Back in my college days, my friends and I made a point of getting together for a round of golf every week or two during our summer breaks. None of us were particularly well-off back then, so there was never any disagreement about when or where we’d play.
The cheapest rates in town were at our local municipal course. So that’s where we’d go. We’d play 18 holes at the Twilight Rate.
Let me tell you a little bit about that Twilight Rate.
Most golf courses use “dynamic pricing strategy” for tee times, because they know people will pay a premium to golf during certain times of the year and at certain times of the day when weather conditions are ideal. As you might imagine, greens fees typically bottom out during times when it’s most difficult to lure golfers onto the course.
In Arizona, that time was roughly 2 PM every summer day when it was 110 degrees and the only people who would willingly spend four or five hours getting cooked by the sun were whackos and nearly-broke college kids. So of course, we were all about that Twilight Rate.
(Strange how they called it a Twilight Rate. The only twilight-ish thing about it was the sunset golfers would observe at the end of the round if they managed to survive the sweltering conditions.)
And to save a little more, we walked. That’s right, no golf cart. No way we were paying an extra $10 for a cart. That was almost as much as we paid just to play 18.
So that’s how it went. We walked all 18 holes, lugging around our golf clubs and a gallon of water in triple degree temperatures. Looking back on it, I kind of wonder if we were crazy.
But here’s my point: we were comfortable being uncomfortable.
We made a deliberate decision not to pay extra for a cart or an early AM tee time. Sure, money was tight, but we could’ve coughed up a little extra to have those luxuries if we really wanted them.
But we didn’t.
None of us wanted to pay extra for those luxuries. We preferred to use those savings for a post-round burrito. (And if we were the losing pair, burritos for the other tandem too!)
Paying the Premium for Comfort
Take airlines for example. They’ve mastered the art of the upcharge. They know there are people who will pay a little extra to avoid being uncomfortable.
For a small fee you can reserve your seat. For a little more you can board the plane before everyone else. And if you can’t decide what to pack, that’s okay; an extra suitcase won’t cost that much more.
The problem is that those extra comforts can add up quickly. Now, double them for a roundtrip ticket, and before you know it you’ve paid a couple hundred dollars.
Now, I’m not saying people should be ashamed if they pay for those extra comforts. We all have certain luxuries that we’re willing to pay more to enjoy. And that’s okay. What’s the point of working so hard if we can’t have what we want every now and then?
But here’s the thing: most of us are in a position where we can afford certain comforts. Few of us are in a position where we can afford all the comforts. If we get too caught up in being comfortable in every aspect of our lives, we could be welcoming financial challenges with open arms.
The Long-Term Impact of Luxury
In my mind, there are two major ways that opting for total comfort can negatively impact your finances.
1. It’ll cost you.
There’s no way around it; every additional comfort increases your cost of living. And the only way to sustain that comfortable lifestyle is to earn more money. In my opinion, by choosing optimal comfort in every situation, we are making a tacit statement that our immediate comfort is more important than our long-term financial security.
Maybe you’re thinking, “That shouldn’t be a problem. If it ever gets to be too much, I’ll start cutting back.” That’s definitely an option. But it’s far easier said than done. Here’s why…
2. It’s tough to go back.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t even imagine life without [insert ubiquitous doodad, thingamabob, or whatchamacallit here]”?
I hear it all the time. It’s the perfect example of how people grow accustomed to a lifestyle filled with certain comforts.
Once you adopt a certain level of comfort, you’re setting a new baseline that will impact the way you live for the rest of your life.
A Case Study
By playing during peak hours and skipping the cart fees, we probably saved $10-20 every round. I’ll spare you the invest the savings lecture and compound interest calculations and just tell you that the potential impact on my finances was significant.
Over the next few years, my friends and I started making more money but we still treated our golf outings the same way. Walking the course in scorching temperatures wasn’t ideal, but we had trained ourselves to be comfortable even in that highly uncomfortable environment.
In fact, it wasn’t until a few years later when we finally had some real responsibilities in our lives (grown-up jobs, girlfriends, etc.) that we realized that the extra time on the golf course was better spent elsewhere. At that point, we started paying extra for a cart (we still endured the triple digit temperatures though).
The point is, we made the change as a matter of economy, not comfort.
I should also mention, that since I started using a golf cart for every round, I’ve grown accustomed to the luxury. Now I can’t fathom going back to walking the course, even in the best weather conditions. I’ve become so spoiled that walking 4-6 miles during a four-hour round of golf is practically unthinkable.
Like I said earlier, once we raise our standards it’s difficult to accept anything less.
It’s Okay to Be Comfy
Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that everyone live in a constant state of misery. And I’m not proposing that we’re all uncomfortable just for the sake of it.
It’s not about cheapness, or proving how tough we are, or earning bragging rights. It isn’t a competition.
It’s about being deliberate and thoughtful about where and how we spend our money.
It’s okay to want to be comfortable. And it’s okay to pay a little extra for it. I’ll be the first to admit that there are certain comforts I won’t forego at this point of my life. And I’m sure that I’ll add plenty more to the mix as time goes on and I become more particular.
But to achieve financial success, it’s important that we learn to accept a little bit of discomfort.
Why Should You Learn to Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable?
Still not convinced? Here are my top three reasons for accepting some level of discomfort in your life.
1. There’s Money to Be Made or Saved
You already know this, but it bears repeating: if you can’t accept anything less than maximum comfort, then achieving financial security will not be easy. Whether you’re living in a fancy apartment, cranking up the A/C, or paying a premium for some other luxury, you’ve effectively increased your cost of living. Learning to live without certain comforts can go a long way in accelerating your journey toward financial freedom.
2. Find Happiness in Pushing Your Boundaries
When we push ourselves, we can transform our lives and discover that the things we thought we needed aren’t really that important.
Years ago, when my brother and I lived together, we went an entire winter without turning on the heat. It wasn’t a matter of being cheap; it was more of a personal challenge. We were curious how cold the house could get and we wondered if we could handle it. Well, it got pretty cold – so cold we could see our breathes. But we also realized that it wasn’t that tough to stay warm and we quickly adapted to the cold conditions.
While it isn’t something I’d choose to do again, I think we both enjoyed testing our limits and discovered that we could be happy even in less than optimal living conditions.
3. You’ll Appreciate What You Have
You’ll really start to appreciate the comforts you have when you know what it’s like to live without them. Cruising around the golf course on a cart is a real treat now. But I probably wouldn’t look at it that way if I hadn’t spent those summers carrying my clubs around in the heat. And I appreciate coming home to a warm home after a winter of waking up to 43 degree temperatures indoors. On top of that, I know that I can survive (and still be happy) without those comforts if it came down to it.
A Few Final Thoughts
Lifestyle inflation is a real financial killer. One of the ways lifestyle inflation creeps up on us is through gradually elevating our standard of living. Once we grow accustomed to certain luxuries, it becomes really difficult to live without them.
Take a second and think about your current standard of living and how it’s evolved over time. What parts of your life you are paying a premium for comfort? Are there parts of your life where you could accept less than complete comfort? Let us know in the comments below!