Living Like a College Student

It has been about five years since I joined the working world and it is a good time to reflect on the one mantra I have been trying to live by the last 5yrs. It came from one of my professors in a passing conversation during graduate school that really stuck to me.

The net of what this professor said is if he could do it all over, he would have just lived like he did as a college student for 5 more years after he started working and saved his money (or something like that – I am not sure if he said 5 yrs - that might have been my twist).

This came about while I was finishing up college, looking for a job, broke as ever, and absorbing the book - The Millionaire Mind. It stuck to me like glue and I took the meaning to heart. For the past 5 years I have really focused on building a base and avoiding any extravagant consumption. Each year, I have spent a little more, raising my annual consumption closer and closer to my peers.

When I graduated school - I didn't go out and buy a bunch of new stuff like many of my peers, such as new cars, new furniture, flat screen tvs, cell phones, etc. As time has gone on, I have slowly splurged and periodically purchased things like a computer, a cell phone, a house, etc - doing my best to pace myself.

For instance, to this day I still don't own a tv or haven't purchased any new furniture since I finished school. It’s not as crazy at it may seem at first - in truth all I did was get roommates that had these things so I didn't need to focus on purchasing them.

Each year, I have slowly indulged in purchasing items to raise my standard of living up to now. Now a days I am pretty in line with my peers, although I still need to buy a tv (I am looking to purchase one at the end of the year).

To net it down - What I believe I did right was disassociate my spending and living standards from my job salary. Instead every year as my net worth builds, my "expected" annual consumption and living standards grows with my worth.

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Comments (7)

I think that's great advice to live by. The hardest thing about saving up enough money is that "enough" keeps growing. I think back to when I was in college and lived in a small dorm room--with a stranger. That was enough. Then, I moved on to an apartment, then a larger apartment, then a house, then a larger house. If I could manage to be content with not raising my standard of living as my income goes up, I'd be able to reach "enough" much sooner.

Not a bad way to look at it at all..

I wish I was as lucky to get the good advice you received so early took me 3-4 years after graduating to finally figure things out.

Great advise. I will add one more to the list. Avoid getting married for 5 more years. This may not work for some people who go for grad schools.

In my observations the cost of living goes up exponentially once you are a couple.

Great post! I have been trying to live by that mantra as well. I have managed to have a blast while still saving money and living in Manhattan -- all the while only making less than $55k!

It's a great feeling to look back at a couple of years and see a gain in net worth instead of more debt like a lot of my friends!

Keep up the great content!

always search for business that can generate 50% or 100% profit margin...

Old man said- spend a dollar is easy, try saving one cent.

I think its great to do as long as you don't feel like you wish you had more/better stuff. The consumer culture that's fueled by easy credit and marketing has made people associate "things" with happiness and success. The best measure of financial success is your net worth, and more importantly you're liquid net worth. However you can easily overdue the living cheap thing and realize one day you have a bunch of cash but you're so used to living cheap that you don't ever use it. I see that in a lot of older people all the time, they lived their lives on the cheap and that became what they were so used to that they could never spend money. I think as long as you're maxing out your retirement plans and saving an additional 20% or so of your income you are fine. So if you're making $100,000 a year and can put $20k into retirement plans, you should save another $20k as well and live on $60k per year (pre-tax). Given how common six-figure incomes are nowadays there is no reason people in their 30s shouldn't have a high-six or low-seven figure net worth.

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A personal finance weblog of my journey to reach my goal of $2 million + the value of my primary residence.
Current Net Worth: $1,938,393


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