Category Archives: Cut Costs

I Get a Pass

Day 24 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom

A lot of my recent posts have been about the second part of my debt-reduction framework, increasing revenue. This one is dedicated to the first and most fundamental part of the framework: cutting costs.

I was at Lowe’s  the other day buying a caster for my chair–by the way, I think this whole not-spending-any-money thing is going to have a remarkable impact on my handyman skills. I broke one of the wheels on my office chair (crappy Staples crap), and instead of paying $120 for a new one, which the old me definitely would have done, I went to the hardware store to see if they sell casters. They do! And they cost only $5. I saved $115!

Anyway, I was at Lowe’s getting the caster for my broken chair, and I saw some of of those huge inflatable plug-in yard decorations for Halloween, and I realized that it was the buying season for all things Halloween–decorations, costumes, and candy. I looked down at my watch to check the date and see how many days I had left before everything was sold out and it was too late to do my Halloween shopping. To say I panicked would be an overstatement, but there was definitely some anxiety.

Last year, I spent over $200 and several hours prepping for Halloween, and that was with some restraint–I really wanted a huge decoration for my yard, maybe a dude in a coffin that leaps out at kids coming up the sidewalk for candy, but I didn’t want to go spend too much money. The $200 and time was spent running around town to piece together a Mike “The Situation” Jersey Shore costume which I wore downtown, a scary costume with which to hand out candy, a voice modulator for the scary costume, a scary music CD to play while handing out candy, and the candy itself. I have a statue of a knight in my foyer, so I also spent some time and cash putting red LED lights in the eye sockets. My goal was to scare the crap out of kids.

I terrified about 90% of all the kids who came to my door and even managed to make a few cry! It was frighteningly fantastic. I wore a black floor-length cloak and a super-scary mask, and during parts of the night, I stood in the open front door and watched kids trick-or-treating, the scary music blasting out of some huge speakers I had put in the windows and the red LEDs glowing in the knight’s eye sockets, staring over my shoulder at the trick-or-treaters. A lot of kids looked at me and refused to walk up the driveway–they passed on by, casting cautious glances in my direction. Others had their parents go get the candy while they waited in the street.

At one point, I stepped away for a second, and when I came back, I walked up behind my then-girlfriend who was holding out a bowl of candy for a little guy who was reaching into it to get a treat. I stood behind my girlfriend and peered over her shoulder, and the mom noticed me before her kid did, so she threw both of her hands over his face and turned him away from me so he wouldn’t get freaked out.

Priceless.

(Well, not exactly–it cost about $130, but you know what I’m trying to say.)

Downtown was also a good time. Dressing up like a Jersey Shore buffoon does, in fact, give one the right to be a douchebag, so I really took advantage of it–Joy-zee accent and all–and had a complete riot.

  • Downtown costume (multiple hair products, bronzer, headband, fake tattoos, bling bling watch, bling bling chain, bling bling sunglasses): $100
  • Scary costume + modulator: $60
  • Candy: $50
  • Scary music: $15
  • Red leds + battery: $5
  • Total: $230

Throw in the cab ride to and from downtown as well as the drinks for my girlfriend and me, and Halloween 2010 was easily over $300.

So, to get back to the original story, there I was, standing in Lowe’s, thinking through a plan to outdo myself and building a schedule and financial budget to get all of the stuff together. My anxiety was growing a bit because I knew it would take a lot more time and money to make more kids cry this year than last, and to get more attention downtown this year than last.

But then I realized that it was all moot because I can’t afford Halloween!

There’s obviously some hyperbole in that statement, but most of it still rings true. I can’t really afford to go big–I have $0 in my budget allocated to Halloween, and I’m over $5k from my goal in the budget I have, so it’s not like there’s any wiggle room.

I basically get a pass on Halloween, and surprisingly enough, that’s actually a stress reliever. I don’t have to try to outdo myself or keep up with the Joneses on my block because I’m on a debt-paydown mission, and–at least in my mind–I’m allowed to bah-humbug Halloween this year.

Want vs. Need
That whole transformation was surreal–one minute I’m in a cold sweat trying to plan the perfect Halloween, and the next minute I’m completely mellow because I’m nixing Halloween. The surrealism got me thinking–where else in my life am I causing myself unnecessary stress by placing pressure on myself to outdo myself, get attention, or keep up with the Joneses? By going out as many nights in a single week as possible? Two cars and a motorcycle? A house at the age of 27? Traveling? Clothes?

Are there areas in my life where I can simplify?

Every since I started this mission three weeks ago, I’ve majorly slowed down my spending, and in fact, I’ve started a list of things I want or need but won’t buy until after my loans are paid off.

As of 9-20, I’d really, really like to buy the following things:

  • Black dress shoes for work. I buy my shoes from Aldo and replace them every six months–my current ones should have been replaced about 9 months ago, and they look it. Yikes. | $125
  • Rear tires for the S2000 | $400
  • 8GB SD card for my camera. The old one broke. | $60?
  • Motorcycle repair, so I don’t have to run-start it every time I get gas or run a short errand | $200-$300
  • Soap dispensers for my master bathroom. I got a couple of really sharp, brushed aluminum soap dispensers from BB&B a year ago, but they aren’t working very well anymore. | $40
  • Replacement subwoofer and speakers for my office computer. Six years later, I’ve finally blown the original set-up. | $150

I could easily spend a grand tomorrow, or 1.5% of what I owe on my loans (about $65k). But this is my “deferred shopping list,” and if I can get it away with it, it’s stuff I’m not going to buy until I’m student loan-free.

Per a comment that Mike made in an earlier post, one should always purchase preventative maintenance or repairs that will prevent a more expensive repair down the road. I completely agree. That’s why I’m having an exterminator come out to my house on Saturday for the $100 quarterly treatment–carpenter ants and termites will destroy a home and cause thousands of dollars in damage. And I’ll still be getting regular oil changes on my cars and my own oil change on the bike. Maybe I’ll invest in a jack and some stands to do the car oil changes myself.

But to get back to my earlier point, are any of the things from my deferred shopping list complicating my life unnecessarily? I would argue that scuffed up shoes can lead to a negative perception at the office which could lead to my termination, and bald tires can lead to an accident, so I don’t know if I’ll go another nine months without replacing the rubber for my feet or my car. I’ll definitely try to hold out for as long as possible, but I don’t know how long it will be before my better judgment wins out.

I can delay the purchase of an 8GB SD card for my 12MP camera since  my phone takes decent pics with its 8MP camera. I can also delay the repair of my motorcycle–run-starting a motorcycle, while annoying, surely builds character.

The subwoofer and speakers for my computer? I already have a killer surround sound system in my living room, so this would be a luxury. Brushed aluminum soap dispensers? Maybe I’ll put those on the wedding registry ten years from now. I’ve since replaced them with $2 Dial soap dispensers.

There’s a difference between want and need, but the line is so often blurred between the two. I need new shoes so I don’t get fired. I need new tires so I don’t hydroplane and crash my car if it ever rains again in Austin. I need a 8GB SD card for my camera so I can lock in memories. 

Or is my 8MP camera phone good enough? Do I need two subwoofers in the house when one is sufficient? Does my soap need to come out of a flashy container? Maybe that’s where the simplification kicks in–things that are nice or luxurious to have, but aren’t critical for everyday living, get the axe.

To take things to an extreme, you could ask to define what is “critical to living.” I need warmth, shelter, and food to live. I don’t need new tires if I don’t need a car to live. So am I supposed to learn how to hunt and build a shelter, sell everything I own, and live in the forest? Clearly, there are unclear shades of gray here that will not get answered tonight.

For now, I’ll continue to update my deferred shopping list.

Materialism & Self-Esteem
An article came out awhile ago that stated the obvious: “Researchers have found that low self-esteem and materialism are not just a correlation, but also a causal relationship where low self esteem increases materialism…” Thanks, Captain Obvious. You mean that the dude flying around in the super-bright yellow Ferrari, with name-brands emblazoned all over his clothes, feels an incredible amount of self-worth, and he’s happy just being himself, as he is, flaws and all? He’s not compensating for a small…amount of self-esteem?

But then the article, in the very same sentence as the one above, goes on to completely blow my mind: “…and materialism can also create low self-esteem.”

Wait, what?

I graduated from grad school in 2009 and I bought a black-on-black 2004 BMW M3. I thought it was awesome, and I thought I was awesome. Upgrading from a lowly Honda S2000, I was sure that I had arrived.

Driving that  car was stressful, though. Everybody was always trying to race me at stoplights and even on the highway. Car enthusiasts would look at me wherever I went. I could never fly under the radar. And because it was black, and I like my things to look clean, I had to constantly wash it to keep it clean, and that was a huge time-suck. Owning that car was a lot of work, mentally and physically.

And then my friends started upgrading their rides. One of my friends got a brand-new 2010 BMW 335. And then my other  friend got one. And then a friend got a new Lexus is350, and another one got a new Lexus GS400, a new Benz C300, a Porsche Cayenne. Suddenly, my old Bimmer was just looking old, but somehow still attracting enough attention at streetlights that I was constantly being forced put lesser cars in their place.

I bought a motorcycle a few months after getting the car since 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds wasn’t cutting it anymore. I had to get something that did it in less than 3 and could get to 100 in about 7. The motorcycle, due to the enormous smile it put on my face every time I drove it, became my daily driver, and I didn’t see the point in making $500 payments on something I left behind in the garage  every day on my way to work. It just seemed like such a waste of money. I decided I wanted something in the garage that I wasn’t making any payments on. And since I had recently bought a house, I wanted something a little more appropriate for a homeowner. I was on a auto debt-paydown mission then, similar to now,  but on a much smaller scale.

I sold the BMW and got a 2003 Nissan Murano with 126,000 miles on. And something really, really bizarre happened when I drove it home. I fell in love with it. Nobody looked twice at me. Ever. At stoplights, I didn’t exist. I flew completely under the radar. And because I hadn’t spent a lot of money on it and it wasn’t  black, I didn’t care if it got dirty. And I didn’t feel a need to park it away from other cars like I did the M3.  Bring on the door dings!  To top it off, the Bose sound system was actually better than the Harmon Kardon system in the M3.

Like Halloween of 2011, I get a pass by driving the Murano. I’m telling people, “Look, I’m not here to compete. I know my car sucks. I know it’s a slow, utilitarian vehicle. I know your car is faster than mine and costs more than mine and looks better than mine. Bravo.” Nobody wants to race me, nobody cares. And it’s actually kind of empowering. It’s almost equivalent to the hubris of a counterculture that knows it will never fit in and meet society’s expectations and mores, so it flaunts its rebellious nature and amps up its irregularity to an almost excessive level. By driving the Murano, I disqualify myself from the start, and don’t have to go through the stress of being on top and then falling, or clawing for the top and never making it. I willingly and gladly cede the top.

The fight for the top–when it comes to material goods–is not worth it. It’s way too stressful.

Hell, I should put a child seat in the backseat of the Murano just to let people know I’m in on the joke.

The M3, and the materialism that drove me to purchase it, really was bad for my self-esteem. I would constantly compare the car and performance to other vehicles, and my comparison never included a Dodge Neon or Ford Focus, it included my friends’ Lexus/Benz/BMW/Porsche/etc, and as they kept upgrading their wheels, my M3 continued to lose its shine. When friends asked what car I drove, I would tell them the year/make/model, and some would say apologetically, “Oh, the older generation.” Apparently, an M3 is not an M3 is not an M3.

Even if my self-esteem were resistant to my internal comparisons and their judgment, which I think it was, it didn’t exactly make me feel awesome.

(If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I also have an S2000, so please let me get on the pre-emptive defensive here: One could argue that because it has two doors, two seats, a convertible top, and looks decent, that it’s my attempt to seek status with a car and fly at radar-level. But  it’s a 10-year-old car and cost $11k, so that argument doesn’t hold much water. If I really wanted to try to seek status, I could have gotten a BMW Z4 or a Corvette for about $5k more. I bought the S2000 because at the end of the day, I’m an unabashed sun-worshipper and an auto-enthusiast, and anyone who knows the now-discontinued S2000 product knows that it’s one of the few true driver’s cars. And it has Japanese/Honda reliability going for it, unlike the Bimmer.)

Stuff or Experiences
There’s an article that tries to answer the answer the question of how much money one needs to make per year to be happy. Well, scratch that–not happy, but how much it takes to be satisfied. And the answer is about $75k. I already read that money doesn’t buy happiness, but that $75k…is that before or after student loan payments? Regardless, $75k is not much, and it’s tough to buy a whole lot of material goods with $75k. But it can buy plenty of beer, which leads me to my next point.

Between losing my friends in the pursuit of a motorcycle and realizing that buying a nice car doesn’t generate happiness, I’ve started leading a less materialistic life, looking to spend money on experiences rather than stuff–which explains my $1,400 in monthly entertainment spend. And this article indicates I might be on the right track: “Those who never drink are at significantly higher risk for not only depression but also anxiety disorders, compared with those who consume alcohol regularly.” A similar article explains that heavy drinkers outlive nondrinkers! “Alcohol lubricates so many social interactions, and social interactions are vital for maintaining mental and physical health.”

And in case there are any doubts, check out this article: “One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff. Unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been stressed for the past couple of weeks, and I attribute it to the fact that the last time I had a drink with friends was over two weeks ago, on September 4th. All of my free-time has been consumed with revenue-searching  ventures and avoiding spending money on entertainment. Nothing has ever, ever made me happier than spending a good night out with my friends. Clearly, it’s time for a night out, flask-style.

To bring this post full circle, the question now is how to have experiences cheaply. I would argue that Halloween for me last year was more about experiences–scaring kids and acting South Jersey in Austin–than it was about accumulating material goods. But as I demonstrated with Halloween last year, some experiences can get out of hand cost-wise. And as indicated by my swing of emotions at Lowe’s, some experiences can actually stress me out when it comes time to redo them to the point that I actually look forward to getting a pass out of them.

I’m glad I’ve gotten over the materialism (at least I think I have). I just need to take some time to reflect on the whole “want” vs. “need” concept in a little greater detail. And I need to learn how to have experiences more cheaply–$1,400 a month in entertainment and $300 Halloweens are probably not a great idea.

The next nine months will be a balancing act:

  • Limit entertainment spend as much as possible and work as hard as possible to generate incremental revenue, but somehow make time and spend some money to go out with friends.
  • Figure out what I need vs. what I want, and spend money on the former only. Also, identify situations where deferred maintenance or repairs will lead to more expensive repairs down the road.

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Social Lubricant

Day 7 | $0 paid | $90,717 till freedom

File this one under “Cut Costs.”

Alcohol is a social lubricant, removing the friction that often comes with social interactions, while simultaneously providing a fair amount of liquid confidence. The consumption of alcohol at bars is basically an unspoken requirement. Seriously, try going into any of the 100+ bars in downtown Austin and being the only sober one. Not. Enjoyable. At all. You have to be at least one or two deep.

Knowing that I typically spend a lot of money on alcohol when I go out, I brought along a new little friend last night.

This little guy holds 8oz of really, really cheap whiskey and fits conveniently and discreetly into my back pocket. It turns out that not only do you have to spend money to make money, you have to spend money to save money, too. The flask cost me $22, but will save me hundreds.

Oh, and sorry I’m not sorry, Austin bars. I think I’ve tipped you enough that we should both feel pretty good about this new situation.

Last night, my friends picked me up from my house (in a white 2010 Mercedes Benz C300, naturally) and when we arrived downtown, I broke off from the group to interview a couple of pedi-cab drivers. What are the good pedi-cab companies to work for? What should I wear? How much water should I bring? Do you recommend energy bars? What about the bike–mountain, road, or hybrid? Clipless or standard pedals? Bar-ends? And most importantly, how much are you guys pulling down a night? Tom from Heart of Texas Pedi-cabs was a fountain of knowledge on all things pedi-cab, and very friendly to boot.

After I got the knowledge dropped on me, I headed to the bar to meet up with my friends. Before I looked for them in the shoulder-to-shoulder meet market, I ordered a Coke. Used to typically ordering a round of shots and drinks for the group I’m with, I felt–and I’m not exaggerating when I say this–like a complete idiot ordering a Coke alone at the bar. I kind of felt the same way I felt when John from the pedi-cab place told me that pedi-cabbing isn’t for me if I can’t break $150/night. Judged. In fact, I felt poor. It’s one thing to order a Coke because you’re DD for the night, but it’s quite another to order a Coke because you’re poor and/or way too freaking cheap to order an actual drink. Anyway, the bartender served it up, charged me $2, I gave him $3, and then I bee-lined it for the bathroom.

It was really weird, but while I was sipping the Coke on my way to the bathroom to work it down to a level that would accomodate the soon-incoming whiskey, I had this feeling that I didn’t belong. I saw a drink in every single person’s hand–a real drink, not a soda or water–and I felt…excluded, left out. It was unpleasant.

Anyway, I got to the bathroom, went to a stall, closed the door, filled up my drink while casting furtive glances over my shoulder, and went back out to the bar area. Suddenly, by drinking a whiskey and coke, drinking a drink with everyone else, I felt included again. It felt pleasant. The whole transition was really the oddest phenomenon ever. Anyway, I rejoined my friends and we hung out for a bit before heading elsewhere.

I already had a sneaky suspicion, but it turns out that I really do have exceptionally generous friends. Even though I repeatedly told them very clearly, “No, thank you” to their offers to buy me drinks,  I was still included in almost all of the rounds that were bought last night. I made it completely clear that I wasn’t going to be buying any rounds that night, but they didn’t care. They told me that they would put it on my tab, ride my pedi-cab for free, and in July, when I’m student loan-free, I would be required to throw the biggest party ever. Finally, I had to acquiesce–they simply weren’t giving me a choice in the matter.

(My friends know about my goal–we had talked about it during the ride downtown that night, and the general consensus is that they support it, they think it’s the right thing to do, but they know it’s going to suck pretty badly for ten months. I shared my concern with them that they wouldn’t be seeing a lot of me during the next ten months, and they told me to chill out, ten months isn’t forever.)

Anyway, back to the boozing. It felt odd, accepting drinks that I didn’t have to pay for. I mean, of course I have always accepted drinks that I haven’t paid for, but I’m okay about it because I know that I’m always in the line-up for getting rounds and will pay it back. Last night, however, I was accepting charity, and the only other time I’ve ever done that before was when I took the $54k from Harvard via the fellowship. Then it felt okay. Last night, it didn’t. It felt…slimy. My friends work very, very hard for their money, and last night, I was being a complete freeloader and I’ve never freeloaded before.

I just got a call from one of my friends with whom I went out last night. Everybody from last night is going out to lunch. It was with a dejected tone that I had to decline. Sadly, food does not fit into my backpocket quite as easily as a flask, and I’m not letting anybody buy me lunch.

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Money and Stuff Isn’t Everything

Day 5 | $0 paid | $90,717 till freedom

FOMO
Not be confused with MoFo.

Last night was the first night I’ve ever lost sleep over money. Well, scratch that–there was the night I got my first offer letter over email while job searching at Harvard. It was from the tech firm in Austin where I currently work, and I was so excited about the starting salary–basically a 100% increase from my pre-MBA salary–that I tossed and turned in my hotel bed for most of the night, involuntarily trying to figure out if I could get a new 370z, a new Yamaha R1, and rent an apartment in downtown Austin with the salary proposed in the letter. I had been flown into New Jersey for an all-day interview the next day at a different company, and all I needed was sleep, but it just wouldn’t come. I was way too giddy. I eventually dozed off somewhere around 3 AM, the alarm woke me three hours later, and I was so tired that I bombed the entire interview.

More money, more problems.

Anyways, last night is the second time I’ve ever lost sleep over money. The interview with the pedi-cab company, spending some time on pedi-cab forums, reading Austin Pedicab News, going on Craigslist in search of a loyal steed to pull my cab with…it made me realize how real this all is. Starting next weekend, my entire life is going to change. I’m used to going out Thursday through Saturday with my friends. I became single in January, and having been a serial monogamist for most of my teenage and adult life, I realized it was time to be by myself for awhile. So during the past eight months, I’ve been living up the single life, making new friends, and doing a lot of guys’ nights out. And yes, scenes from the movie Swingers should definitely be playing through your head right now.

While I have developed some really, really solid friendships during this time, there have been some financial implications, as well.  The charges below are all the entertainment charges from my credit card during August.

On Friday of next week, I won’t be getting ready to go downtown to drink with friends and meet people. I won’t be putting on jeans and shirt, having some friends over to pre-party, arguing over who is DD, and then heading out to spend the rest of the night having a blast. Instead, I’ll be putting on some biking shorts, a t-shirt, loading my bike in the back of the Murano, and spending 4+ hours giving rides to strangers.

Now, make no mistake about it, I think the pedi-cab gig is going to be a lot of fun. But it’s going to be a different kind of fun, almost like a lonely kind of fun. I know I’ll enjoy meeting people and giving them rides, but they’ll be keeping me company for only a short while, then they’ll be out of the cab and going into the bar to have fun, and I’ll be wanting to go in with them. But I can’t because that’s not the way to pay down $90k of loans in ten months.

In the meantime, my friends are going to be having a blast at some bar–The Ranch, Roial, Dogwood, Kung Fu, Qua, Kingdom, Suite 101, who knows where else–taking shots, telling jokes and stories, hitting on girls, getting ignored by girls, getting digits, trying to get digits and failing…and I’ll be riding a bike around alone. I’ll be missing out.

At Harvard Business School (HBS), there’s this thing called “Fear of Missing Out,” or FOMO. There’s so much to do at HBS that nobody can possibly do it all. Every evening, an email called the MBA Event Calendar Daily Digest is sent out that lists the next day’s events, and it’s always chock-full of things to do. Multiple high-profile speaking engagements coincide with each other so that students have to make the tough decision of whom to go see. Then there are the balls, dinners, section drinks, bar nights, weekend trips, games, workshops, club meetings, club events, treks, and of course, company presentations and interviewing prep sessions. So students develop FOMO, and they go crazy trying to fit everything in because they realize how rich their experience at HBS could be and how important it is to leverage these opportunities that might never, ever come around again. And because the school is full of a bunch of overachievers, mostly everyone feels compelled to read the cases and at least do a high-level analysis of the case questions to prep for class the next day. FOMO typically results in a lack of sleep.

What my own personal FOMO over the past eight months has resulted in is a lack of savings and the lack of a serious and committed debt pay-down plan. I know that my single years are slowly coming to an end–one only has to look at the calendar to realize it’ll soon be time for me to start taking dating seriously again. I look at my friends, and I realize that their single years are coming to an end, too–a few have already retired their jerseys, and we hardly ever see them again. One day there’s Sean taking down shots, the next day he’s married and nowhere to be found. So during the past eight months, even when I was exhausted and had no desire to go out, I went out anyway. I don’t want to miss out on these single times. I have FOMO.

I lost sleep last night because I realized that by pedi-cabbing, I’m going to be missing out. It’s inevitable. There’s no way I can pedi-cab from 10PM to 2 AM and still go out with my friends. And that made me very anxious last night.

My biggest fear in this whole venture is not that I fail. My biggest fear is that I succeed and repeat the debacle from the summer of 2002.

My Pride and Joy Is a Nightmare
I’ve wanted a motorcycle ever since ninth grade, when my physical science teacher told the class that Kawasaki had just introduced a motorcycle, the ZX-10R, that can accelerate faster than gravity. Imagine that for a minute–moving forward in a straight line at faster and faster rate than if you were falling off the top of the Empire State Building. Being an adrenaline junkie, I was completely hooked. I had to have a motorcycle. When I was 18 and my parents said I could finally have one, I dedicated the entire summer after my freshman year of college towards saving for a motorcycle. I took up rough carpentry, framing houses with a seven-man crew for $13 an hour, roughly 2x what most of my friends were working at jobs like bagging groceries and the like. I started the summer with about $1,500 in savings, and I decided that I would save every single penny I got, and I would get a motorcycle at the end of the summer. I needed about $5,500.

I succeeded. I saved literally every penny I got, and near the end of the summer, I added $4,000 to my savings, and I bought a bike. Below a pic of the bike taken shortly after I got it.

The first time I fired it up and guided it down the driveway, I got more and more excited–easily the most excited I had ever been in my life, including Christmas morning from the age of two to twelve. I was completely high on life. I found the twistiest and hilliest roads I could find, and I spent hours on them.

Then I got bored and went home.

Since I was no longer maniacally focused on a mission to save money, and even had a little money left over, I decided it was time to go see my first movie of the summer at the local theater.

But I couldn’t find my friends.

The same guys who had been calling me every day for the first half of the summer were now suddenly nowhere to be found. They all had excuses–lame excuses, like chores, or homework for summer school, or work.

I lost my friends that summer. We had spent the summer leading up to freshman year hanging out almost every single weekend, if not every single day. I went away for school, but we reconnected during winter break and spring break, and all was good. When I came back in June, it was an opportunity to reconnect again, but I declined, since I wanted to save money, and all they wanted to do was hang out and spend it.

Riding along on that beautiful motorcycle with no particular destination in mind–no movie to go to, no party to go to, nobody’s house to go to–I realized just how lonely I was. It dawned on me that money isn’t everything. Stuff isn’t everything. What good is a motorcycle if you’re not riding it to hang out with your friends?

Money isn’t everything. Do I want more of it? Of course. That’s one of the reasons I went to HBS. But the fact that money isn’t everything is the reason I go downtown every weekend and spend time with my friends. That’s the reason why I didn’t even bother interviewing for a banking or consulting job where I’d be working 80+ hours a week and/or leaving town every week for business travel.

If you were to look at my expenses, you’d see that my second biggest expense is entertainment and experiences–at $1,300 to $1,400/month, it practically matches my mortgage. And that’s the reason I lost sleep last night. I know I can do it. I know I can cut my entertainment budget down to $50/month and stick to it. I didn’t lose sleep last night because I was afraid I might not be able to stick to it. I lost sleep last night because I realized I’ve done it before, but the results were not what I expected.

In order to achieve my goal and keep my friends, I’m going to have to look for cheap ways to hang out with them. I wish we all didn’t like going downtown so much…

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