Jul 31, 2015
I have felt insanely rich during my stay here in India. Because the cost of living here is so low, I am able to live on less than $300 a month for all my expenses. During the travels for 6 weeks in Northern India and Nepal, I think I only spent around $600. This has ended up being one of the cheapest places that I have ever travelled to and needless to say I love it!
I am not one to hold back on money on certain things. For some things like fashion, hotels and other luxuries I find relatively pointless, I am incredibly cheap. However, in terms of food, travel, education, electronics and the things that I find useful I am not afraid to spend money. Sometimes I even spend more than I have. Then I have to look at it as an investment rather than just a fun thing to do. If I can't justify the expenditure as something that can benefit my future, I won't buy it.
From some investments and other things back in the States I have about $1000 a month that comes in passively. This means that whenever I can live for less than that, I can choose to work for fun instead of working in order to live. Honestly, when I was in the US and then later in Germany, it was a bit difficult to live on this amount and I sometimes had to supplement my income doing odd jobs or little side projects to make me money.
Not having enough money was not fun as I could not focus on things that could help me grow as a person but instead had to potentially work in a soul crushing job which would not get me anywhere. Whenever I didn't need the money as much, I was free to do unpaid or lowly paid internships which would allow me to progress in my career and teach valuable skills. This is one of the main things that I attribute to being able to get to where I have. I feel very privileged to have gotten to do the things I have because it was a luxury to be able to pick and choose the path that I wanted. Before this, I had experienced a very turbulent environment which would force me down a certain path only for money. It was only after a certain distance down this path that I would discover that it was not where I wanted to go. By then it would feel like I wasted time and I felt a certain 'sunk cost.' It would be tempting to just stay on the path because I had gone so far already and it would take my friends and family to convince me to take the path to be happy, but more on that in another episode.
Maybe that is why I never really went all in on any certain path. I have always been one to try many things before making a decision and always enjoyed being sent on other jobs at some of my previous employers. I wanted to see how everything was done and I wanted to make sure that I was doing the thing that would be the most interesting. Maybe this is the reason I have gone to 80 countries, to see them all and eventually to pick a few I liked. I finally feel like going all in, now that I feel like I know what I am choosing from, but more on that in another episode.
So back to this situation in India. Even when I was travelling here I was spending less than the money than comes in passively. I realized I was eating well, doing the things I wanted to do, seeing the things I wanted to see and I still had money left over. But I really didn't see a point in spending more. I had my needs met and was living a comfortable life. Anything more would be just an invented or fabricated way to spend money. I did not need fancy suits, fancy cars, or somehow showoff my status. But it wasn't always this way, I used to be the opposite.
I attribute everything to outside influences. I feel that the way I acted before was not really the way I actually am. The BMW, 1000W stereo, and other flashy ways to get attention were probably encouraged by the things I surrounded myself with. The pop radio playing songs about showing off money, the TV shows about fancy things, and finally surrounding myself with people who would blow a paycheck in a weekend on a good time. Being surrounded by these sorts of things makes it really hard to then do the opposite. But I wasn't happy.
It really wasn't until I went to Germany that I was able to experience the things that I really needed. There they have a culture against spending money and everyone is a hipster, rolling their own cigarettes and wearing old clothes. I ended up liking this much more as the culture focused on having and spending time with friends. It felt like there I was able to get better at these skills as well. Needless to say, I loved it and when I came back to the US to finish my bachelors I couldn't wait to come back. There, a crazy night out would cost maybe $10 but back in the States it could cost $50.
I've gotten a bit off topic, but what I meant to say was that moving to Europe made me see that the way I was living before was a bit strange. There were other ways of spending money and more importantly not wasting money. After living there for some time I started to focus only on the essentials: food, drinks, a few electronics and of course travel. Everything I spent money on had a purpose and I could clearly say that it would help me in the future.
That is why when I went to India recently it really struck me as strange that people would spend so much money on silly things. This was of course after visiting all the temples and palaces built centuries ago. It seemed strange to me and frankly a waste of money to be spending so much money on such opulent things like baths and even larger palaces. It wasn't until we went to the desert city of Jaipur where I saw something I could get excited about, an astronomy exhibit! Finally there was somebody that used their money to advance science instead of merely trying to look more impressive than the next ruler in the next city. One could hardly call this as an investment and the energy and time far outweighed the $3 entry fee for foreigners a century later.
That is why I think that the best things to spend money on are investments. First you need to invest in yourself to make sure that you are the best that you can be. Then you can invest in the things around you to make life better not only for you but also for those in your environment. You can also invest in learning more about the world either in terms of culture, geography, or science. But ultimately this is also an investment into yourself and your surroundings.
After feeling extraordinarily rich here in India, I realized that I am not spending all the money I could be. This is because my needs have been met and I don't need to spend more. Paying for the expensive drink or expensive clothes will not make my life better and so I use less than I could. However, I see many business opportunities that require a small investment and I am happy to give it. I see it as a way to plant a seed for success and further income in the future. By doing this you also help people with jobs as well as cool products that you are providing.
I look forward to starting businesses that make lots of money. But not necessarily to have more money. I guess I could use more money for plane tickets but that is still a relatively small expense. Actually, what I am most excited about is using that money to spin off other businesses and ideas to make more things a reality. I look forward to the day that I can bring a new product or service somewhere which will improve people's lives and provide money for employees as well.
I feel blessed because I am rich. But by being rich I have realized that it doesn't bring happiness. Of course you can buy certain things that guarantee happiness, like a Jet Ski, but even this will not last. What I now see is that the thing that will create happiness the most sustainably is to make sure that others experience the wealth as well. This doesn't mean that you directly give a beggar money, but by creating a job or a fair source of income for someone you can make the world a better place. By sharing the wealth evenly, everyone is able to spend money on the things that they want and need. Hopefully, they also spend it on investments.