Warning: The following is not a universal list. Far from it. In fact, many of these “expenses” are hugely valued among an enormous segment of the population. So much so that it might even seem offensive to label some of these things as simple “expenses.” Plenty of these things enrich and bring joy to those who have chosen to spend their money on them. There’s no intent to insult here. The purpose of this list is to get the undecided or inexperienced to at least consider the alternative of these otherwise expensive, societal defaults.
How many of us are the products of a generation of parents who had kids because it was “the thing to do“? Not having kids doesn’t necessarily mean you’re selfish. It means you’re not willing or currently unable to put another little “you” on this planet. Great parents should be applauded and respected. But kids cost money. If you’re not in a place to facilitate their happiness as well as your own, then maybe make a plan to get there or even reconsider.
2. A New Car
If no one bought new cars, there would be no used cars… but why exactly do people buy new cars? Of course there are a million reasons, but a good chunk of the new-car buying public might end up happier if they refused to buy a new car they only sorta want, and instead sought out and purchased a used version of a car they REALLY want.
3. Pricey College / Extra Education
There seems to be a developing, cultural addiction to higher-learning. Gotta get a degree from a big name school right? Not… really. Yes, a degree from a respected institution is going to make you more money in most fields. But if you’re going just to go, then you risk finding yourself getting lost in the lifestyle of pretend adulthood. You might end up getting a degree in something you really have no interest in. You graduate, start to work in that field, then decided to give it up only to… go back and start all over in something else. Find something you like. Focus on it. Make it happen, and don’t be afraid to jettison the cult of higher education if a solid opportunity to put your skills to work comes along. You can always go back. They’ll take your money.
Minimize the debt, maximize the experience.
4. A big, traditional wedding.
More often than not, these are stress-bombs that end up looking and feeling like elaborate stage productions with every ounce of the Bride and Groom’s personalities being stripped from the ceremony. It’s your day. The both of you. Do what you want to do. If that means getting married in a park, then having a nice dinner out with a close group of family and friends, and then a bar crawl in your wedding getups… then good on ya.
5. A big house
Every extra, unused room in a house = one less long weekend getaway you can take a year. Why do you need all that space unless you’re a homebody hoarder? Get out of the house man.
6. A Fat Mobile Phone Plan
There are plenty of options that’ll keep you relatively connected. And taking your nose out of your phone every so often is a good way to… look around at the world around you. The internet can answer all questions, but figuring out the answers for yourself without the help of the smartphone crutch is a great way to exercise your brain.
Look at your phone. Is it really worth it? What would you do with the money if you downsized?
7. Not living close to where you work
Gas. Wear and tear on your mode of transportation. Lost time. It’s not always possible, but if you can find someplace to work that’s 10, maybe 20 minutes from where you sleep at night, you’re going to save a ton of money.
8. Cable TV or Satellite
If there’s a game on you have to see, hit up a sports bar or restaurant (or, actually buy tickets to it). Also, there’s always Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon prime for dramas and comedy. The day The History Channel became “History” and started running “reality” TV shows was the day Cable crossed a bloated sow rubicon.
9. “Vacations” to fulfill family obligations
If you have fun with your family, then by all means spend your vacation time with them. If they’re not that much fun to be around, and you keep blowing your vacation budget on trips of which the only purpose is to avoid guilt trips, then take a step back. It might be time to strongly reconsider the usual interpretation of “you can’t choose your family“.
10. Excessively Nice/Formal Clothes when you have no cause to wear them
Owning a tux is a fantastic thing. But if you don’t go to more than one black tie event every five years, then what’s the point? Same for expensive suits, shoes, etc… If you don’t have cause (or the honest desire) to wear the stuff, and it’s just going to sit in your closet, then get the most for your money on something less expensive that can be managed with careful upkeep. If you’re twenty years old, you might need a suit. Not five. Nice clothes can be a means to an end. But if your wardrobe spending habits are keeping you from going out and enjoying life… then it’s time to change.
We all can’t be Jack Donaghy. Actually, none of us can.