Make Your Partner Happier by Being Cheap

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Recently, Mrs. RB40 has been declaring – “I’m done being cheap.” Uh oh, that smells like trouble… But, I can understand where she’s coming from. She has a good income and she is working hard. We have extra money in the bank. She should feel free to spend some money on fun stuff and activities. Why work if you can’t spend, right?

Actually, I’m perfectly fine with Mrs. RB40 being less cheap. She has been frugal since she was young. To her, financial security is much more important than spending money. She has to resist the urge to horde money. Spending doesn’t come naturally to her. In fact, I’m encouraging her to spend money on shows, clothes, or whatever she wants to buy. She deserves them. Anyway, I’m her plus one. I get to enjoy those luxuries too. Eating out and going to shows are luxuries in my book. You don’t need them to survive, but they improve your quality of life.

However, I’m sticking to my cheapo ways. Read on to see why this is good for both of us.  

Being cheap

I’m naturally cheap too. I’d rather invest and grow my money than spend it. This habit is rooted in my childhood. My family struggled financially when we immigrated to the U.S. My parents worked a string of low-wage jobs and couldn’t save much. All their income went straight to paying the bills and feeding 3 kids. I’m glad I grew up in the 80s because life seems much harder now for low-income families. I don’t know if my family would have made it today. The cost of living is so high now. That’s the reason why I’m so cheap. I never want to feel poor again.

Mrs. RB40 and I have come a long way since then. We achieved financial independence and our passive income can cover our basic expenses. Mrs. RB40 has a secure job. She should spend some money on things that make her happy. However, my income is pretty low after I retired from my engineering career. I don’t want to spend any money I don’t earn, especially on luxuries. That cheap mentality is strong when you don’t have a steady income. Life is still good, though. You don’t need to spend money to be happy.

Happy Money

This week, I’m reading Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton. It’s a pretty interesting book. Everyone thinks more money will make them happier, but that isn’t necessarily true. Lots of rich people are miserable. Once the basic necessities are taken care of, more money doesn’t increase happiness much. You need to spend your money the right way to be happier. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet.  

Chapter 2, Make It a Treat, is where I’m making my case today. Researchers show that indulging in nice things will decrease your happiness. They ran an experiment with chocolate. It turned out students don’t enjoy chocolate as much if they have it every day. They appreciate the chocolate much more if it’s spaced out a bit, 2 weeks in the experiment. The students who ate less chocolate enjoyed them more. It’s a treat instead of a routine.

Making it a treat means spacing good things out a bit so they will be more enjoyable. Eating out is a big treat for us because we cook at home almost every day. An occasional night out is great because we can try new foods and take a break from cooking. However, eating out isn’t as enjoyable if you do it every day. I ate out every day for 3 months when I visited my parents in Thailand last year. The food was good, but I enjoyed eating out less and less as the trip went on. That’s the hedonistic adaptation. You get used to nice things and they become boring. By the end of the trip, I was really looking forward to going home and cooking my own meals.

My gift to cheapos everywhere

Well, the last time Mrs. RB40 said she was done being cheap. I handed her the book and told her to read chapter 2. It’s good for her to spend money on things she likes. But my cheapness is helping too. I’m making her happier by being cheap. You can say the same with a straight face! Research supports this. It’s in the book.

By avoiding spending money, I’m spacing those nice things out a bit for her. She’ll enjoy The Lion King more because I never buy theater tickets. Of course, I’ll accompany her and try my best to stay awake during the shows. That’s part of my contribution too. Heh heh.

Alright! That’s it for this week. We’re going down to California to visit families and friends. This time we’ll splurge on Disneyland. Man, it is super expensive now. The last time we visited Disneyland was in 2001. It should be a lot of fun.

I’m taking the rest of the week off. Happy Spring Break!

*Can you retire early? Use Empower’s free Retirement Planner to figure it out. It’s flexible to account for Barista FIRE or SAHD FIRE. Check it out! (Previously Personal Capital.)

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Image credit: Booke Cagel

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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