The American Dream

December 31st, 2012


I am addicted. Not to drugs, or anything requiring an intervention. I’m addicted to something more subtle but oftentimes just as damaging: The American Dream.

People love to spend money. Things like credit cards exist to make us spend money even easier than ever before. There are all sorts of gadgets, iPads, and cell phones we need to buy to keep up with the times. Beyond that, we have a sense of decency to maintain. Eating out, driving a new(er) car, keeping up with clothing trends, nice gifts come holiday season?All of these things and more we take for granted because we so easily see them as something to be expected.

Keeping up with the Joneses has become a calling card for the American dream, but today it is being taken to a new extreme. The advent of social media sites allows us to see how awesome other people are with their new cars, phones, electronic toys, and big expensive vacations. Instead of seeing our neighbors get a new car or put in a pool, we see hundreds, if not thousands (depending on how many friends you have), of people constantly bombarding our wall with their life events, new toys, and vacation photos.

This post is about making changes. Specifically, changes in our spending patterns. Right now we’re managing O.K. with our income and savings levels. But, there are lots of things we could cut out of our budget and still live a happy life while saving for the future.

What will change

For us, the biggest way to save money would be to stop eating out. This month we spent over $300 on eating out, and I alone spent about $200 on lunches downtown. If we cut out those two avenues of expenses entirely we will be saving nearly $500/mo by simply making all of our own meals. Right now we have a car loan that will be paid off sometime in the year 2015 if we keep making our monthly payments. However, if we directed this extra money into it we could have it paid off in just six months! There are other places where we can reduce our spending, but our first step will be with our food budget.

Aside from the car loan, we have a credit card that was opened up to purchase my laptop. Although it still has 0% interest until July of next year, I would like to have it paid off as soon as possible. Once this card and the car loan are paid off we will be ready to tackle student loans and then finally be completely debt free.

Being realistic

I don’t expect us to get rich. In fact, I don’t even want that to happen. From what I’ve seen, having more money doesn’t seem to make you happier. Instead, I want to make sure we make smart decisions now in preparation for whatever the future might hold. We will probably end up splurging on things here and there, but the end goal is to become wholly conscious about all of our spending.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re doomed to fail and rely too much on psychological tricks. Recently, however, I learned to recognize the psychological impact a fresh year can have, and because of that we’re going to put this budget plan into effect January 1st, 2013. I may give updates along the way about how we’re doing, and hopefully they’ll be good!

Want to join us?

If you’ve done something similar, or want to do the same sort of thing, feel free to comment below or send me an email. We’ve been using Mint to track our finances for years. If you’re in to frugal living, Mr. Money Mustache is an excellent place for finding out how to save money and spend it wisely. If you have any links to share on helping to manage your money better, share them below!

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