Since deciding to own less, I’ve experienced countless benefits: more time, more money, more freedom, more energy, less stress, and less distraction.
Owning less provides me the opportunity to pursue my greatest passions. It’s great. And I’ll never go back to my previous lifestyle.
But along the way, I discovered something even better than owning less: Wanting less.
Abandon Guilt, Embrace Your Truth
While there’s certainly merit in learning from others and sharing our stories, I find that blatant comparison almost always yields frustration or guilt. We only have incomplete understandings of other people’s lives and trying to model our choices off of theirs is naturally flawed.
Hiding her face in shame: not very productive, Frugal Hound
In many ways, I think our culture doesn’t encourage the value of charting one’s own unique path. Although rugged individualism is a tenet of our American ethos, it seems to play out quite rarely. Far too often, we’re all shuttled into the same boxes of expectation and taught to desire the same things (usually material goods) and achieve them in the same way (usually working jobs we may or may not like for our entire lives).
#1: You Can Afford Anything. You Just Can’t Afford Everything.
Don’t tell me your values. Show me how you spend your money, and I’ll know what you value.
Don’t tell me, for example, that you “can’t afford” to travel the globe or invest for retirement if you’re simultaneously buying nice clothes and hitting the bars.
There’s nothing wrong with clothes and bars if it’s a deliberate, conscious choice, and you’re cool with the trade-offs. But don’t claim that bigger goals are out-of-reach. You’re the master of the bills that escape your wallet. Spend with your eyes open.
Don’t utter, “I can’t afford it,” without asking yourself: “How did I afford a decent car, restaurant dining and an iPad?”
Number 6: Stick close to home.
This one is debated a lot. Some of the very best deals these days are in cities like Detroit. However, if you live in Oklahoma, trying to buy right and manage a rental property in a city far away is probably not the right path. Later maybe, but not for your first.
You want to invest if possible in your city so that you can drive by your investment a couple of times a month just to see how the exterior looks. It’s also kind of nice to see your investment sitting there, unlike shares of stock sitting in your broker’s safe or on a computer somewhere. You also can check out repairs and major issues and shop for the best service to correct problems. Then you can check quality before paying the bill.
Such a life is not just the quaint habit of a few lucky rich people in a friendly, safe neighborhood. It is the foundation of human civilization itself. We are meant to live in medium-sized groups, to walk between each other’s dwellings, and to collaborate and play freely with an abundance of unscheduled free time. When you start with these basic building blocks of a community, you automatically press your happiness buttons and suddenly start living a much happier, healthier life.
Lessons in Tribalism from my Summer Vacation
This summer, I had an unusually action-packed trip as I made my way through the cities of Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and surrounding spots in Canada to visit friends and family. With our own lifestyle so bright in my mind, it was fascinating to see how other people live.
Mutual fund types
Initially, mutual funds only invested in equities (stocks). Because the bond market is roughly twice the size of the stock market, it didn’t take long for mutual funds to start investing in bonds too. As time passed, the number of funds increased as they began to specialize in certain types of investments: foreign-country bonds, high-tech stocks, high-yield (junk) bonds, and so forth.
There are tens of thousands of securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) to choose from, but not all of them are equally successful. The staff of every mutual fund scours their universe for the best 30 or 40 investments which amateurs like you and I easily miss. The best fund managers become highly paid celebrities: Peter Lynch achieved international fame by building his Fidelity Magellan Fund into the largest mutual fund in America.
2. No bills. Before I woke up from the “American dream,” I owned a house and a car, both which came with lots of bills. With the hotel lifestyle, I pay no utilities, no property insurance, no property taxes, etc. I also don’t have any unexpected fees or risk of fines. Instead, virtually every expense I have is on one credit card. I researched and found the best credit card for my lifestyle: the American Express Blue Sky Preferred card. It pays double points for hotels and restaurants. If a restaurant or service provider does not accept American Express, I use my bank Visa. I set up alerts to keep an eye on things on my credit card and checking account balances, but other than that, my life finances are simple and automated.
But, what SIM card or company should you use before heading abroad.
First, if you have T-Mobile, there is free data and texting through their partner MoviStar. No LTE in the countryside where we are, but there is strong 3G-HSPA.
With WhatsApp and Hangouts over data, there isn’t a big need for actual phone calls, as they are $0.20 a minute.
If you have Verizon or AT&T you normally have to buy an extra plan to use your phone internationally.
However we are here for 6 weeks and want to be able to call the local friends as well without incurring International rates as not everyone has smartphones and/or WhatsApp, Skype, etc.
Simplifying Our Tasks
When we realize we’re trying to fit too much stuff (tasks, errands, obligations) into a small container (24 hours), it becomes obvious that we can’t get a bigger container … so we have to get rid of some stuff. It just won’t all fit.
We do that by simplifying what we have to do.
Mindfulness is a helpful too here: pay attention to all the things you do today and tomorrow, and try to notice all the things you’re fitting into the container of your day. What websites are you going to in the morning? In the evening? What games are you playing on your phone? What are you reading? What busy-work are you doing? How much time are you spending in email, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram? How much time on blogs, online shopping sites, Youtube? How much TV are you watching? How much time do you spend cleaning, maintaining your personal hygiene, taking care of other people? How much time driving around or commuting? What are you spending the valuable commodity of your attention on?
Our culture espouses continual consumption as the answer to all ills. But in reality, it only serves to chain us to the consumer carousel of endless buying. Conversely, if we allow ourselves to step outside of this buying-focused mindset, we can start to address the actual stuff of life. How are we fulfilled? Where are we happiest? When are we appeased?
For Mr. FW and me, achieving financial independence is about achieving the life we were meant to live, not the life we have to live. Through frugality, we all have the option to pursue a passion outside the norm and chart a non-traditional path that brings us internal satisfaction. When we remove ourselves from the “shoulds” of consumer culture, we open our minds to the possibilities of what we want to do with our lives, not what we want to buy.