HomeMoneyResponse: How Long You Have to Act Poor Until You're Rich

Response: How Long You Have to Act Poor Until You’re Rich

Ryan from Planting Dollars asked a great question a few weeks ago: How Long Do I Have to Act Poor Until Im Rich? Then, last week, Free Money Finance wrote about balancing enjoying your money now versus later.

I think I can answer this question well because after living like a college student for four years in college, I decided I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to continue that type of lifestyle for another year (read: I wanted to save money).

I got a cheap apartment with 3 roommates, a room without a window, and ridiculous furnishings from the owner, including a 50lb deer from Indonesia (don’t ask me why he has it to begin with).

Not exactly the stylish working-man lifestyle I envisioned. But saving money is great.

So at what point does that stop? Is there a number I reach at which point I say, “Now I’m rich, time to start spending significantly more. I want nice things, always and I refuse to settle.”

Eh…not exactly.

It’s definitely a gradual process. In college, I barely spent a thing. I ate pasta 5 times a week and I was very conscious of spending too much on going out. Then, I started to make money and I eased up a bit.

Pasta 4 times a week and I had a weekly happy hour.

As my bank account started to grow, I started to ease up even more.

Now, I’ve decided to move out of my room and into a new apartment, one with air conditioning, natural light, and a closet. Pretty sweet, right?

It’s costing me an additional $225, but I think it’s definitely worth it.

Do I consider myself rich? Hell no, I still have $20,000 in student loans to pay off. Just because I have a positive net worth doesn’t mean I’m in a position to start throwing around big bills.

But I deserve a certain level of comfort and as I save up a larger emergency fund and as I pay off more of my debt, I will gradually be willing to spend a litle bit more.

To answer Ryan’s question, I’ll give you the million dollar answer: It depends.

For some people, they prefer to live like a pauper for many years. Then, when they have enough money, it’s become a way of life.

For others, they get tired of modest living and rack up debt, spending years to get back to where they once were.

For the smart few, they build wealth while they increase they quality of life.

There is no switch to hit. There is no magic number. But careful planning and cutting back on the things that aren’t important to you and focusing on the ones that are will make you feel rich. My window makes me feel like a million bucks.



  1. That old saying, “everything in moderation”, really sums this article up. I think once a person begins making more money, lifestyle creep happens. However, if you’re still saving a good portion of your income, paying off your student loans, and enjoying the benefits of sunlight, I think you can splurge on the extra amount each month. Lifestyle creep is only a problem when a person forgets to save money and begins living off of credit!

  2. I probably shouldn’t even comment since I totally agree with the post and Jennifer’s comment. In sum, whatever lifestyle choices you make, let it be mindful. Choose what is most important to you, and if you can afford it while still saving, paying off debt etc., great, go for it. If not, DELAY GRATIFICATION until you have the money. Daniel, the key point you made cannot be underestimated-really enjoy and appreciate what you have. In the USA, even the poorest of us live better than most of the rest of the world.

    • @Barb Friedberg, Are you kidding? If you didn’t comment, I would think you were indifferent, so thank you! Now I know it was a good post!

  3. Love it! The thing I love most about “living like a college student” is all the funky furniture and other items you can collect while “living poor” it makes moving into your new place easier, plus refurbishing old stuff is fun and cheap. Plus you have great stories like a 50 pound deer!

    • @Jenna, Yesterday, I installed a wall with my roommate. $100 including a saw. It’s by no means sturdy or impressive, but it gets the job done and saves us $600 compared to what friends have done.

      The dear is gone but the spirit lives on!

  4. I think you are spot on. It’s all about living below your means and finding a spending/savings balance that works for you. We didn’t upgrade apartments until our income nearly doubled. We didn’t buy a house until we knew we could pay the mortgage on one salary alone. Planned lifestyle inflation and priorities have been the key for us.

  5. I hear you on that one. I lived like a college student for 4 years as well. Whne I graduated and got a real job, I was still living like a college student! I have since eased up quite a bit like you, but I still live very frugally. I applaud your choices and I think this line is great: “My window makes me feel like a million bucks”. CLASSIC personal finance blogger mentality! haha

  6. What “living like a college student” means for one will be completely different for others.

    When I hear people describe their college furniture as Ikea, or Crate and Barrel, then I know they are living on other people’s money, or borrowing too much money for college. They will struggle to maintain that lifestyle without staying in debt.

    When your college furniture is hand-me down or picked up at Goodwill, then I know you have a chance to succeed with money!!!

    • @Dr Dean, depends on how much you have saved up for college. And I don’t think there is a problem with your parents helping you out when you’re still in college.

    • @Financial Samurai, HA! Next year I’m planning on getting an indoor pool. Just another few grand, but I’ll get so much exercise, it’s definitely worth it!

  7. I think I alluded to it my post on “lifestyle inflation” too =)

    Good on you for saving up your money for so long!

    It’s so easy I think to go into instant gratification mode, especially when your friends and peers are succumbing to instant gratification… but like they say, the tortoise wins the race, right? (Tortoise meaning slowed accumulation of material goods compared to the hare who buys everything topnotch in sight).


    Great post!

  8. Thats a great post. I moved out of the teeny college apt and into something slightly larger with a few windows (that didnt freeze on the inside) after I graduated. It’s still cheap, but I feel like i’m living in a mansion now!

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