When I arrived in the United States, I decided to temporarily put aside the saving objective and focus on meeting people and having a social life. I am new to the city, I almost do not know anyone and because of my character I need to be with people.
A trial month
During the month of August I accepted dinner invitations without checking the price levels of the restaurants, I went out to have lunch with my colleagues when they suggested it, I drank coffees, I took Ubers … normal life. Don´t think that I crazily indulge myself, that was not the case. I did not go out partying much (the price of alcohol is nuts), nor did I go to expensive shows or anything like that. Generally, I went out to eat with colleagues two or three times a week and to have dinner and have a drink twice over the weekend.
At the beginning of September Mr. Lyn was visiting me and we used his visit to review our fiinances. The good thing about “closing the month” and keeping a detailed account of your expenses is that you can make comparisons easily.
I have to admit that I was nervous, I did not feel I had lived a luxurious life, but I did spend a lot more than usual because of the cost of living here. This says our holy excel:
- We spend 4 times more in bars and restaurants this month than the average of the last 4 months
- We spend 4 times more in supermarket in August than the average of the last 4 months
The increase in the cost of living from Spain to the USA is clearly visible.
Adapt or die
I understand that here life is more expensive and salaries are higher (I have a salary supplement for being in a country with a higher standard of living), but I find it hard to change the mindset. For me to pay 35 or 40 euros for a dinner is a treat, a good dinner, and in the US that is just a normal dinner. A lunch sandwich, a salad, anything … from $ 10 up. And it is hard for me because I can not avoid comparing it with Spain and what you buy there for that money. And the tips, OMG!!! If already the price on the menu is high, the pain comes when you add taxes and tips.
For me the question is: “how do I approach these months: as an opportunity to save more and accelerate my path towards financial independence or as a unique opportunity for which it is worth reducing savings temporarily?”
I thought a lot about it, I spoke with Mr. Lyn (he is the frugal one in the team) and we decided to go for the second one. We know that with the salary supplement we could try to increase the savings and give a boost to the IF path. But for us it is not about suffering the way but to enjoy the way, we know that we have so many years left so we will try to save according to our possibilities and needs at every moment.
Each in their own way
After telling you my story, I think it’s worth telling Mr. Lyn’s story. He is in a similar situation in London: expensive city, without knowing people, etc. You will think, “He will do the same, won´t he?”
Well, no. We function as a team but we recognize that we are individuals with our own needs.
Our decision was that during these months we will try both to maximize the savings but without impacting our personal life. And that means very different things for Mr. Lyn and me.
Mr. Lyn is saving a lot (this year’s savings rate comes a lot for him). He leads a very frugal life but is good on a personal level. He does not need to have as much social life as I do.
To finish already, I also tell you that I did not suddenly become a consumerist. I try to keep good habits whenever I can. For example, many people here at Starbucks every day to buy breakfast. I eat breakfast at home, which means 5 or 6 dollars a day of savings. When I do not have food with classmates, I bring food from home instead of going out to eat by myself. When I propose plans, I try to be low cost, etc.
Conclusions: making friends is expensive
Can you make friends without spending a lot of money? Yes you can. I tried it through MeetUp and made some low-cost plans.
But as a rule, making friends is expensive. Or at least that’s my experience in the USA. When you are alone in a city and you try to meet people (outside or inside work), it is difficult to control the expenses. You can say to your lifelong friends “Hey, let´s plan somethin low-cost because I’m trying to save.” To someone who were just introduced to you don´t say that (at least I do not).