Living It Up: Why We Play The Spend Nothing Game

by Randy Murray on April 21, 2011

It may sound backwards, but we play the Spend Nothing Game so we can spend a lot of money on some special things.

In just a few weeks my wife Diane and I are taking our youngest daughter to the UK for a long-promised trip. She’s graduating from high school and we wanted to help celebrate her accomplishments, including being accepted into five of the top art schools in the country. It’s a big, indulgent, extravagant vacation and we’re all looking forward to it.

We did the same thing when my oldest daughter graduated from high school, but that time we went to the Caribbean. And we’ve made a point to take many smaller trips, including ones to New York, Florida, Gatlinburg, and a yearly summer trip to the Outer Banks.

And with each and every trip we paid cash. In fact, other than our home mortgage we carry no debt. It’s been a rule for my wife and I across our entire married life and although it’s been difficult at times, saving and investing has given us remarkable opportunities. Yes, we’re planning for our eventual retirement and our girls’ educations, but we also plan for fun. I think not of the sacrifices and cherish the indulgences.

I’m puzzled by something I see. Why do so many people who earn a substantial amount of money still feel as though they struggle to make it through life? I know people who earn six figure incomes and still live paycheck to paycheck.

It’s about making choices.

We can afford to go on this vacation because we make choices about how we spend our money day-to-day. I pack a lunch for my wife every single day. I work from home and very rarely eat lunch out. And we try to keep eating out to a minimum in general. I cook most of our meals and plan for leftovers. We eat very well, but we don’t spend a lot at restaurants. Except when we travel and we dine in style.

I like the best coffee and I brew my own. I’ve even taken up roasting my own coffee, so I can get the best quality beans for less than I’d have to pay for supermarket not-so-good ones. Why coffee beans? I know that many people could pay for terrific vacations, every year, for just what they spend at Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Starbucks drinks, but spending even two or three dollars every day adds up to serious money over a year. And many people spend far more than that, stopping in a couple of times a day for a coffee or other beverage or a snack. And they buy lunch, have a drink or two out. Let’s say you spend an average of $100 per week for fifty weeks a year. That’s $5,000 you could have spent on those other two weeks vacationing.

Which would you rather have? That’s where choice and forethought comes in.

I don’t feel as though we sacrifice, but we are conscious of what we spend and where we spend it. And that simple focus allows us to plan for things we really want. Like a trip to Europe, or a new kitchen, or indulging in a hobby like building my own theater. This is why I think of it as a game. I’m not spending nothing because I need to sacrifice — I’m careful about where I spend money because I want to splurge once in a while, to live it up. I’d rather have a trip with my family next year than a frappachino this afternoon.

I think this is an important topic for many people, especially people like myself who have chosen a life of freelancing. I choose a life of freedom. That means that I need to understand where my money goes. Do you know where you spend your money? Play the Spend Nothing Game for a week and find out.

The Living It Up: Why We Play The Spend Nothing Game by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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