You might expect that as someone who has been saving for some years, firstly for a gap year and more recently for early retirement I am approaching the period when I have to start spending all that money with some trepidation and reluctance. Instead I find that I am eager to start spending those savings. I think this is for two reasons; firstly I think that money is only there to spend and I am somewhat uncomfortable earning more money than I need and so having spare money to save; I will be happy when we have just enough. Secondly, of course, the spending period of this early retirement project is the whole point; for me saving isn’t what defines me and money is only saved to be spent in the future.
Looking back I have only ever successfully saved for something when I have a clear goal in mind. Since the early years of our marriage when the washing machine broke and we didn’t have enough money to buy a new one, we have always aimed to have at least £300 [for that washing machine] in a savings account. We have prioritised saving for holidays [even when we had very little] for many years, we saved to buy our first campervan and we saved energetically to have our gap year in 2009. Since returning from this gap year we have worked hard to put money aside to retire. But apart from these periods of active saving I have generally been a spender and I am looking forward to returning to being that person.
This isn’t to say I want to throw money away or spend money on unnecessary stuff, I have never really been one of the world’s best consumers. Although I certainly can’t reach the minimalist goal of owning just 33 items of clothing I don’t like owning surplus stuff and I am happier finding second-hand bargains than buying new.
I don’t feel that saving [or spending] money should define me. I am keen for us to become a none-paid-work couple who have just enough money for our needs and no more [with a little in a contingency fund for that washing machine] and we can work our way through the savings, watching them dwindling as each year passes. To me, this situation has a harmony; we will be financially secure but not rolling in it and we will be time-rich. I think it is possible I might get a bit of a thrill if we are super-frugal and finish a year a few hundred pounds below our annual budget … but then if we do manage to do that I will want to celebrate by spending it on throwing a party!