Change Your Lifestyle, Save A Million Dollars

Pink piggy bank flying on a dollar billMother Earth News has a fascinating article How to Save a Million Dollars With a Sustainable Lifestyle . The perspective is refreshing and right in line with The Fat Dollar philosophy.

The short summary is that by switching to a lifestyle that depends less on gadgets, grid provided utilities, restaurants, resorts, and … (ouch!) cars, among other things, then you can save thousands upon thousand of dollars that will quickly accumulate to a million or more.

What kinds of changes?  Here are a few:

– Avoid debt and save many thousands in interest

– Go from a two-or-more car family to a one-car family and save thousands on insurance, maintenance, and gasoline

– Find your own values to be passionate about and be less interested in the latest fashions, gadgets, or other status-type purchases

– Prepare food at home and save thousands on restaurant and pre-processed food while getting higher nutritional value

– Switch to active entertainment such as playing a musical instrument, talking with your spouse and neighbors, or practicing a craft and save money on passive entertainment like movies and spectator sports

– Buy a house only as large as you need, possibly after selling the one you are in and save thousands on interest, maintenance, furnishing, and decorating

I was fascinated at the magnitude of the claimed total savings in the article, but there were not really any calculations or proof to show how a typical family could really save a full million dollars with all these changes.

So I will offer some calculations for you:

For example, let’s say you made these changes:
– Cut back on food spending, saving $50.00 a week
– Sold one of your cars and saved $6000.00 a year in vehicle expenses
– Stopped going to the movies once a week and saved $30.00 a week
– Stopped buying status-type stuff and saved another $250.00 a month
– Sold your house and bought a smaller one, saving $6000.00 a year in
     interest and another $3000.00 a year in maintenance and utilities

That would all add up to $22,160.00 in savings a year.

$22,160 is a remarkable number.  A very remarkable number. That would make a huge difference in most family budgets. 

However, assuming no interest on savings (which is not really hard to imagine today), it would take a little over 45 years of doing this each year to save a million dollars.   That is not quick.

Even if you could assume 5% interest (and no income taxes) on your $22,160 yearly savings, it would be 25 years before you would accumulate a million dollars.

Of course, you could invest in the stock market.  In that case, we will assume an 8% average rate of return on your $22,160 yearly savings.  You would reach $1,000,000 in 20 years.   Not bad, really.  Not bad at all. 

Alternatively, instead of investing every penny of your savings, you could choose to work fewer hours, or even change to jobs that pay less but bring much more enjoyment to your life.  In that case, you would not be accumulating as much in savings, but your quality of life could dramatically change.

The suggested change of paring down to one car per family seems very powerful, but immediately seems to hit a tender spot, too.  Giving up one car would have an impact on my independence.

If you are wondering whether you could adjust to life with just one car, try an experiment.  Park one of your cars in the garage.  Put a tarp over it to help tamper temptation.  Then try a month with one car.  Keep track of your gas expenses and alternative transportation costs so you can see how your one-car expenses compare to your two-car expenses. Keep notes on compromises you have to make and how you resolved them.

I have already seen from my own figures that combining car trips and cutting back on some car trips altogether makes for substantial savings.  See The Fat Dollar’s article on Saving Money on Gas to see how I was able to increase my car’s gas mileage (almost 26%!) by changing my driving habits.  Still, the savings from increasing gas mileage is far less than the savings from eliminating a car altogether.

This article from Mother Earth News really resonates with me. I like the article because all of the focus is on increasing quality of life while at the same time needing and spending fewer dollars. 

Now that’s The Fat Dollar way!



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