I was fortunate to have discovered the financial independence and early retirement community back in 2017, when I was just 24 years old.
While I was extremely sceptical at first, and it took a few years of mindset and financial adjustment, I believe that my finances are now on track for a comfortable and early retirement.
However, just a few short years ago, my finances were nothing like they are now, especially regarding my expenses.
I spent money like it grew on trees, and I bought a lot of things that I didn’t need, didn’t use, or simply because I felt a compulsive need to spend it.
Side Note: I was inspired to write this post when I was cleaning my room and dumping away tonnes of old bank statements and receipts. It was fun to look at how much I used to spend, and what I spent on.
Here’s a little peek as to what my expenses were like.
In 2014, I was still in university. I didn’t work, and my parents gave me an allowance of $600 a month. That’s a lot for a ‘broke’ university student.
Each month, I blew my entire allowance on restaurants, movies and online shopping.
On a random month, like September 2014, I spent:
- $31 on a Ramen restaurant (Ramen Play)
- $50 on Groupon (I don’t even remember what I bought)
- $75 online shopping (Urban Tool Haus, probably a gift for my brother)
- $27.50 movie tickets (Cathay movie tickets, at full price!)
- And more on Groupon, restaurants and online shopping.
In 2015, before things got rough with my parents, my spending was even more out of control. For example, in February 2015, I spent:
- $54 in restaurants (Jack’s Place)
- $47 at a bar (Barossa Bar)
- $40 on attraction tickets (Alive Museum, which I didn’t even go to in the end)
- $55 on coffee (Dome Coffee)
- $194 on a hotel room (booked from Expedia)
Amongst other smaller items.
I even vividly remember telling my girlfriend that we should book staycations every month as a way to “reward” ourselves for working so hard. Considering that each of our staycations typically cost $200 to $300, that could have easily added up. We didn’t end up going through with it because shit hit the roof with my parents this year (2015).
In 2015, I also took a lot of cab rides, not just every week, but multiple times a week. Here’s a snippet of information from my phone app for March 2015:
After things got rough with my parents in 2015, I stopped spending as much money. Expensive things like café hopping, coffee and staycations were no longer things I could afford.
However, I still realised that I had a compulsive urge to spend money and collect things, as seen from my collections of merchandise, books and DVDs.
- March 2016: Collecting lots of anime figurines and merchandise.
- September 2016: Collecting books.
- December 2016: Collecting DVDs.
I suspect it was my unhappiness in life that compelled me to collect things, because of the dopamine rush when you get something new. What I was collecting was cheap (like $2 to $3 for a DVD), but I enjoyed the rush the same.
In 2017, I discovered the FIRE community and blogging. This year, I made even more improvements to my spending. The entire year, I spent just $73 on collecting books, and $208 on other collectibles (like merchandise, cards and stuffed toys).
I did have a bunch of other discretionary spend (like a drum set, and blogging-related expenses), but I would think that’s a lot less compulsive and a lot more meaningful.
I started a Kindle book collection in 2018, because I was so bored at work. I spent $69 on a bunch of random books that I still haven’t read. I brought my merchandise collection spending down to $6.50.
I still continued buying Kindle books and toys, but spent only $54 the entire year. This was the year that I discovered online shopping, through Shopee, and started buying lots of necessities and a bunch of random shopping items through this.
This year, I’m proud to announce that my spending is much more controlled. Yes, I still enjoy online shopping on Shopee (where I’ve been buying alcohol, snacks and some of my necessities), but so far my compulsive collecting (of merchandise, books and DVDs) has stopped completely.
I suspect it’s because 2020 has been a year where I do more of what I want (writing) and less of what other people expect me to do (work a corporate job). Things have been more meaningful and productive for me, and I’m a lot happier this year.
Looking at my expenses, I realised I have never been immune to shopping. I do enjoy it very much, and I love my dopamine rush as much as the next person.
However, there’s a stark difference in my spending habits now, as compared to the past. Before FIRE, I just spent money like it grew on trees, like it didn’t mean anything. After FIRE, I toned it down a lot, but still spent a little to fill a void in my life (whenever I was unhappy at home, or unhappy at work).
Going forward, I hope to stop all unnecessary compulsive collecting and spending. I’m looking to move to a much more minimalist lifestyle, where I own fewer material possessions, and spend instead on experiences (like building websites, travelling the world, and learning new skills like Japanese and drums).
I see a trend since 2014 where my spending gets more mindful and controlled each year. I know I will eventually slip up (and I’ve almost done so a few times this year), but I’ll just reflect and move forward and focus on improving myself.
What were your expenses like before FIRE?
As always, thank you for reading and supporting this blog.