Last night my wife and I watched a fantastic documentary called “The Biggest Little Farm“. The film chronicles the 8 year journey of John and Molly Chester from small LA city apartment to 200 acres of biodiverse farm. They have a dream of coexisting with nature and “traditional” farming, where over time they transform a barren landscape into a lush paradise. The cinematography is beautiful and their story is hopeful, often emotional, and inspiring.
I don’t suddenly want to become a farmer, but The Biggest Little Farm got me thinking about what constitutes sustainability, purpose and a good life.
It’s estimated that ~78% of workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Scary, but not surprising. People from all walks of life are scraping by and struggling through life – regardless of gender, education or income levels.
49% of all employees say they find it difficult to meet household expense on time each month
Only 31% would be able to meet their basic expenses if they were out of work for an extended period of time
59% consistently carry balances on their credit cards, with 37% finding it difficult to make their minimum payments each month
35% of Millennials and 30% of Gen X employees are using their credit cards to pay for monthly necessities which they could otherwise not afford
Most worryingly of all is that 45% of people surveyed have less than $1,000 saved for unexpected expense. Unfortunately this situation is worse for women, with 51% not having this relatively small amount of money put aside vs. 38% of men.
The situation is dire and getting worse. It’s time to do something about it, because living paycheck-to-paycheck is a disaster not only for your immediate finances but also your general wellbeing, happiness and future living standards.
I’m a regular listener of the Choose FI podcast and a question they ask their guests each week is “What is your biggest financial mistake?”. This got me reflecting on my own life and, guess what – I’ve made quite a few!
I didn’t think we were “bad with money’, because we have always had a pretty good grip on the small stuff like managing day to day budgeting, avoiding credit card debt and saving regularly.
However we have made some pretty stupid decisions regarding the bigger material expenses. Needless to say these have been more impactful and damaging to our finances than, say, buying lunch at work each day.
I’ve read and listened to an enormous amount of material on personal finance and the FIRE movement over the past 12 months. As a result, I now have new role models, frames of reference, case studies and solid advice highlighting a better, more sustainable way forward.
Of cours,e it is easy in hindsight to say I would have done things differently. Instead of beating myself up about all the things we did “wrong”, I’m instead celebrating that I’m now more informed. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t make some of the same decisions. Hopefully sharing my big errors helps you avoid similar mistakes.
To my surprise, the applicability of lessons outlined in Essentialism extended far beyond the work context and time management strategies. At its core, this is a book about focusing on what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so you can concentrate on the things that really matter. For me, the book reaffirmed my belief that a simple life can be fulfilling, productive and meaningful.
We are about to head off on an overseas trip tomorrow, so I thought I’d share some tips and thoughts about travel photography.
Travel provides the opportunity to experience new cultures, explore new locations and create amazing memories. Photography lets me capture some of those moments and preserve them for posterity.
My family tends to travel fairly lightly and we avoid buying souvenirs, so our travel photos are precious and important to us. Travel is transient but the experience can last a life time. Our travel photos help us recall those special times and inspire us to create more.
Below are some things to consider to prepare for and enjoy travel photography.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a simple life, but for me it is about uncomplicated, sustainable living. A life of happiness and intention which isn’t ruled by possessions or the expectations of others. Living a simple life is about having the time, energy, health and resources to focus on things, topics and people that matter. It’s about doing and having less, while gaining and giving more. It’s about choice, control and contentment, rather than reacting to societal pressures, norms and rampant consumerism. It’s about finding real happiness and a high quality of life.
“There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with than living: there is nothing harder to learn”
Being clear about the life you want to lead is important. Below are ways I’m working towards that simple life:
I’ve posted previously about our liberating decision to start living with fewer possessions (The benefits of subtraction – the freedom and happiness gains of owning less). This has involved not only buying less, but also reducing the number of number of things we have in the house. Letting go of stuff is a process. Even when we are are ready emotionally to let things go, deciding what to do with the stuff is important.
What we’ve discovered in the process of decluttering and selling over 100 items in the last six months (in addition to everything we have donated or thrown away), is that the old adage “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure” is true. We have managed to generate almost $7,000 in cash by selling unused and unwanted items including sporting equipment, comics, books, kids toys and some furniture. Old LEGO has been especially popular.
This wasn’t an emergency cash grab, but rather an intentional process of donating, selling and discarding superfluous stuff. Less physical clutter, creates more mental space and gratitude for the things we keep and value.
I’m an aspiring frugal minimalist, working towards Financial Independence. Given that, saving should be second nature and easy for me, right? Well normally we are are pretty good and put money away like clockwork, but this week was a reality check as my monthly budget went up in flames. The budget collapse wasn’t due to any unforeseen disaster, medical emergency, or car problems. I simply overspent and purchased what could be classified as an unnecessary, luxury item.
So what went wrong and how do I avoid overspending in the future?
Have you ever felt a bit aimless, unmotivated or wondering what your purpose was in life? Maybe, like me, you’re working in a job that can sometimes feel a bit pointless and meaningless. Are you looking for something bigger than yourself or trying to forge a life that truly matters?
Do you ever have the feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions, overworked and stressed, never have enough time or are constantly worrying about money? Me too.
Somewhat paradoxically “less” may be the secret to getting back control over your life. Focusing on the essentials, being more selective about what we do, minimizing the stuff we strive to obtain and consume, spending time with the people that matter. Living a life with less allows us to focus on what really matters. Cutting out the crap, the unnecessary and the toxic, is key to making this philosophy work.