Relax, have some fun!

When people find out I live on a graduate student stipend and still manage to save nearly 30% of my income, their eyes often fill with pity and they start giving me “advice” like the title of this post. As if I’m stuck in a world of self imposed poverty, living on beans and bread and missing out on all of life’s pleasures.

As I ponder my actual life in a nice apartment with a view and 24-hour doormen in a prime location in a large city, cooking up awesome food that’s way better than the $10 lunches people buy every day, purchasing electric bicycles on a whim, spending time with friends, travelling by plane multiple times a month while enjoying airport lounges along the way, and spending hours a day pursuing my hobbies, it’s difficult for me to take suggestions like these seriously. This is not a life of poverty; if anything, it’s a life of excess!

Indeed, many people incorrectly believe that the only way to have a high saving rate is to severely restrict yourself and not enjoy life. In reality, building wealth is all about implementing a few, common sense Rules that will likely greatly improve your quality of life! Here are some of mine.

  1. Do not pay for things that are free. Seems like a no-brainer, but some people just like leaking money. Water is free. Most books (including audio/e-books) are free1From the library. Money from credit card rewards is free! Storage is free. Filing your taxes is free.
  2. Don’t pay 10x more for something that’s only marginally (if at all) better. A $60/year cell phone plan will do everything your $60/month plan will do. A nice, spacious apartment in an older building will provide as much or more comfort as a tiny studio in a “luxury” apartment building. A used, compact car will have better handling and utility than a new pickup truck complete with fake engine noise.
  3. Don’t spend money on things that will do nothing to increase your happiness or well-being. This includes buying lunch instead of packing leftovers, ordering takeout because you’re too lazy to make a basic meal, buying gadgets that have no real utility just because they’re there.
  4. Invest the money you save from #1-3 is a total US stock market index fund. Which is also free 🙂2Or almost free, at a typical expense ratio of ~0.04%.


Really, that just about covers it. Is it easy to follow the above steps? Absolutely it is! And even if it wasn’t, hardship is the spice of lifeThat’s why I occasionally do things like go without the heat all winter, or (unsuccessfully) try to spend less than $80 on groceries in a month. Those things are done for FUN. Pursuing a longer term goal to completion is exactly the type of life experience I don’t want to miss out on!

But to be honest, you won’t really quench your thirst for being challenged with this stuff. It’s pretty much all on cruise control after a while, just watching your net worth increase with minimal effort. And what will your reward be for imposing so much restriction on yourself? Well, within a few years I won’t have to work for money and will be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, for the rest of my life. Man, that sounds like fun!

4 response to "Relax, have some fun!"

  1. By: Trev Posted: March 24, 2019

    I know that as graduate students we complain that we don’t get paid very much, but our tuition and health insurance is paid for us on top of the stipend. When you put it all together, graduate school is actually a pretty good deal- get paid to be a doctor (not the useful kind). Many people I talk to don’t realize we are so lucky to not have to go into debt for our graduate degree.

    • By: Joey Posted: March 24, 2019

      I agree with you completely (except that I think PhDs are useful 🙂 ). We are in a pretty fortunate position. Just gotta think about it the right way!

  2. By: Beshoi Beshay Posted: May 7, 2019

    “We are not rich by what we possess but rather by what we can do without.”-Immanuel Kant

    • By: Joey Posted: May 7, 2019

      Great quote!

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