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I have been squirreling away my money for years, piecing together my savings bit by bit since I was in high school. A few hours of babysitting here, a weekend of dog-sitting there — I socked away money from part-time, freelance and full-time salaries over the past decade.
Because of this, I’ve built a very comfortable savings. And the way I maintain it is by never touching it. That way, if I have a financial emergency, or am ready to reach a larger goal, like buying a home, the funds will be waiting.
The only problem? To friends and family who are aware of my financial security, my savings could be used for other things. In their eyes, there are very few things I can’t “afford.” I’ve been told I can get a new television, upgrade flights to first class, buy a $50 T-shirt, go for regular manicures — the list goes on.
All of that is technically true. And I know my friends and family mean well when they question me for not spending — but at the end of the day no one can really tell you what you can afford.
Here’s why I never feel guilty, even when people question my financial strategy.
My Goals are My Goals
I know my frugality can read as cheapness to other people, but the truth is, the money that people encourage me to spend on vacations or designer dresses is already earmarked. Other people just can’t see these line items because they’re my long-term financial goals.
From the time I started saving, I set my goals. Now, they include saving for retirement, investing in a stock portfolio, always having a year’s worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, and getting ready to buy a home.
Thinking of my financial goals as real, fixed expenses like I would a mortgage or car insurance payment helps me feel confident that I'm spending and saving my money wisely, and less guilty for skipping unnecessary expenses.
I Share My Goals
I know what I’m saving toward, but to get my friends and family on the same page, I also chose to tell them about my goals. Being open about where I’m allocating my money and why helps them understand my habits and curbs their pressure (however well intentioned) to spend on things that fall outside my goals.
Of course, you don’t have to divulge everything about your finances, but you may find when you share your intentions, your loved ones will be more than happy to help you meet them. After all, they tend to want the best for you.
I Changed My Mindset
Even when everyone is on the same page, the temptation to spend on something I don’t need still comes up. Whether someone pressures me to splurge or my friends’ social lives give me FOMO, it can be all too easy to forget about my goals.
So I make a conscious effort to remember that it really isn’t a matter of what I can afford, but what I want to afford. So many times, that has helped me hold my ground. And taking the time to ask myself this question and reflect on my potential purchase helps me stay on track even when temptation is high.