I heard a sociologist on the Crazy Money podcast talking about the Hedonic Treadmill. They discussed the treadmill for a little while and it all seemed quite normal for any of us in the FIRE—or even Financially Responsible—community. Hmmm, I wonder if I just created a new community—a Financially Responsible community of not purchasing anything you want, just because your credit issuer allows it, but instead purchasing items you truly can afford, and value. OK, now Afford Anything comes to mind.
Back on track: I’ve always thought about the increasing baseline-level of life. The level of comfortness, ownership, and change in “needs.” Most of my thoughts have been from those around me purchasing items. I’ve noticed this purchasing activity since I was 12 years-old when many of my friends bought ATVs around the same time as they came into money. I, on the other hand, was forced to wait until my birthday or Xmas to get a gift I wanted. I know now that I was fortunate to get these items at all, period. However, at the time I was forced to take my own inflow of money and save it in a brokerage account (yes, the lessons started early). It’s worth noting that I still have those exact dollars, along with all their buddies who marched along growing each day for the past (almost) 40 years.
So I am egotistical enough to think I do better with money than many/most of my friends and acquaintances? Yes, my ego tells me I do better at logically managing my income and my money. I usually plan for the items we need and want. I plan for the future and have a process of putting money away for “deferred spending.” In my case, that money was deferred to spend in FIRE.
Did I climb on?
So did I buy more and more things, and march along on the hedonic treadmill? Yes, of course. And also no, in many ways, we did not climb too high or too fast on the hedonic treadmill.
I’ve written about the saying “Same Spouse, Same House, Same cars, etc.” Many FIRE topics revolve around the big three expenses in life: House, Cars, Food. We are a little different because I would include offspring into that list, but maybe one’s offspring just tends to increases the cost-requirement of those three. I don’t really know.
I can say we have been able to stay in the same “starter” home for nearly 30 years. We do drive cars we purchased at 3+ years old and have driven them 10+ years. I do notice (pre-covid) that our food bill may be lower than 20 years ago. That could be based on our not-eating-meat challenge, or me weighing less than when I was in my 20s, therefore eating less food. I have to say beans & brown rice & veggies do not add up to much money over the course of a month.
Yes, we have spent more on nicer cars when we buy them. We are currently looking for a newer vehicle and will purchase one with a multitude of safety features. We do have vehicles for hobbies. We also have nicer furniture and one of us buys quality clothes that last (I personally have some low-cost clothes that are 10-20 years old, since I don’t wear them much because my main use wardrobe is mostly shorts and t-shirts most of the time).
We have (some of) the exercise equipment we want. We have OK-level electronics that make our lives more convenient. We have a huge TV because it was deal-of-the-day when the old TV stopped working.
Yes, we’ve purchased some items that are nice quality but usually after full research and time to organize the purchase into our plan. There was “delay” to the gratification, always significant delay. We are truly happy with our items. But what we really feel is unique, is that we have SO much time to enjoy our items since we can be home all day doing whatever we want.
Look at me
I’m happy to say we are 98% removed from buying something and wondering what other people think about our item. We surely do not aim to impress anyone. Instead, the 2% is possibly the opposite, in that we don’t want people to judge any of our items that they would find frivolous. It’s a balance of stealth-wealth. (I love that our house is small and quite plain, on the cheap side of the street).
Good Baseline Increase
I think about the increasing level of baseline in life. I think about education or skills, how the more you have the stronger you are. I think about exercise and how each level of fitness enables more activities. I think about the opposite of how watching TV may lead to more TV, of how Netflix may lead to Hulu, leading to HBO Max. It’s almost like a tornado sucking you into its power, either good or bad. I guess that’s why inertia’s been defined as a force. I always thought inertia was about “objects in motion,” but have learned it also applies to “objects at rest.” See how you can continue to learn…forever: learning inertia.
Here’s a twist that just popped into my head after previously writing the above—I don’t want my “end of plan” to be buckets of money, or worse, boatloads of money. I’m thinking, if I can have a few bowls of money to make sure all is well, that is great. But what if I run out of money!? My thoughts are, other than healthcare, I don’t really have a desire, or more specifically, won’t have a desire to spend money. I can live happily doing my daily low costs/no-cost activities. Moving around if I can, learning new things if I can, enjoying the day if I can. Those tasks do not really cost any money at all. If I have to share a room with another out-of-money person, that may be OK.
I’ve been concentrating on awareness of the value of each day, week, month, year, and decade lately. At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my Raving 20s plan. It was a great plan for the 2020s. It was working our perfectly for, oh, 2 months then WHAM; pandemic.
I don’t want to sacrifice a nice level of living now when we’re as young and as healthy as we will ever be in the remainder of our lives. I am feeling the push to do more, buy more, and live more now, RIGHT NOW, and through the next few/many years. We will never get this decade back. We will always continue to monitor our finances and life-living ability as we progress through the Raving 20s.
Hedonism – “the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.”
So I wonder, am I stepping on, or am I purposefully speeding up the treadmill to get more out of life.
I ask you, what’s your life-living worth to you?
*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice. I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be. You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice. This post is not a piece of literary mastery, just a random thought I had.
I enjoy reading your blog/post Kevin, been a strange year at our house. we had, in order,, my sister diagnosed with cancer ( multiple Malnoma ) in Jan. I went into planed Pre tirement in Feb. My wife changed jobs in June, my wife lost her new job in Aug. ( it was a well researched and though out plan, and the company was nothing like the research led her to believe ). Then in Sept. My wife was diagnosed with Breast cancer. In Oct our only son decided he needed to be on his own and start his “Adult life” and moved out…….. What a year………………………………. with all this we are grateful as I know folks that have much worse situations. All of the above mentioned are doing well and my sisters cancer is in remission and My wifes tumors are shrinking, her chemo is helping with that but also a little rough on her at times. We find things to be grateful for everyday and are so thankful we have been savers our whole life so this is not a financial strain. we are learning the importance of simplifying our life. so when you say one never knows what tomorrow will bring, boy do we understand. thanks for sharing and I appreciate your openness. Its a value I am working to make part of my life.
Rusty, when I read your post, I can feel your strength. Your ability to take on each life impact and find positivity over time shows a power that must surely transcend throughout your family. My best wishes to all of you adjusting to each new situation. But more importantly, I want you to do more great things in your months and years ahead.