Since a little more than seven months ago, I made some adjustments to the path in which my career was taking me and took up a job instead of pursuing PhD. One of the main reasons for going that route was that I was so narrowly focused for so long that I forgot why I was doing PhD in the first place (of course, there is more to that story that just that, but I won’t go into that with this post).
Anyways, our household income increased by about four times after I took up the job. Initially, things were taking a deflating turn for the first couple of months - I guess this was in part because I was a relatively “newly employed” and was undergoing training without any major responsibilities (plus, I apparently hadn’t discovered new ways of spending the increased income). However, our spending took a turn for the worse right after I published this post in early February.
Additionally, I have now started paying a lot less attention to our financial details (”details” is the key word here). There are only two fundamental concepts that I have been keeping in front of me: 1. to not spend more than what we earn (look at #7 in the linked post), and 2. to not time the market. Everything else is just falling in its place automatically.
The rest of our life is now governed primarily by convenience. Here are just a few changes in our spending habits and financial attitudes that occurred over the last few months.
1. Paradigm shift in the way I manage credit cards: I no longer have the time or the patience to follow those balance transfer offers and research/keep track of how our income would be increased by juggling such offers. I don’t care about optimizing the rewards anymore, and just use credit cards for the simple reason that I get an itemized list of where we spend our money at the end of the month.
As such, I am not using all my credit cards anymore. The fact that I have so many of them seems a bit ridiculous to me at present (this is an interesting development). Plus, I have discovered other practical problems in having too many credit cards (more on this later), so I am down to using just two credit cards at present.
2. Preferences for schedules rather than prices. We have flown thrice since February and every time, we went for flights that were more “convenient” instead of flights that were cheaper. On one of those three occasions, we had the option to drive (which would have been a whole lot cheaper), but again, the time spent in driving didn’t seem worth money saved. Interestingly, in the past, we have driven to that very location twice and at that time, the money saved seemed a lot more worth than amount the time spent in driving.
3. Buying what we “like” rather than buying what is “cheap”. Affordability is still in our minds but we don’t kill ourselves trying to save a few cents (or even a few dollars at times). For example, earlier, for cereals, it was usually “Great Value” from Walmart - now, it’s Kellogg’s or whatever brand that seems better - from a store that is closest to home.
4. Outsourcing clothes for ironing. Ironing is one activity I hate - it may be because I never ironed my clothes (over several years) when I was a student. It either took 10 minutes of my time every morning, or about an hour every weekend. Now that’s replaced by 5 minutes of detour every other week and $25.
5. Eating out more. This is again a product of optimizing convenience rather than costs. If we are too tired or not in a mood to cook, we just eat out without worrying too much about it. And, when we eat out, the choice of restaurant is usually dictated by time (and sometimes by what we feel like eating) rather than by how cheap or expensive it is.
6. Using toll roads instead of regular roads. I tried using regular roads (read as traffic-light-infested-roads) for the first couple of months. However, as the stress at work started growing, I started using toll roads more frequently. The toll costs me a lot more than I would like, but using toll roads has reduced a lot of stress in my life. I am now happy when I reach my workplace in the morning, and I am happy when I reach home in the evening, and I don’t have to bitch about how horrible my luck is to catch all the red lights on the way.
Also, the drive that used to take me 30 minutes via regular road now takes about 10 minutes via toll road. That much time saved everyday is just priceless.
7. If the market bothers me, I just don’t look at it. Out of sight, out of mind is what probably works with me in this case. I have some set investing goals this year (in terms of how much I should invest and where) and I just stick with that without really worrying too much about what the market is doing at any given time.
Come to think of it, the increased income is working towards making our lives a bit easier. Call it lifestyle inflation or improvement in the quality of life, or call it just sheer laziness (I am sure there will be different perspectives), or whatever. All we care about is that there is a lot less stress in our lives by spending a little more money.
As long as we avoid these problems with lifestyle inflation, I think we are okay.