Having my own business, and an eventually successful one at that, has changed my life — but it hasn’t changed it much. I was forced into frugality by necessity in 2001, a few years after I graduated from college and was growing deeper into debt. I needed to fix my finances for the sake of my future, so I started spending less than I was earning, got a new job, saved money on rent, used a budget, and entered the most frugal phase of my life.
I got rid of my car, opting for the bus and the train to get to and from work. I relied a little on my roommates for transportation, too. My share of the rent, with three other people in a three bedroom apartment, was about $350. This was my life for about a year. I hadn’t started earning any money from my side business yet, but I was earning enough from my day job that I could move out, live without a roommate, and have a car again.
Since then and over the last decade, I slowly learned to accept the fact that a website I created and community that surrounded it could be a profitable business. Even when I started receiving impressive checks each month, I maintained my attitude that it could all end suddenly. I didn’t count on this income for anything important; it remained in savings, and I based my spending on money earned only from my day job.
Eventually, I felt comfortable enough with the business that Consumerism Commentary had become, and I began focusing more of my time growing that business, and I allowed myself use of its revenue. I didn’t even quit my day job until my own business was earning three times my day job salary. From there, revenue skyrocketed, and while I let the principles of frugality remain inspiring most of my decisions, I gave myself much more latitude.
As a result, I now have a number of expenses that I wouldn’t been able to afford at the low point of my life. I’m still saving a great deal of the money I earn. My goal is to leave my nest egg, boosted by the sale of the business, alone, and base my spending on only new income. That income is not exactly where I want it to be, though. I can avail myself of the income generated by investments, but I’m reinvesting dividends and interest as much as possible.
But of the income I do have, I’m spending more now than ever before in taking care of myself.
1. I pay a cleaning service to clean my apartment every two weeks. I’ve never been a fan of dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning. I guess most people aren’t fans, but left to my own devices, my apartment can get a little cluttered. Hiring a maid service has been great because not only is my apartment presentable to guests almost all of the time, but the knowledge that the maids are arriving gives me motivation to keep the apartment presentable.
The service costs about $150 every two weeks. I could probably save a lot of money if I cancel the arrangement with the national chain and looked for an independent cleaning service. At one point, one of the employees of the cleaning service company seemed to offer to clean the apartment outside of the franchise, on her own, for a lower price, but I didn’t even consider it.
2. I pay a personal trainer on top of my gym membership. I’ve had my gym membership for about two years, and used it actively for the first few months. The winter weather in 2012 resulted in less motivation for getting to the gym, so I stopped. I started again early in 2013, and decided to take advantage of the gym’s personal training options. I’ve been much more motivated to get into shape, and working with a trainer has been much more rewarding than spending my time running on the treadmill.
The gym membership fee is about $20 a month, and in addition to the membership fee, I pay about $30 for a training session. The sessions are supposed to be a half hour but they sometimes go as long as an hour. My goal is to attend personal training sessions three times a week, but it often works out to two due to travel or, recently, roads that haven’t been plowed or de-iced. The training is styled like Crossfit, but I get to avoid some of the more cult-like attributes of a program like that.
3. I get weekly massages. This is one way to treat myself a little bit, but it’s also therapeutic. I started just recently; the personal training I was working with a few months ago suggested it. The massages help my muscles, many of which get a lot of use during the personal training sessions, and at the same time, it keeps me feeling relaxed and is a healthy way to deal with stress, both physical and emotional.
The best option I could find was a nearby location of a massage therapy chain, but the company isn’t as important as the quality of the masseuse. This started as a luxury reserved for every other week, but I liked it so much, I increased my attendance to one week and the length of the sessions from 60 minutes to 90 minutes. The one annoying aspect of the arrangement is the complexity of the membership.
The monthly plan has a maximum of two hours a month, but I’m looking at spending three hours on the massage table every two weeks. As a result, I pay additional fees in addition to the monthly plan. The cost is an average about $40 an hour.
4. I spend a lot of money on photography. I have a pretty strong photography habit. I’m just about done buying equipment, though. I bought a new lens at the end of last year, and I bought a new camera in 2012, but that’s all in terms of expensive equipment.
My current photography expense comes from materials other than equipment. I’m working mostly with film instead of digital, so I need to buy film and photographic paper. Because there are so few people who do this kind of work today and demand for the materials is so low, the prices are high. I could easily spend between $500 and $1,000 a year in film, paper, and other materials related to film photography. It would be nice to start making some money with photography to justify these expenses from a dollar-for-dollar perspective (it’s already justified from a self-fulfillment perspective), but I haven’t put much effort into being a photographer-for-hire, and I don’t see myself doing much of that in the future.
I used to take photography classes, enrolling in the local non-profit organization for about $300 for an eight-week session, but now I have private lessons with an experienced photographer for about $75 a session. The sessions should be an hour each, but they often go as long as two hours. I think it’s a good deal, especially when you consider I have use of the studio, darkroom, and all the chemicals necessary for developing and printing film.
I feel comfortable with these expenses today. I’m in a different spot financially now than I was ten years ago. People often ask how my life has changed since I sold my business. It hasn’t changed much; if anything, my life changed slowly as I began accepting that the money I was earning on the side was safe to touch. I don’t travel extensively, I didn’t buy a nice car or a big house. I still live a pretty understated life, except perhaps for these luxuries.
Published or updated January 6, 2014.