How much money would you need to make to be happy? It's one of those cliche questions, but about a year ago my husband and I sat down and came up with a number.
Let me explain: This number does not guarantee our happiness, and we know this. It's very possible that we will never reach our goal. And even with this dollar sign looming above our heads, we are still happy where we're at.
Our number is $2.4 million. It's a lot of money. And here's how we got there. At $2.4 million per year, we would be able to live a comfortable lifestyle, save enough each year so that our children and grandchildren can live comfortable lifestyles, and still donate 90% of our income to those who need the money more than we do.
We could choose to see our 2.4 million as this burden, as a constant reminder of our meager existence. We could see all of the zeros that follow like rings on a tree: calculating our failures and shortcomings.
Or we could see our 2.4 million as a challenge. Could we possibly grow our careers and passions to reach that goal? Can we change the world in unthinkable ways?
Recently, reminded again of how far we are from our number, we set a per diem for ourselves. We are allowed to spend $10 a day. We can spend it on anything: clothes, eating out, coffee/drinks, even a haircut. The only things that don't count are gas and grocery food. Gas isn't really in our control, and groceries have their own set of rules.
We've done this before. In Austin, we got in the habit of going to the store every 3 days. On each trip, we could only spend $30. This not only kept our fresh food from going bad, but it also limited us to buying only what we needed. Are we over $30? Cut something from the basket. Need to quick run to the store? What we need can probably wait 2 more days, or maybe we really don't need the item at all.
If nothing else, having a per diem and a grocery rule keeps us aware of our money. And I think this is the most important. Are we going to stay strict always? No. We're human, and sometimes the shoes are just too cute to pass up. But I find myself eating out less, and planning ahead more.
Even if we never reach our 2.4 million, at least we're reaching for something. It's not hard to save money, and it's not hard to live within our means. All it takes is an awareness of ourselves and of our finances. And, honestly, we're a lot happier this way.