Experience Life While Saving Money

Some Context

Recently, I got an unexpected bonus from my 9-5, so my wife and I were discussing what to do with it.

We agreed to take 20% of it and do something fun, then invest the rest. 20% worked out to about $360. We decided to create an experience with these funds, as opposed to buying some object/item/thing.

You may already know that we are debt free and, by the standards of most, shouldn’t really need to worry about how we spend our money anymore.

But we’ve recently gotten back into hard-core savings mode after getting some news about our youngest daughter. If you want, you can read more about that here.

Our mindset has become, “Why wait for travel and independence in our 60’s?” So on our road to FIRE, we’re living on about 38% of our take-home pay. This means that we’ve cut down significantly on spending, so we have to get more creative and efficient with both our time and money.

Throughout our brainstorm session, I began to think about all the ways we have been trained to pay a premium for convenience and low effort. While avoiding time and effort, we gradually become disconnected from reality. Soon, we are grinding out our days, coming home to vegetate on the couch, and then going to sleep to repeat the cycle.

How could we avoid paying a high price while also spending more time experiencing life and re-program our minds to appreciate and connect with the world around us?

How We’ve Traditionally Spent Our Time

My wife and I created a list of how we’ve been known to occupy ourselves. Do any of these things appear on your list?:

  • Eating out
  • Getting Starbucks
  • Playing video games
  • Reading books
  • Drinking wine
  • Going to the movies
  • Buying stuff on Amazon
  • Hotel/Airbnb stays
  • Window shopping while traveling

In my opinion, buying stuff on Amazon is an expensive way to spend my time. Even staying at a hotel or Airbnb (when camping is an option) is beginning to seem too expensive, not to mention less exciting with less experiences.

A Closer Look at Time and Money

I’ve noticed that there are many low-cost (mostly free) activities which require more planning, effort and time. But these activities also make us more healthy, happier, in better shape, in tune with nature, in tune with each other. The list goes on.

There are obvious exceptions, but think about it. We pay a premium for convenience.

Here are some items which did not make our frequent activity list:

  • Going for a walk
  • Sitting and talking
  • Getting our books from the library
  • Cooking a meal together
  • Taking a roadtrip together

We used to do a lot of these, but two kids later, we have had trouble finding the energy. We’re working on fixing that.

The Bottom Line

If you focus more on creating experiences, even the ones which require more effort and time, you are likely to save more money and be altogether healthier as a result.

Go do those things that take longer time than you feel you have. Go for that 40 minute walk around the neighborhood. The next time you pop that wine bottle, go sit on the back porch together with a friend or spouse and talk over your wine.

Get your books from the library each weekend. It’ll get you out of the house, hold you accountable to actually reading your books, and save you a small bit of money in the process, probably enough to grab your Starbucks drink while you sit and read.

If you have kids and live near a zoo, buy a season pass, go every other weekend for an hour and just see a new part of the zoo together. The membership in my city is $189 for a family. If we went twice a month, it’d cost us $7.88 per hour for four people (so $1.97 per person). That’s not a bad exchange rate, and it gets you out of the house twice a month. But it takes time, and you actually have to go for it to make sense.

Bonus Use Case

Here’s the latest way my wife and I have decided to apply this principle:

Remember that bonus I mentioned?

We started with the idea of going to the beach. Well, at two nights, the hotel stay alone would just about wipe out that $360. What are we paying for on the hotel? Just a place to crash with the kids, right? What if we drove to the beach for a day trip instead, and then drove back at the end of the day? A 4-hour round trip costs us about $25 in gas.

So instead of going and spending two nights at the beach, we’re planning to make about seven day trips to the beach this summer which include the following expenses:

  • Gas: $25
  • Umbrella/Chair Rental: $25
  • Packed lunches and drinks (grocery budget)
  • Books/music/sunscreen/toys (bring from home)
  • Total: $50

During our mini road trips to and from the beach, we’ll talk with each other, or listen to podcasts we both enjoy.

Now, I know there are whole turd ton of ideas floating around out there. What are yours? How can we save money while spending more time and generating memorable experiences? Leave a comment and share your thoughts or tips.

6 Replies to “Experience Life While Saving Money”

  1. Debt free or not, saving a part of a bonus is always a good choice. Bonuses go quick for the average spender.

    Traditionally, I spent my time just like you guys did. But with more nights at the bar.

    However, now that I don’t, I’ve noticed my circle getting smaller. This has been my biggest challenge with adjusting my lifestyle. Finding like minded individuals to spend time cheaply.

    I’m a huge fan of nights in. Not necessarily going to bed, but having friends over to sit and talk. Nothing beats strong conversations. And it’s cheap!

    1. I noticed the same thing when I was single. Unless I was out at the bar, I was on my own, except for a few cases.

      I think inviting friends over for a BYOB / BYOM cookout to watch “the game” (whatever suits you) is probably one of your best options. Lower cost, you get to chill with buddies, and everyone is contributing. As a debt-free couple, we still prefer inviting couples over for dinner and games after the kids are in bed. No childcare needed.

    1. Hey Miss Balance! You know, we ended up taking some of those days to go to the mountains and hike instead, and those worked out much better. Much easier to handle with our youngest because we can toss her in the backpack and carry her around.

      Thanks for commenting!

    1. Glad you think so! It’s different for everyone, but we found a neat way to stretch our money while we work hard to invest. Still planning a trip to Rome next year which will incur quite the expense, and you can’t avoid spending the night on a trip like that. I think we’re doing 5-6 nights.

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