#43 Step 1 To Save Money

“I’m gonna teach you to hate spending money. I’m gonna make you so sick of spending money that the mere sight of it will make you wanna throw up!” — Rupert Horn in: Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Ok so this movie came out before I was born, and the context of it is not really relevant. But the quote is fun, I think.

Definition of Intentional Spending

Intentional Spending is a term I've bandied about. It's the act of spending only on the things that give you the most value. Spending only on the things that in your heart and in your gut are totally worth the money. And spending the least possible on everything else.

In my life, it's travel, coffee, restaurants, tennis, and my friends and family. 

But how did I come up with this list?

STEP 1 to Save Money - Discover Your Intentional Spending List

Learning what's on your intentional spending list requires a little bit of investigative work.

It's easy.

For everything, you buy this week ask yourself is it worth it. 

It's a simple question but you have to give a clear answer.

Listen to your heart. What was your first instinct? What does your gut tell you?


At the end of the week, review your results.

What made the "worth it" cut?

And how much did you spend on things you didn't think were worth it.

You're Worth It

Don’t spend YOUR LIFE, YOUR TIME, and YOUR MONEY on things that are not in your heart and in the core of your mind the most important to you.

There’s a reason I don’t go out clubbing or drinking. I don’t see the cost as worth it. When someone else is paying I may have one drink but still won’t go all out. And it’s not my choice of activity if I’m organizing.

You may see it the other way around. Drinking alcohol may give you the same joy that I get from drinking handcrafted espressos beverages. Everyone is different.

You have to make your own lifestyle choices but be very specific and intentional. Cutting out the fat is where you will find excess savings.

If you're pretty lean already it might only be a trim. Whatever the analogy. Always decide with your gut feeling. It’s the hidden truth in the core of your mind.

My Intentional Spending List

Travel: I was never a big traveller as a kid. I never had the desires to travel the world.

One of my early memories of world travel isn't even about my own travel but that of my brother. He joined a group trip to China in the summer before I went to grade 9. He left 4 inches taller than me and came back 2 inches shorter in only 2 weeks. He didn't shrink if that's what you are thinking.

But in truth, my fondness for travel blossomed when I met my wife and had a travel buddy. Every trip we've been on, we have discovered new corners of the world.

Starting in Las Vegas, New York, Taipei, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Osaka, Kyoto, Ottawa, London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Nice, Provence, Boston, Montreal, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Yufuin.

Seeing new places, trying new food, walking down streets we have never walked, eating at restaurants and bakeries we've only heard about. I never knew what I was missing until I experienced it. And my heart tells me this is worth it.

Coffee: In earnest, I didn't start drinking coffee until I was in my second stint in university.

My friend (now wife) introduced me to a grande americano misto with 4 pumps of classic from Starbucks. For a student pulling 12+ hour days 7 days a week, it was a good kick. And an enjoyable kick.

It was my first step to developing my love for coffee. But there was something more than just the kick. I wasn't addicted to coffee.

I was addicted to the lifestyle, to the companionship that I got when I was enjoying my coffee. You see, I never drank coffee alone. It was always with someone.

Before it was with my friend, now it's with my wife. My gut is happy with coffee and everything that coffee brings together. The experience is worth it. 

Restaurants/Food: Good food. It's something I was spoiled with my whole life. I never appreciated it.

My dad was a chef at a Thai restaurant when we first moved to Canada. So I was blessed with delicious food every day. But being a child I didn't know how good I had it. 

When I left home and my dad's cooking, things changed. Instead of eating almost every day at home, I started to get the urge to go out for dinner more. The diverse tastes that eating out gives you is something special.

But it's more than that. Going to special restaurants with fancy meals and tasting menus opened my eyes to what's possible.

Money can buy a lot of different things, but an experience is usually on the top of my list because experience changes the way you look at life.

Experiences don't add baggage to your life, but instead, open new pathways. That's the power of a good food experience. Not every food experience will do that for you, but trying restaurants to find it is worth it.  

Tennis: I grew up playing golf. My parents are golf addicts and the only way they could play golf with two kids was to get my brother and me to play as well.

I loved golf for over 15 years of my life. But golf is a lonely sport. You play with people, but in the end, you are always playing against yourself.

After high school, I started hanging out with a few friends who all seemed to play tennis. I hadn't played tennis for over 10 years at this point, but I figured it couldn't be so hard.

I fell in love with the game. I even went to the courts early in the morning to practice my serve, by myself, for hours just to get better.

But I now realize it wasn't the game I fell in love with, it was the camaraderie. I loved playing with my friends. It was what I looked forward to every week. I will spend money on tennis balls, paying to play during the winter, new strings, racquets, and overgrip to make sure I can play tennis because I never want to lose the feeling it gives me. And when I go back to Vancouver, I want to play with them again.

Experience Is At The Top Of My List

Ultimately all these things on my intentional spending list are representative of the things I value the most, my friends and family. I will spend on things that bring me closer to them and let me share experiences with them. I think they are worth it in my heart, my gut, and in the core of my mind.

Take that first step.

Discover what really makes you tick.

What is worth your money and time in your life.

Look at each thing you spent money on this week.

Take this seriously and you will be rewarded with a new perspective.

I know I learned something new about myself just writing about each of the things on my list. I realized I value experience over things.

What do you value?

Is this exercise worth it?


Save Money Retire Early is written by Jon Lo, a barely 30 something change optimist, and personal finance guy. I believe anyone can be rich or poor, it's what you save that makes the difference.

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