RE: Living Below Your Means (was: Re: The Pause that Refreshes)

From: James Rogers (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2000 - 12:49:27 MDT

On Mon, 05 Jun 2000, altamira wrote:
> I don't ever watch TV except sometimes I tune in Mexico DF stations to
> improve my use of the Spanish language (we have a satellite dish); don't
> listen to the radio much. So I'm not exposed to much advertising. I do find
> that when I go into town and see all the displays in the stores I get urges
> to buy all sorts of stuff that I don't really need. What helps me resist
> this is that my house is very small, and I remind myself that whatever I buy
> is one more thing I have to make room for.

TV and other mass media were the first things to go for me. They offer
very little of value and cost a lot (not in a direct monetary way either).
They definitely encourage unnecessary consumption. My money goes towards
things that actually matter to me.

I only have two expensive lifestyle habits right now: music gear and fine
dining, but I've used a number of techniques to reduce these expenditures
to a bare minimum. Because I am a gear whore, I have a
relatively large collection of synthesizers (my primary consumer vice) and
related music gear. My solution has been to fix the total pieces of
equipment to the number I have now; if I want to buy something, I have to
sell something else. It is still usually a net expenditure, but it forces
me to seriously consider the benefits of buying something.

Fine dining at expensive restaurants is something that I have minimized by
eliminating all the mediocre experiences (I generally eat at home anyway).
In other words, rather than going to a "very good" restaurant every two
weeks, I've reduced it to going to only the best restaurants, but only
once every month or two. I rarely go to restaurant twice (I am looking
for a unique experience each time), so this also allows me to be more
selective in a given metropolitan area.

> Here's something that's surprised me: My annual income dropped from 6
> figures to 4 when I changed my lifestyle. And yet I'm still able to spend
> about the same amount of money on fun things now as I was then. The
> expensive house and car, the fancy clothes, the dinners in expensive
> restaurants, the nights in high-dollar hotels all had to go. But these were
> not things that gave me any real pleasure. For me the really fun things are
> books, music, plants for my garden, computer toys, and these I can still
> have, along with much more time to enjoy them.

If I optimized my life for maximal pleasure, I am quite certain that I
could live on an order of magnitude less money than I currently earn. The
downside is that doing so would create an unnecessary resource limitation.
In fact, what you are describing is a resource stasis of sorts. My
interest in money is only to the extent that I can fund cool projects that
interest me in the future. I view simple living largely as a way to
promote wealth and well-being -- a means rather than an end. My
curiousity and ambition would never be satisfied unless I was involved in
some type of hill-climbing behavior. I just pick my hills more carefully.

-James Rogers

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