Maximize happiness/minimize cost

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by uselessfoster

So a couple weeks ago the Mr. and I reviewed our finances and decided that “lifestyle creep” was cutting into our savings and we weren’t really any happier for it. So we made a motto to maximize happiness and minimize cost (and even wrote it on a card to put on the fridge) and promised to remind each other of it when we wanted to spend money.

Guys, it’s been awesome. Taking stock, we are definitely happier than before and we’re doing more interesting things than when we were more casual with our money. We’re not ascetics like Mr Money Mustache (“Do you know what’s a good hobby? Construction work. In the sun”.) but like normal fun things like video games and travel. Here are some of the things we’ve discovered.

  • sometimes less is more. When we were kids, both of us remember that going out to eat was a big deal, then we went to college suddenly anything was excuse enough for a pizza. We used to eat out because we were lazy or tired. Now, going out to eat is a big deal again and we plan it in advance. Instead of stopping at whatever is close by, we research restaurants we want to try and plan on going days in advance and really anticipate the meal and enjoy the atmosphere. When we finally did go out to eat recently we were surprised to see how many people were eating at this sit-down/waitered/semi-nice restaurant while watching videos on their phones or reading on their kindles. Maybe those guys were really having a blast, but for us it looked like how we were in the past, not really enjoying the occasion. When eating out became a “sometimes activity,” we enjoyed the moment more and looked back with more happiness. The same thing happened with going out to the movies, buying or even making dessert, and other events.
    • anticipation is fun This is an idea from the book Key to Happiness by Wiking, a Danish happiness researcher. It’s kind of related to less is more but the main gist is that since human beings have a unique ability to imagine the future, we can get happiness just imaging good things to come. When we plan something out, we can enjoy leading up to it. I recently booked a cruise with my family for almost a year in the future. It was dirt cheap (like $300) and the Facebook group for the cruise has been active with distant relations and friends introducing themselves. We started planning (and saving) for a trip to Japan when the Studio Ghibli amusement park opens and its already been fun to plan and learn more about the culture. Planning ahead can also have the benefit of sweet deals and giving you time to shop around.
    • link purchases with memories This is another suggestion from Wiking. I recently bought a $38 baby swimsuit, which is crazy lavish for me, but I bought it while spending the entire day with my sister-in-law (and it was one of the only things I bought on that day—less is more) and every time I put it on the baby I remember choosing it with my sister-in-law and really that whole special day.
    • if you don’t love it, let it go—or don’t buy it My husband recently discovered that he can almost break even by selling video games that he’s played and isn’t likely to play again. He got a lot of joy from them, and while he isn’t necessarily thanking them for their service like Marie Kondo says, he admits that he kind of likes mailing them off through Amazon to wherever they’re going (a lot to military bases, somewhat surprisingly) to go make someone else happy. And if there’s a game that he’s not sure he wants to play, he gets it on redbox for a day to try it out. If he knows he wants to play the game, but it’s a short game and it’s not one he wants to play again, he’ll schedule when he has a day off (anticipation) for a long weekend and then play for like six hours a day.
  • be a joiner It’s more fun to do something with someone else, and you can sometimes cut the cost. We recently went to one of those Camp Jellystone Parks with our friends’ young family and our daughter. It was great to have someone to hold the baby while we went on water slides and we got to have grown up conversation and play board games after the kids were in bed and it cut the cost of the cabin in half. We got to strengthen our relationships, have more fun, and save money.

Anyway, we’re still learning more about how to make the most out of our expenses without feeling like we’re gritting our teeth. Has anyone else had similar experiences with cutting back costs without cutting back fun?

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