A week or two ago, someone referred to this website as “Afford Everything,” which made me chuckle.
It also made me realize I should take a second to explain this blog’s cornerstone philosophy: You can afford anything, but not everything.
The idea behind Afford Anything is that each time you buy an item – a sweater, a smartphone, a tub of ice cream – you’re making a tradeoff. You’re stating that you’d rather have this sweater or smartphone instead of … something else.
Sometimes these choices are easy. We need electricity and running water. These take priority over everything else in our lives. But as we delve into discretionary spending, our choices get a little hazy.
When I was 19, I decided to spend at least a year traveling the world. I knew that this would demand serious tradeoffs.
For the next five years, I wore clothes from thrift stores. I rode a bicycle and buses instead of owning a car. I lived in a cramped apartment. I never dyed or highlighted my hair. I didn’t have a television, home internet, or a washing machine. I slept on a camping mat for a month before a friend gave me a free mattress.
When I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Egypt, many of my friends said, “I would love to do that, but I can’t afford it.”
But their hair is highlighted and their toenails are pedicured. Their clothes and furniture are new, they’ve just spent money on a car wash, and they’re trying the newest sushi hotspot tonight.
Please don’t misunderstand me – clothes and furniture are great things to spend money on, if that’s what you truly want.
But some people are unaware that every purchase they make is a tradeoff against something else. Every $1 you spend at a restaurant is $1 you can no longer spend traveling to Paris, throwing your dream wedding or investing in your business.
The key to “affording anything” is spending money in a way that reflects your priorities.
If your top goal is to cultivate your outer beauty, go for it. Buy the clothes and the makeup. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if your life goals point in a different direction – if you want to launch your own bakery, climb out of debt, or study art in Italy – then ask yourself what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to afford it.
Maybe you want a nicer house, an early retirement, or a seven-figure stock portfolio. What tradeoffs will you make to achieve those dreams?
You can afford anything. You just can’t afford everything.