Finding joy in the simple things in life sets you free and boosts your bank account

You don’t have to buy an expensive car, take expensive holidays or go to fancy restaurants to be happy

Having a board game or movie night with friends and family is a free alternative to more expensive social excursions. Photo: Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Anish was one of my casual friends in Dubai. He loved his car, a sleek silver Audi A7 with chic leather interiors and a sound system that could be heard down the block. I was a bit jealous as I’ve always enjoyed the look of Audis and could picture myself driving around in it.

I could have easily afforded the monthly car loan instalments, which were more than what I paid for my Nissan Juke. But I quickly changed my mind after Anish told me that he paid Dh36,000 the previous year on maintenance and repairs.

Suddenly, his car was no longer attractive and I was happy with my used Nissan and the Dh3,600 I paid in regular service fees – plus my car had never broken down.

By choosing to be frugal with my choice of car, I saved myself a lot of money and headaches with the cost of service repairs. I was still able to own a car and have the convenience of driving wherever I needed to go.

Instead of paying Dh36,000 every year on repairs, I got away with a 10th of that for probably eight in 10 of the benefits of having a fancy car.

My frugality didn’t make my life worse – in fact, it made my life simpler.

Most people have heard of the term Fomo (fear of missing out); criticism levelled against frugality is often based on this idea. After all, you might not buy something or go on a trip because you don’t want to spend the money, but there are people who will do just that to potentially have a richer life.

I experienced Fomo when I saw my friend pull up in his shiny car. But when I realised how much it cost, beyond the loan payments, I felt the opposite of Fomo: Jomo (joy of missing out).

We can derive a great deal of joy in our lives by having and doing less. We call this idea different things these days, such as minimalism, simplicity or plain laziness.

We can derive a great deal of joy in our lives by having and doing less

Not going to a club where you would spend a lot of money and have to shout above music just to be heard is a great example of how joyous it can be to not do something.

Reading a book or having a board game or movie night with friends and family are free alternatives to more expensive excursions. It can be great to have pets but if you don’t get one, you have a lot more free time and money as well. The same can be said about children, too.

I do not own a car now. I either walk, bike, take the metro or call a taxi if I need to get somewhere. I’m saving about Dh2,000 per month this way and experience Jomo far more than Fomo.

I don’t have to deal with parking, oil changes, petrol expenses, possible accidents, insurance, repairs and other stuff that complicate your life and eat into your savings. I’ll let the taxi company deal with it.

When another friend said he spent half his pay cheque on his social life, I felt Jomo. All these and many other experiences have made me very happy to be frugal.

Frugality doesn’t have to be scary. It can be freeing.

Schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher