The act of unicycling provides a useful metaphor on the best ways to save money.
For most people, a unicycle has no real value besides being part of an entertaining circus act or street performance. But actually, the act of unicycling provides a practical metaphor about saving money for early retirement, and holds lessons for us all.
(My personal experience with unicycles dates back over 10 years, when I bought my husband a unicycle for his Christmas present, much to his dismay. Since learning how to ride it, both he and I have both come to love the unicycle).
So here’s five tips that unicycling can teach you about saving money:
1. It can be uncomfortable, but you’ll look cool.
There’s no two ways about it – riding a unicycle is mostly uncomfortable, especially for men. With no place to rest your hands, your body is perched on a narrow seat, with a lot of pressure placed on your private parts (ouch!).
Being an extreme saver can likewise be uncomfortable at times. Sometimes it means not eating out when your friends are, or skipping simple luxuries like going to the movies for a night out. Or even choosing not to book that Jetstar sale flight to Bali, even though you’d love to.
But unicycling does give you an air of coolness, which you’ll also gain once you’ve retired early and are living a joyous, free life while all your friends are still working their 9 to 5 jobs.
2. It seems hard, but it’s really not.
If you’ve never ridden a unicycle, you might think it seems like the hardest thing in the world. How can you balance when it’s missing a second wheel? Easily. And won’t it really hurt when you fall? Surprisingly, no.
Learning to ride a unicycle is just like learning to drive a car – once you know the technique (e.g. look straight ahead, weight through the quads, etc) and do focused practice, you’ll pick up the skill in no time.
It’s the same with learning how to diligently save money. Firstly, find some techniques to follow – choose a certain percentage of money to save from your salary each week, set a budget, and commit to living cheaply. Then apply them and find a way to keep yourself accountable – track your expenses and involve your partner or friends. Soon enough, you’ll be saving money like a whiz.
3. Look where you want to go, not at the ground in front of you.
A trick when riding a unicycle is to look ahead to the place you want to go. If you look at the ground – a common thing to do when first learning – then you’ll lose your balance and pretty soon end up on the ground yourself. Besides the possibility that you’ll hurt yourself, it’s really not a good look.
It’s no different when saving money, especially if you want to save a large amount for early retirement. If you keep the end goal in mind, then the short-term sacrifices you make – like not buying your coffee out or waiting another year to replace your phone – will seem easier to bear.
4. Being quirky has its advantages.
How many people do you know that own a unicycle? Very few. That’s because it’s quirky and different, and most people don’t like being quirky and different.
A few years, my husband would sometimes ride his unicycle from Circular Quay in Sydney, up George Street and across the Anzac Bridge to his work in Glebe. Many times, foreign tourists would take pictures of him as he rode by – he was a rare sight to behold.
But being different and going against the grain has its advantages, especially when it comes to saving money. If you live frugally, just like the billionaire Warren Buffett does, then you won’t waste money on things you don’t need and won’t clutter up your house, or subsequently your mind. If you save hard now, then within a number of years, working will become optional – a rare and brilliant choice to have.
5. Great rewards come from challenging yourself.
Being able to ride a unicycle – which, when you’re first learning, seems terrifying and life-threatening – is incredibly satisfying. It’s take dedication and commitment to master, but once you do, nothing else seems that impossible.
It’s like saving money – you might think, could I really live on just 30 percent, or even less, of my salary? Sure you can, once you accept that some of your ‘must have’ items are really just ‘nice to haves’.
For example, try limiting your work wardrobe to only five outfits, or try couchsurfing to save on hotel accommodation when travelling, or try always buying the fruit and vegetables that are on sale.
Or try out just starting to save an extra one percent of your salary each month as Paula Pant of Afford Anything recommends. These behaviours might seem challenging at first but, once adopted, they could save you a whole lot of cash.
To some people, a unicycle might seem like a useless bike that’s missing the front wheel. But look beyond the façade, and you’ll see a practical metaphor for tips on maximising your savings, which will get you that much closer to retiring early.
What else has unicycling taught you about saving money?