One of the things that I think holds a lot of people back financially is this total aversion to even a moment of discomfort. Sure, being successful with money requires an ability to handle money well — that’s probably a prerequisite. But I think there’s more to it than that. When it comes to success with money, you’ve got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The price of comfort is pretty high. Living in a luxury apartment, getting food delivered to you, or running that air conditioner throughout the summer is going to cost you. If you opt for 24/7 comfort, you’re basically doing two things that are bad for you financially:
1. You’re increasing your cost of living, making it so that you have to earn more money if you want to live.
2. You’re making it so that you can never live without that comfortable thing ever again.
That’s why I always cringe when I see a young lawyer or a medical professional snagging a luxury apartment right out of school (or even during school, as many of my wife’s resident friends appear to be doing). Unless you’re somehow getting a really good deal, there’s just not much reason to live in a place like that in my opinion. And once you opt for that type of lifestyle, you’re basically setting a baseline that will impact how you live for the rest of your life — AKA giving into lifestyle inflation.
A lot of it has to do with what’s normal. Lawyers and doctors aren’t “supposed” to live in crappy apartments with regular chumps. They’re supposed to live in luxury. That’s why all of my work colleagues and my wife’s dental friends live in these fancy places.
But the other part of why people choose to live this way has to do with comfort. When I ask some people why they don’t live in less expensive places, the typical answer is that they want a nice, comfortable place to go to after a long day at work.
It’s a fair point. And you can definitely choose total comfort. But if you can’t accept anything less than optimal, top of the line comfort, it’ll be much harder to get ahead financially. You’re basically picking comfort over financial security.
A Case Study In Comfort — Climate Control
In my time as an Airbnb host (and really just from interacting with people in general), the thing I’ve discovered is that a lot of people just can’t even spend a little bit of time in natural temperatures.
I live in an old house — nearly 100 years old. When you live in an old, crappy house like I do, you don’t get the luxury of central cooling. For most of the summer, my wife and I are fine. We both work during the day, so we get to bask in the free A/C of our jobs. At night, it can be uncomfortable sometimes, but we can usually just crack open the windows, hit the fan, and pull in some of that free, cool night air. If it’s really ridiculous, we’ll turn on the window A/C unit we have in our room that someone gave to us for free.
For some people, temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s are apparently unacceptable. That’s crazy to me, but it’s true. I’ve learned it first-hand from my Airbnb guests, many of whom get into my house and then complain that temperatures are too hot. I recently had one guest who asked about how to turn on my A/C (which I don’t have) when the daytime high was only 80 degrees.
I get that these Airbnb guests are paying customers, but I just have to imagine that they live a perfect climate-controlled life in their home lives as well. When I went to Puerto Rico back in April, even with temperatures in the 80s, it never even occurred to me to worry about something like A/C.
If you think about it, in some places, it’s basically possible to never face the elements. You can spend your entire day in unnatural cooling or heating — going from home to car, car to work, work back to car, and car back to home. When you live like this, you can’t help but expect total comfort all the time, wherever you go.
Why Should You Accept Anything Less Than Total Comfort?
Why should you accept anything less than total comfort? Consider these three things:
There’s Money To Be Made In Being Uncomfortable
Not willing to be uncomfortable is expensive. Your typical air conditioner will jack up your electricity bill by many percentages — probably 100% or more depending on how much A/C you consume in a typical month. This is especially true for anyone who turns on the A/C at the first sign of heat or sets their A/C at ridiculously low temperatures. It always seemed interesting to me that folks would set their A/C super low in the summer, then set their heat super high in the winter. Why is it that a comfortable temperature in the winter isn’t the same comfortable temperature in the summer?
Even more expensive for the wallet are the folks who refuse to break a sweat by biking or walking anywhere, and instead, will only drive places. Sure, I’m probably a little luckier than most people, because I don’t really sweat all that much. But at the same time, a calm 10 to 15-minute bike ride to the train or bus in the early morning, even in work clothes, probably isn’t going to have you sweating buckets. Imagine how much you can save if you’re willing to consider taking a non-car based mode of transport.
You’ll Learn To Be Humble
There’s so much value in developing a humble mindset. I think humility is the absolute key to avoiding the dreaded financial killer of lifestyle inflation. When you’re humble, you learn to realize that you don’t NEED everything. Instead, you develop an appreciation for the things you already have.
It’s hard to be humble when you refuse to break a sweat. Someone living a perfect, climate-controlled life can’t appreciate that so many people out there don’t have that luxury, yet live perfectly fine.
When you’re humble, my goodness does saving become easier.
You’ll Appreciate The Comforts More
When I was working in big law, people were always amused at how happy I was to get free food or be at fancy events. For a lot of people at the firm, this type of stuff was just totally normal. It was nice that it was free, but it wasn’t something they hadn’t had before. For me, though, this free stuff wasn’t just amazing — it was stuff I’d never get myself. Since I didn’t have it, I appreciated it a ton.
You really learn to appreciate the things you have once you accept a little bit of discomfort in your life. I share my home with strangers, something that many people refuse to do in any form. That’s fine — I totally understand it. Sharing your space isn’t for everyone. But let me tell you, I appreciate my home a lot more now that I’ve started letting other people into it.
Ways To Be Uncomfortable
1. Use Your Bike
I hear probably two excuses everytime I find someone who objects to biking as a form of commuting: (1) they don’t want to be sweaty, or (2) they’re uncomfortable with biking. I personally don’t think either one is a great excuse.
If sweat is a concern, then reserve your bike ride for the end of the day when you’re heading home. It’s easy enough to just change at the office and then bike your way home.
If you’re uncomfortable with biking, maybe it’s time to learn how to bike. If you live in a crappy bike city, I’m positive you can figure out a bike friendly way home. You can’t get good at something if you’re not willing to put the work in.
2. Stop Turning On The A/C All The Time
Air conditioning is something that I really despise. I like being in a cool, comfort-controlled place as much as anyone, but in the U.S., we are ridiculous about it. It makes no sense that people wear sweaters indoors during the summer because they’re cold.
In my opinion, for most people, there’s just no reason to run the A/C throughout the entire summer. Learning to live with a little heat can help anyone grow tougher.
3. Be Willing To Share Your Space With Others
A lot of people refuse to live with other people because they want their privacy. It’s comfortable to have privacy, but there’s value in being willing to share your space. You can dramatically reduce your living expenses or make some extra money if you’re willing to share your space with others on a platform like Airbnb.
If you’re the type of person who simply cannot share any space with anyone, that’s fine. Just remember that it’s a choice you’re making. You’re opting to accept no discomfort in your life in this area.
4. Use Your Feet
If you’re driving somewhere, you can park somewhere for free and walk to where you need to go! Yeah, you have to use your feet, but you’ll actually be out in the world and maybe you’ll even get to see things, such as hiring signs that can earn you money.
In the end, comfort costs money. Worse yet, it puts you at a baseline that you’ll never be able to turn back from. Once you’ve grown accustomed to never breaking a sweat, you’ll never want to break a sweat again.
So my advice? Discomfort is good for you. We can all use a little more of it in our lives.
Financial Panther is a lawyer who paid off $87,000 worth of student loans in just 2.5 years by choosing not to live like a big shot lawyer. If you’re interested in following his journey, you can visit his blog, Financial Panther, where he writes about personal finance, crushing debt, financial independence, and side hustling using the sharing economy. Follow him on Twitter here.
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