So over the past two weeks I’ve discussed how geoarbitrage can give you the disposable income of a richer person, as can general frugal common sense. None of this comes close to depriving yourself of anything really important to your happiness or wellbeing. I want to round things up this week by trying to bring it all together.

The real key to making your money stretch further is changing your mindset regarding what success looks like and what you think will make you happy. Many people have said it – figure out what really brings you joy and don’t be a tightwad in those areas, but cut back a lot on everything else.

I come from a property-mad family. My parents are currently on the third house building project of their lives. My grandad was a builder. The vision of success I was raised with very much centred around the “dream home”. And with multiple tv shows over the decades backing up this worldview (and they were always must-see viewing in our house), I didn’t really stop to question it.

Thankfully, things started to change just after we bought our first house. Originally the thought was maybe we’d eventually upgrade to a better house after gaining some equity, or extensively renovate and extend the house we have. I started reading more and more about personal finance and then financial independence and realised that having lofty goals in terms of what we desire to own correlates directly to the amount of time we’re going to have to spend in the workforce.

I also increasingly realised none of these lofty goals would have any measurable impact on our overall happiness. I’ve succumbed in the past to the culture of having to have the “next big thing”. I’ve been up early many mornings to watch announcements about the next iPhone (those things are timed for like 5am NZ time :/ ) Thankfully I’ve never had the money for any kind of annual upgrade so my passion dwindled before I could really waste my cash. I have an iPhone. I think they’re good. I bought my 5s about a week before that model was dropped from the lineup in favour of newer, shinier phones and I would be quite happy if it kept working forever (and it is increasingly becoming clear that it won’t. But it’s been over three years so far, so not bad).

Realising that the grass is always greener is a massive key to happiness. Once you understand that the $20,000 kitchen you want will look out of date in 10 years and leave you wanting another, equally expensive kitchen (not accounting for inflation), you start to wonder whether the kitchen you have right now might just continue to do the trick. A $20,000 kitchen every ten years over a lifetime… you do the maths.

The end result has been that we’ve decided we’re quite happy with the house we’re in. It’s our first house. And in this country at least, it may well be our last too. We’ve spent enough on it to make sure it’s warm, healthy and comfortable. There aren’t many changes left to make that would be worth the money. We need to build a deck at some stage. Maybe one at the back too. That’s about it.

To link this back into the whole frugality concept and how you can have the disposable income of a much “richer” person: The ability to question things (preferably everything) is one of the greatest superpowers you can acquire. You start to question the conventional wisdom and ask “is this suburb really so much better than that one that it’s worth spending an extra $100,000 to live there?”, “Is this school in a zone where houses cost a premium really that much better than the average school in my city?”, “How many more years will I have to wait to leave my job if we upgrade to the lifestyle block we think we need?”.

I could go on. It covers everything from “Do I absolutely need to have a brand new car?” to “Is this brand name packet of spaghetti really any different to the supermarket brand?”. Once you start asking the questions and figure out what’s really adding to your happiness and what is just a constant pursuit of greener grass, you start finding the savings that will reduce your cost of living and give you that disposable income most people think is only for the rich. And hopefully with all this newfound wisdom, instead of disposing of it, you’ll set a large chunk aside for later!

If you have stories to share about decisions you’ve made regarding money and happiness, good or bad, let me know in the comments!

Comment Policy: For this blog, I’ve implemented a Comment with Kindness policy. You can read more about it here, but the gist of it is: Follow what I call the “Grandma Rule”. If you wouldn’t take that tone with your grandma, your comment probably won’t make it through moderation.