Jay and I have been on the road over 6 months. One of the most frequent questions we are asked is “How are you paying for it?” or “How can you afford to do that?”. What we don’t often talk about is that we are quite good at saving money and keeping costs down. After reading an article in the Washington Post this morning about how more people are using coupons to save money, I thought it was worth sharing some thoughts on this.
I used to LOVE coupons. Even as a small child, my mom would actually use coupon clipping and organizing as a reward for good behavior. As in, if I ate my vegetables I could have the awesome opportunity of cutting coupons out of the paper and putting them into my mom’s velcro coupon organizer … and I thought this made sense. As I got older my mom and I would brag about the amazing deals we had gotten. I once got a formal dress for about $7. I also got very into thrift store shopping and viewed it as a great way to spend a couple of hours on a slow day. Best coupon experience ever?… when my mom and I managed to leave Victoria’s Secret with a credit — we came away with 4 bras and one pair of underwear AND a store credit, all bought with coupons. That’s the kind of experience that gives you the dopamine high that the Post article referenced.
And that’s why you can save money by ditching the coupons. Because saving money is deceptively simple. You do not spend money. You do not buy things. Harder still, you do not desire to own things. As a former coupon enthusiast, this last one is very hard for me. In order for me to avoid the desire to buy things I have to actually avoid places that sell things. And avoid advertisements encouraging me to buy things. Coupons work for the company because they get people in the store and when people enter the store they are drawn to buying things they didn’t intend to. When we stick to back roads and alternate between camping and visiting friends we largely avoid stores and ads. It is much harder to do this in big cities or touristy areas. But, it is the only way to truly save money and start doing awesome things with the money you’ve saved.
One more side note about not buying things… it’s a positive cycle of reinforcement. When you own things you need to have a place to put them and often times that place comes with its own costs (a house, car, storage unit, etc). Many things also require upkeep or accessories or include other hidden costs. It’s similar to planning a wedding: the best way to keep costs down is to keep the guest list small. The best way to keep costs down in life is to reduce the number of things you own and/or desire to own.