When I was a young kid, my mom used to buy my brother and I those big party-sized bags of Chomps, obviously trying to turn us into big strong hippos as the advertising suggested. There was an unspoken agreement that we had to share equally, and usually when my brother went to get one, he’d ask me if I wanted one.
After a while, I got an idea. If I skipped a turn, the next time my brother went to get one, I could have two and feel really indulgent. After a while I’d skip two turns, then three so I could stuff my face with 4 chomps the next time my brother only got one.
I’d figured out that delaying gratification leads to greater gratification in future, inadvertently giving myself the Stanford Marshmallow experiment, and I’d passed, yay me 🙂
At one point I decided I’d see how far I could push my delayed gratification and kept counting up until I got to a huge number only to find that when I went collect massive rewards and bring on a sugar coma, that my brother had eaten the whole bag. There were tears, big hippo sized ones!
This tells me two things about myself:
- I really like chocolate, and
- I’m definitely someone who can put off immediate gratification for a bigger reward in future, something which has served me very, very well with saving and investing.
And that’s what made this year such a strange one. As we’d booked a ridiculously expensive holiday quite early in the year, I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t consider costs in my decisions, but instead choose options I thought would bring me the most happiness. In other words, I gave myself a license to spend.
And here are the results:
I put this up myself every year, and my wife puts my rent plus all the extra money she has into very rapidly paying off her apartment. She’s been a saving superstar the last few years, and is probably only 2 years away from wiping out her bond, more than 10 years early!
Holidays & Travel
My favourite category. Last month I shared pictures about the amazing time we had in Portugal and Croatia this year. As you can see it was expensive, but I thought it would be cheaper to pay that amount now rather than buy a boat in future and decide we hate living on the water. Much, much cheaper!
Turns out we loved ocean life, and aside from the buying and maintaining a boat (costs can range from very cheap for a small monohull to huge for a big multihull), it’s actually a really cheap way to see the world. There’s no rent (you can anchor nearly anywhere for free), no electricity bill (yay solar), free water (in Europe or free rain-catching/desalinating), a very low fuel bill (we sailed practically all the time), and much lower entertainment costs (exploring cities and the nature around you is free, and the local food is generally not expensive unless you’re in a restaurant, but we preferred eating in the boats cockpit while anchored in a beautiful bay.
Now just a warning if you’re planning on doing this, the number above wasn’t the total costs, I’m the boat guy, so I paid for the boat part of the trip, but my wife paid for the other 2 weeks of accommodation and some of the meals, so in total, the 3 week holiday cost us around R60k. If you’d just like to spend a week on a boat like this, the cheapest you could probably do is around R50k, so about 5 times the price of a week in Portugal/Spain!
The boat does sleep 10 though, so it could end up being really cheap if you have 9 friends to go sailing with and share the costs. Otherwise, you could also just rent a single cabin on a boat run by a charter group for much less. We didn’t share any costs, and you’ll see why when I get to the gifts section.
I went over budget here. Partly because nice food makes me happy, but also because we’ve decided to try to make our food a little greener and less cruel. No, I haven’t gone vegan, but I’m trying to eat more eggs and dairy, and less meat, and when I do eat meat I try to make it free-range wherever possible, so at least the animals have some space to roam around.
Personally I kind of agree with this article in that there isn’t really any vegan food, and cows are not even close to the biggest problem there, after all, once upon a time there were giant migrations of mammals all over the world. Africa had herds of grass eaters so large they would take weeks to pass by in a migration, and America used to have more buffalo than they have cows today. In total I’m fairly certain there are significantly fewer big grass eaters on earth now than there was in the past, though that’s not the case for all species…
Which brings me to the real problem, Einsteins most powerful force in the universe, compounding, except in this case it’s bad as people are compounding. When I was born there were 4.3 billion people on earth, now there’s 7.8 billion. That’s 3.5 billion new people driving cars, taking flights, working in factories, having braais, cutting down trees, wearing clothes and throwing plastic in the ocean and MAKING MORE PEOPLE!
So if you want to do something for the environment, make fewer people! Two are plenty, and with two the world’s population would slowly shrink. So if you’re a vegan with six children just leave my free-range grass-fed cheeseburger alone and do some research on birth control methods!
And now back to our regular programming…
Education and study
Yes school fees go up, and yes there’s now swimming fees on top of that, but isn’t it fantastic when your son has 5 races in a gala and brings home 5 first places. Well done kid, that was money well spent!
Health and medical
This went up mostly due to a test to see if a school recommended psychologist would be useful in helping my boy focus more on his schoolwork. Aside from massively emptying my pocket, there was no change. Rather spend more time figuring out ways to make the schoolwork more fun. Other than that we were probably right on budget.
Transport and fuel were on budget. My car is still ticking on like a Swiss watch (or a Japanese car!) and never had any issues this year. Every other service is more expensive, and this year it was the more expensive one costing R2695.
Eating out and takeouts was also as expected, as was gym, cash and entertainment.
I was under budget for clothing and shoes. Most of the costs there were for my son who grows, but happily, I’m still the same size, so my clothes still fit me. As I predicted last year, I did need to replace my worn out tekkies, but I found a pair on Nikes I really liked, and luckily for me, they were the last pair of that style and in my size, so I only had to hand over R711 to Edgars.
I also had to repair two pairs of shorts that tore at the seam. For some reason, people find it weird to fix clothes nowadays, but in the past, you would always try repair before you bought something new. Knowing that fashion is responsible for 10% of all of humanities carbon emissions, I think that repairing clothing is something we need to bring back into fashion! Pun intended.
Insurance was a saving for me again. I love Outsurance! I don’t insure with them, but every year they give me R400 for having a quick 10-minute call. They’re the best. My real insurance company changed to Naked Insurance, and even though they use the same underwriter as my last insurance company, they dropped my costs by 32%!
I had to put them to the test when my mirrors were stolen in Mozambique, and I’m happy to say they were flawless in there service. I don’t get anything back for recommending them (sadly) but you really should give them a try.
As I said, the budget was completely blown. It seems like spending money on stuff for myself never made me any happier, so I didn’t buy any more stuff for myself. Spending money on experiences is a way to buy happiness, so I spent a lot of money there. I had planned to though so this wasn’t a surprise.
The other thing I learnt is that I quite like spending money on other people, particularly experiences for other people, so with my dad turning 70 the same time we were due to be on the boat, I invited him along, and paid for all the costs related to his trip.
My wife also got a pair of earrings she’s been wanting for ages that match her wedding ring which made her happy, and then me too. Apart from the engagement and wedding ring, I’ve never bought her any jewellery, but after some fairly strong hints I figured out what she’d like, and she was pleasantly surprised 🙂
So that was me for 2019, in 2020 the experiment won’t be off the table completely, but I do plan to tone down the costs again. My budget for this year is as follows: