Our Money Rules

This is an idea popularised by Ramit Sethi that we really liked. We decided to create our own. It’s a nice way to set rules based on intentionality. By discussing our personal money rules we are being intentional and really considering what is important to us. While these rules are more guidelines than anything, creating them is important in putting the “personal” in personal finance.

Other people will have different priorities – that’s ok with us! If you don’t agree or don’t see how our rules could ever be applicable to your own situation, we don’t blame you. They’re our rules. Make your own!

1. Money should never be a factor in deciding whether to have an appetiser or dessert.
This is similar to ordering a diet coke with a bacon double cheese burger, large fries and apple pie. If you can’t afford the calories of a coke, then you can’t afford the rest of the meal. We feel if you have to seriously consider the cost of starters or desserts you probably shouldn’t be in that particular restaurant. Also, life is too short to worry about this! This we stole from Ramit Sethi. We are disciplined enough to have the majority of our financial life on track, we’re not going to sweat a dessert now and then.

2. For any flight over about 6 hours, fly business.
This is especially true since Covid-19. If you’re going to wear a mask for hours on a flight, go through Covid testing when you land and possibly be sent to a quarantine hotel, it’s worth going business. Maybe some people love flying. We don’t. We’ll pay extra to make it that little bit less painful.

3. Health is worth the cost.
I’ve needed hospital care a few times over the years and I’ve paid to go private. It’s expensive, but I regret nothing. The private system is undoubtedly luxurious in comparison with competent but cold government care. Medical issues are stressful enough without having to navigate long wait times and uncomfortable facilities. Let me be clear, I am pro government-funded universal healthcare, but I also really appreciate having the financial option to go private for certain long term issues. We happily put money to this instead of investing or saving it if necessary.

4. Have an emergency fund in multiple countries.
We have emergency funds in our home country as well as the one we live in. We are able to access money in each country, and we are able to help family out quickly back home by transferring them money if we need to. Wherever you have assets or people you care about you should keep an emergency fund. We keep around 3 months of expenses across all locations, but the exact amount varies as our expenses would be different in each place. While we don’t hold a huge amount of cash (our ETFs are pretty liquid and we have access to credit if we have a big emergency), having instantly accessibly money in different places is something that helps us sleep a bit better at night being foreigners in a land that doesn’t always feel welcoming.

4. Don’t question prices on life-improving items.
For example, high quality, functional electronics we tend to pay whatever we have to in order to buy the best product for our situation. We do then tend to look after these things for years and only update when we have to. Our phones and computers commonly reach 6 years old or more before we replace them. But we don’t spend like this on everything. Most of our furniture is cheap from Ikea, our bed was free and many of our basic appliances are mid-range and have lasted years. We don’t tend to pay extra for appearance, but we do pay extra for functionality and reliability, especially if it’s something that we need to use often.

6. Save 50% of our income.
This is the amount that works for us right now. No matter where we moved to, we would always try to adapt to a lifestyle to replicate this as closely as possible. We aren’t judgemental of people who can’t do this (we couldn’t for most of our working life until this point), but once we realised we could save 50% or more, we did. We didn’t let our lifestyles inflate to put us past this point. While we wouldn’t be critical of people who just can’t save this much, we do see a lot of people on similar salaries to us who would claim they can’t save much of anything at all; they can. They just choose not to. So, once you’re on good money, we’d suggest people really reflect on what they need verses what they want.

7. Be disciplined about tracking spending.
We do this so that we have a really clear idea of how much we spend and what we spend it on. We didn’t start by budgeting and limiting ourselves. We began with tracking for at least 6 months. We think this is where everyone should begin as you may be surprised how off your estimates can be! This has been more productive than just setting an arbitrary amount for a budget based on what you think (or guess) you should be spending. Inevitably you’ll learn you spend more on some things than you imagined and more on others and get discouraged. Know thy self by tracking non-judgmentally first and then thinking about changes you might want to make.

8. Have a dividend day budget meeting and celebration.
It’s important to use to celebrate progress successes, as well as to have important discussions about what we want the future to look like. We celebrate every quarter with cake. We complete a template document which encourages us to reflect on what has gone well as well as what is coming up and what we want to achieve. We set goals for the next 3-12 months and we look at where we are in our overall journey. Some dividend days are more celebratory and fun, others are more serious and a time for decision making. Either way we make sure we do this every quarter.

9. Put time and effort into being a team.
While this isn’t obviously a money rule, when you see statistics about money being the No.1 cause of arguments and divorce it makes more sense. For us, it goes well with the dividend day celebrations. This is a specific time when we check in about how we are doing, what we are happy with and what we want to do differently. It helps us stay on the same page. Being a team is something we always strive for. Our long term aims rarely differ, but sometimes our short-term behaviours can be at odds and so we need to take the time to talk things through and reach a compromise. Rarely do we argue over money (if ever), because any small differences of opinion get worked out way before it gets to that point. If only we could be so harmoniously in accord in all aspects of our lives!