How To Not Get “Bougie” Too Soon

Are you familiar with the slang term “bougie”? pronounced like boujie. It is tossed around when someone is doing something or buying something that is perceived as fancy. As we enter the 10th year of a good economy and economic expansion I seem to see a lot of bouginess around. Fancy cars, fancy clothes, meals out, etc. The historical roots of this modern day slang word are interesting. Derived from the French word “Bourgeoisie”. Madonna used the word in one of her famous songs. The word was originally used to describe a social class in Europe. Essentially upper middle class people that were focused on materialism and upholding the capitalist order. This class was despised by the communists. In the modern world a key aspect of achieving FIRE is to try and postpone “bougieness”. This is because being bougie is essentially expensive and diverts precious resources away from investments. It can also be a dangerous way to live for your finances. Most of these luxury things like clothes, meals out, drinks, fancy vacations, etc.

Middle class pain

I believe the middle class is struggling despite an awesome economy for a decade. The cost of housing, education and healthcare have skyrocketed over the last decade and this is eating into the American dream and FIRE plans. I do not see any sign of this slowing. Housing is not getting more affordable in desirable cities. Healthcare cost continue to vex our country with no end in sight to the political chaos and confusion. Hopefully education costs can come down over time as we move to more online training and virtual classrooms.

Savor simple stuff

One strategy that a person can use to resist the bougie lifestyle is to remember how lucky we are. We already have material riches beyond our ancestors wildest dreams.

Selected bougie items

Another trick to controlling and eliminating bouginess is assessing your priorities. We must choose luxuries wisely on the path to building wealth. Some famous business people are notorious for living extremely spartan lifestyles as they focused on building their businesses. From Marc Cuban to Elon Musk, these guys ate a lot of 25 cent ramen as they focused on building wealth. Most of us will not become tech billionaires, but we can learn from their example and apply it to our situations. Even as one has more modest goals of say building a million dollar investment portfolio, every dollar not spent on a frivolous luxury can be funneled into assets. Perhaps getting a massage or manicure every once in a while is very important to you. That is fine, just try and find other areas where you can save and cut back. Perhaps that means driving that nice simple used Honda Accord another 5 years before buying a new one? Perhaps that means no fancy coffee drinks when out because you prioritize massages over expensive coffee.

keep perspective

An interesting thing about human nature is our perspectives. We become accustomed very quickly to “fancy” things. We adapt all too quickly to fancy stuff when we have a taste. It’s like the Seinfeld episode about flying first class, once you do it once you can never go back. The multi millionaire founder of Vanguard, Jack Bogle, never flew first class and preferred to wear a sweater in his house vice run the HVAC. He could easily afford both, but chose not to. The main point here is to keep things in perspective. Those of us living a solid middle class have it pretty darn good from a historical perspective. Keep this in mind as you grow wealth and savor the finer things in life. Remember the simpler things and many free things are even more valuable to you. Love, a smile on your child’s face, making something, reading a good book, being present for someone else. These are the true “luxuries” of life, don’t let anyone trick you otherwise on your path to FIRE.    

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