The Frugal Life

June 10, 2006

This is a fascinating post about a woman who simplified her life: My Frugal Life
A couple changes she made:

  1. Move from a 3,000 sq ft house to a 1,200 sq ft house
  2. Sell everything that didn't fit into the new house
  3. Cook at home instead of going out to eat
  4. Have only 2 pairs of jeans
  5. Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions (use the internet instead)
  6. Make coffee at home instead of going to coffee shops
  7. Put daily change and dollar bills into savings instead of carrying them around
  8. Deposit salary directly into savings… transfer out what you need to spend
  9. Sell your car (they went from 2 to 1, so some people can also go from 1 to 0)
  10. Participate in free events in your city instead of expensive ones
  11. Have only 1 credit card, and keep the montly balance at $0
  12. Use the internet to find new ways to live more frugally

I like pretty much all of these changes. I went through a pretty similar frugalization period when I was quitting my corporate job and looking to start my own business. One fear of simplifying your life is that it will become more boring. Eating out, going to shows, etc, these are fun things! Well, I would suggest that you keep the activities that you truly enjoy, but be aggressive about removing activities that you merely feel compelled to do: like going to the opera, or watching the latest lame blockbuster movie. Also, try things out even if you think you might not like them. Getting rid of a car is difficult because it's easy to remember times when having a car came in really handy. But this logic is a bit of a confirmation bias in the sense that you might have found an equally handy alternative to the car if it hadn't been there. Walking more is an easy way to improve any life. So is simply doing fewer errands, and finding places that are closer to your house to do them. People take long trips to giant stores largely because they can… even though smaller and nearer stores may have the things they're looking for. Purchasing things on the internet also saves a lot of time. Constraints lead to creativity and efficient new solutions to old problems.

This article is definitely worth a read.

My Frugal Life [via Lifehacker]

We all have a complex set of beliefs about money which in turn dictate how we deal with money and what we expect from money.  At the same time that we realize that almost everyone has different beliefs about money, none of us really examine and consciously choose our own beliefs about money.  Beliefs about money are self-fulfilling, and our own relationship with money will be determined largely by our beliefs about it.

Ask yourself some of these questions about money to find out what you are telling yourself about money:

  • Do you believe more money will make you happier?
  • Do you spend money as soon as you get it?
  • Do you have enough money?
  • Where does money come from?
  • Does making money require hard work?
  • Does money corrupt?
  • What can money buy?
  • Is there a shortage of money in the world?
  • Do you want to be rich?
  • Do you deserve to be rich?
  • How much money does it take to be rich? 

It's interesting to think about these questions because they expose so much about our outlook on life.  Money is a unit of the universe that's almost on par with space and time.  So many people feel like they don't have enough money, enough time, or enough space to live and feel free.  But at the same time,  people will consciously answer that they don't really think money will make them ultimately happier.  So where is the tipping point where you have enough money, and you are as happy as you'll ever be even if you make more, or win a lottery, or dig up lost treasure?  Think really hard about it and come up with an exact figure.  Fill in this blank:

I would be rich in money, and derive as much possible happiness from money, if I had $_______.

Then, ask yourself this question:

Do I deserve to have $X (the amount from the blank above), and have what it takes to get it?

If you answered "no" to the second question, you are self-sabotaging yourself.  You are setting up a goal for an ideal setup and then simultaneously cutting yourself off from realizing it.  This is a very dangerous and harmful mindset to live with, because even if opportunities for this money came about, you would subconsciously talk yourself out of them because you don't believe you deserve to have it.  I would suggest that you either lower the amount of money that you think you deserve until you feel like it's something you truly deserve, or better yet, ask yourself why you don't think you have what it takes to reach your financial goals.  Many beliefs about money are centered around the assumption that there's not enough money for everyone.  Why not?  What beliefs about the universe and yourself are leading to this belief? 

What other beliefs are possible?

Is it possible to believe that there's enough money for everyone?  That money is not directly related to greed, corruption, and evil?  What do these beliefs mean to you, and are they worth trying to adopt?  If not, why?

Each of our physical possessions has room not only in our homes or offices, but also in our brains.  Each couch, car, and book is something you have to manage, much in the same way that people managers have to care for the needs of their direct reports.  A couch might need a cleaning, or it might need to be moved, or it might need a replacement.  These unfinished tasks are open loops in our brains that will continue to surface in our working memory until they are completed or dropped.  We all know the relief we feel when we sell that car that has been a burden for years.  It is the pleasurable quiet resulting from all the whispering open loops finally shutting up.  The whispering open loops are actually quite a burden on our mental clarity and our daily ability to focus. 

Take a look around your office or home today and ask random objects, “What are you whispering to me?”  You may be surprised at how many things are whispering to you to be read, put away, given away, replaced, or otherwise attended to.The quickest and easiest way to stop the whispering is to get rid of stuff.  Now that summer is coming, why not have a garage sale, or take a few trips to Goodwill to give away a bunch of stuff that you really don’t need.Most people identify themselves as either purgers or collectors.  Get rid of that identity for yourself.  To simplify yourself to that extent is to do yourself a disservice.  Instead of deciding when to keep something and when to get rid of something, simply ask one of the following questions (depending on the amount of whispering you’re willing to take from your possessions):

  1. What future project of mine is this attached to?  Am I really dedicated to completing that future project?
  2. What if I didn’t get this?  Or didn't have this?
  3. Which part of my ideal scene for myself does this possession satisfy?
  4. If I had this, and I lost it in a fire, would I get it again?

What are your weak spots with possessions?  Do you abhor people who collect needleess camping equipment but find that you enjoy collecting kitchen appliances?  Do you pride yourself on your book, music, or DVD collections?  Find the possessions you enjoy having the most and listen to the tasks that they’re giving you… throw a party for this movie, read this book, get a bigger bookshelf for us, etc.  What if you didn’t have them, what would change?  What if your house burned down… which of these lovely things would you buy again?  How will these possessions play into your ideal scene of the next couple years?

Instead of having all of these things, think about outsourcing them.  Use the library for books, listen to the radio or convert all of your music to mp3s, and use Netflix and other rental outlets for DVDs. Let them handle the whispering, and with your new clarity of mind, know that if you ever do get around to that project, these things will be available at that time.  But maybe you'll find that the project isn't even that important anymore once the  whispering is gone.