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 Post subject: Delaying Gratification
PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:53 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:51 am
Posts: 2
My story isn't flashy or full of angst; it's more the tortoise than the hare. After college, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I headed to grad school and moved in together. It was easy to get used to the frugal lifestyle in grad school; when all your friends are also grad students, nobody has any money, everyone lives in a crappy apartment, and everyone drives a ten-year-old car. It's only an "uncomfortable" lifestyle if you're used to something better, and we had no basis for comparison, so life was good! We were perfectly happy with our tiny apartment and ancient Honda; as a result, we were able to pay off about $20k in student loans from our undergrad years while living on our grad student stipends.

The real test was when we completed our PhDs and moved into the (slightly) higher-paid realm of postdoc-hood. The temptation was strong to ease up a bit on our minimalist lifestyle, maybe move from a one-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom for a few hundred extra dollars a month. But after some discussion, we decided to stay put where we are for a few more years, putting the extra money we could be spending on rent into saving for a down payment for the house we ultimately want to buy.

These days, our college friends who didn't go to grad school are far ahead of us in terms of lifestyle. They are buying houses, cars, shiny toys.... There are moments when I look at our one-bedroom apartment (I can pretty much see the whole thing from one spot, so that's not hard!) and wish we had more space, more stuff, nicer stuff, etc. But then I remind myself that by living in that tiny apartment for another year or two, we're saving so much money toward that future down payment. Two years from now, my husband and I should both have the jobs we've been working toward for the last decade, with real salaries attached. It's been a long slog, but our goals are in sight now. And our willingness to stick with frugality will mean that the house of our dreams is several years closer than it would have been otherwise. Delayed gratification--it's worth it in the end, right?

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:58 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:17 pm
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Yep, it is. My husband and I had the same experience in our 20s in our grad school years. We're heading into our 40s now, both of us with jobs we absolutely love (I teach, he's a research scientist). We're not earning huge bucks compared to corporate salaries, but we're doing quite well when you look at things from a broader perspective--well above the median income in our expensive west-coast city, a very respectable net worth. We also have terrifically flexible schedules, which means we can spend lots of time with our two kids. And doing work that we love and strongly believe in pays dividends you can't measure in dollars.

The habits learned from our years of doing well on little are deeply ingrained and serve us well. We still live modestly and rather frugally. We have everything we need and feel like anything we want is within our reach, with sufficient planning. We carry no debt other than mortgages (though we do sometimes use debt as a tool, as shown in my own success story). We save. We also have fun!

We know lots of people who've earned much higher salaries for years and years, but have less to show for it--or worse, have massive debt.

It *is* worth it in the long run! While you're practicing delaying your gratification, work on building a sense of gratitude for what you *do* have rather than bitterness for what you don't have. That's the real secret to success.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:51 am
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Thank you, Angie! It's good to hear from someone a few years down the road; right now, we're at the low point of having been fairly poor for a long while and facing the upcoming terrors of job searching, so it's nice to hear that things do get better. We, too, live in an expensive West Coast city; I know other parts of the country where grad students actually *buy houses* to live in during grad school, but of course that's unthinkable around here. But the rewards of grad school have been worth it, I think; I wouldn't trade all the flexible time off and traveling we've gotten to do for a higher net worth. And at least we don't have any debt, so once we have real jobs, we should be able to catch up fairly quickly to people who've had 401ks all along.

And frankly, traveling in other parts of the world has done a lot to revamp my notions of what's "necessary." Seeing what is considered ample living space for a family in Southeast Asia or Africa has really made me view houses around here as excessive. It helps to keep me happy with what I have when I remind myself how ridiculous some of the American attitudes toward housing and lifestyle are! I might like a two-bedroom place, but I don't *need* it.

Anyway, thanks again for your post; I'm glad things have worked out so well for you!

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