkin’ boy from Massachusetts.
- I studied and traveled in the following countries: Costa Rica (twice), Brazil, Argentina, Mexico (4 times), Portugal, France, England, and Italy.
- I met my wife!
- I had my first successful stint as a copywriter, although clueless to what a copywriter was at that time, and won over $6,000.00 in scholarships.
I did all of this for a total cost of $9,104.00 in Student Loan Debt all while I worked part-time at no more than $7.00/hour. I knew how to leverage my time, skills and money to do the things I loved which were learning new languages, meeting hot Latinas and traveling the world.
Now, if I had NOT told you that I was in college while I achieved all of these things and framed it as if I’d done it as a business owner, what would you think then?
“Damn! This Jefferson is one successful guy! He travels the world with his wife all while working part-time at $7.00 an hour in his smelly underwear. Hey Jefferson: You must be a Millionaire to do all that!”
Ha! Nope. I wasn’t then and I’m not now.
So here’s my point: If you feel that your ideal, perfect lifestyle is going to cost you a million dollars to achieve, then go for it! Make your millions and do your thing.
If, on the other hand, you want to travel more, work a LOT less and learn how to leverage your time and money with the least amount of investment possible, then keep reading for some tips on how to do so.
How to Win at this Game
The most important thing to understand is that the more money you think you need to make, the more stressed you’ll become trying to earn it. I mean, think about how much mental and emotional space goes into making a million bucks. Think about it right now. Did your brain explode?
Now, think about making one whole dollar. How does that feel? Notice any difference?
I propose that we reduce all the stigma, anxiety and stress that comes from this urge to bring home “boatloads” of money by figuring out how low we can get your current and future lifestyle to cost you right now.
Here’s where to start:
The first place to start is by brainstorming a couple of things:
- Think about how many hours you’d like to work per week.
- Start thinking about the other skill sets that you have that you can use to save money by doing it yourself. For example, the kitchen faucet breaks. You can either hire a plumber at $100 an hour or do it yourself.
- Make a list of the places that you’d like to travel. Take it one step further and figure out how much it would cost for you to stay there for a week, a month, 6 months, etc.
The second thing to do is determine what your operating costs are as an individual and a family. I’m serious. Keep track of all the expenses you and your family have per month. Organize all your receipts, make a spreadsheet and keep track of this data. You are looking for trends in your spending data. You want to be able to see where and how much money you’re spending on the different parts of your life.
Keep in mind that it’s extremely possible that neither you nor your spouse may want to volunteer this information. I’ve seen cases where some people have a hard time admitting to themselves what they do with their money never mind anyone else. If this happens, focus on where you want to be in the future. Make sure the picture you see is very, very clear and rewarding. That should help you focus on getting your expenses on paper.
The third thing to do is add a column to that spreadsheet that tracks your profits. I want you to write down your gross and net salaries either as an employee or as a Business Owner. If you have kids and they make $5.00 a week selling lemonade, then put that there too. If you find $20 in the dryer, add that in there as well. Any investments, dividends or other areas where you profit should be noted.
The fourth thing to do is figure out if you’re in the black, red or green as a family per month. This is where emotions may start to run “high.” Keep in mind that you should NOT judge where you’re at with your lifestyle. If you’re in the red, then you’ll at least know why. If you’re profiting, you’ll know why too. The more meticulous you keep track of the data the more informed you’ll be as a family/business.
After a couple of months, you’ll have an empirical, well-documented baseline to what your family and lifestyle costs you. Consider it the financial lifeline that you’ve been looking for to be able to accomplish some of the goals that have seemed out of your reach. For example, you may find that instead of spending $452.45 per month on eating out for lunch, you can make your own ($50/month) and save around $402.00.
Those extra hundreds can be used to buy a ticket to the Caribbean if you wanted to escape to the beach in the winter or take some time off, or you can use it to pay down some debt. The more places you find to save money, ahem… squeeze 50 cents out of a quarter… the more money you can pocket for things that are fun and enjoyable.
You Ultimately Decide Your Future & Your Lifestyle
You very well may be at a point in your life where you’re sick and tired of feeling that you don’t make enough money, that you have no clue where your money goes or even worse that making a million bucks will solve all your problems!
Making money is only part of the solution.
Real change occurs when you paint a clear picture of how you want to live your life, figure out how much it costs you and then construct a lifestyle business that will achieve it.
And don’t forget, if I hadn’t told you that a poor undergrad (with no marketing skills) figured out how to leverage a shitty $7/hour job to travel to eight different countries and pick up three different languages then you probably would have assumed that I was a “6 Figure a Year Millionaire.”
So just imagine how many countries you could travel to at your current pay rate…
It’s a big world out there and it’s filled with wonderful places to visit. Be diligent, patient and track what your lifestyle costs and before long you’ll realize that it’s not as expensive or undoable as you think to travel the world without a million bucks in your pocket.
Who knows? The actual number that you come up with may surprise you.
Good luck and peace