Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er) in Australia from the female perspective.

Why I never had to bother with other people’s expectations.

Lifestyle creep. When you start earning more money and everyone expects you to reward yourself. You buy a bigger house, new/er cars, better clothes. You become spendier. People see you advancing along in your career and they expect to see outward signs of this. They expect you to have a more lavish lifestyle.

But do you know the HUGE advantage I’ve had throughout these 21 years?

Nobody expects a single mother of 4 boys to be able to spend money on lifestyle creep. No one even expects her to have it. Nobody!

Everyone knows how expensive kids are, especially as they move into high school and start living with their heads inside the fridge, eating everything in sight. They grow like weeds, while you can almost see their feet get bigger. They have school fees, school books and school excursions. They have outside interests that need to be paid for.

They probably also need braces. For those who don’t know, braces are hellishly expensive. I had 3 boys who needed them. Fortunately, their father paid for Ryan14’s braces, but I had to come up with the goods for the other two sets.

So here was I, with these 4 boys standing around growing ever taller and looking expensive. With straight teeth, though. That’s got to mean something…

If I needed some new clothes for my family, no one raised an eyebrow if I’d shop at the op shops first. If anyone had clothes to give away, we’d happily accept them. I’d grow my own veggies and people nodded.

Travel is also important to me. If a person has no international travel under their belt, their view on life is limited to the place that they grew up in. I wanted my boys to see outside the bubble of comfortable middle-class suburbia in a first-world nation. Documentaries on TV are great, but they’re no substitute for seeing things for yourself. So I took the boys to Bali, Thailand and Singapore, and paid for 2 of them to go on a school music tour to the USA. They went to the US with some of their uniform and schoolbooks being second-hand, but they still got to go. 

(On re-reading this before publication, I realise that I’m inferring that the USA is a third-world nation!! It made me laugh, so I’ve left it in. Though, now that I think about it, the boys were a bit shocked at the level of decay in the infrastructure of Hollywood/L.A… just saying…)

After school interests? With 4 kids to look after, I told the boys that each child could only have ONE class/sport/lesson each. Just one. While every other kid in the neighbourhood was racing off to something after every school day, my boys, after a bit of trying out of various things, elected to do music lessons.

Tom and Ryan did guitar for years, while David learned piano and is now getting his Bachelor’s degree in music. Evan didn’t end up doing anything at all – he was content to chill and do his own thing. Did any of the other Mums at school raise their eyebrows and make ‘tsk tsk’ noises and insinuate that my boys were being deprived? No.

I had the ‘Single  Mother/Single Wage’ card. I could fly under the radar. I have never had to cope with battling the expectations of anyone else.

And it was wonderful.

It left me free to be the ‘Valuist’ spender that I was born to be.

It’s left me free to organise my finances the way that I – and only I – want to. I like nice clothes as much as the next woman, but our security was more important. That little weatherboard house had to be paid for. And it was. One cheap shopping trip to Aldi for all of those groceries at a time, while wearing the same clothes for years.

My big trip to the Uk and Europe that I’d waited my whole life to do? Once the house was paid for and the boys had all finished high school, I quietly saved up the money and went.

I’m happy to keep wearing the same jewellery and drive the same car while I put improvements in place in The Best House in Melbourne so that I can retire with the infrastructure that I want around me.

Lots of little expenses, like daily coffees from 7/11, or doughnut runs to AJs are things I’ve never done. The peer pressure has never happened, though I’ve seen it put to work all around me. Everyone else is fair game for Lifestyle Creep to be expected of them, but “poor Frogdancer Jones can’t afford it with all those boys…”

I guess being a single parent has to have some advantages.

Heh heh.

11 Comments

  1. that’s another reason we gravitate towards friends who don’t have too much lifestyle creep. we enjoy the company of the low-brow. we have a few friends who we see on rare occasions where we know it might be an expensive night out but it can be like a cover charge just to see them.

    i guess there is a great benefit to lowered expectations. and look at all the fantastic stuff you can the boys got to experience.

  2. Stealth is wealth, Joneses. When will they learn…?

  3. I think we would have gotten on quite well if we were contemporaries. We have two incomes but I would have loved trading potluck Fridays with a like-minded soul. Our peers (relatives mainly) look at our choices a bit askance and we shrug and go on our happy way. PiC gets a coffee out once or thrice a month, or a $3 lunch, and we eat home-cooked meals as a family almost every night.

    We have the occasional splurge but we put the brakes on wants-based spending a long time ago because we value our freedom in the future much more than we value having a nice new wardrobe, shiny jewelry, or other bits and bobs that won’t do anything for our future security.

    I know you’ll laugh along merrily with me when I share that a NOT like-minded friend proposed that our friend group pay for a group night in with a catering service that costs $200/adult and, wait for it, $50/child. (We’re talking all under-5s.) Because they would take care of all the dishes! *wipes tears from my eyes* The dishwasher is FREE, darlin!

  4. I have taught my young adult sons who are earning good money for the hard work they do that to be wealthy, its not what you earn, its what you save!
    Like you, I have planted seeds into their young minds over the years where I dont want money to be an issue in their future relationships. I did it hard breaking up from a divorce 20 years ago but have come through the other side where I’m extremely happy with life now and my boys see that, without any remorse to their mother.
    Keep up the awesome posts 🙂

    • It’s funny how it’s those of us who’ve had to struggle are the ones who advocate for having savings. We know what it’s like to worry about security.
      Glad to hear that you’re in a similar spot to me now, regarding the whole being happy with life. 🙂

  5. I’m so happy I found your blog.

    I feel that the whole “teachers are underpaid” refrain in America (which is true, but we earn respectable middle class income; more if you consider the benefits) allows me to similarly escape the lifestyle inflation trap. People excuse my unwillingness to shell out tons of money for expensive things quite readily. However, it helps to have a good group of friends who like to do things on the cheap.

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