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

From: john grigg (
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 00:33:23 MDT

I have really enjoyed the threads about living below one's means, finding
one's real priorities and not being totally swept up in consumerism.

I really loved reading Bonnie's introduction about herself. She is right
out of the pages of _Mother Earth News_!! That she could give up her
high-consumption lifestyle and make a big U-turn in her life is amazing. I
feel fortunate to have her on the list. A formal welcome to you. :)

she wrote:
Six years ago I took up a forager/low-key horticultural lifestyle so that I
could study, read, and write what I was interested in without having to
worry about making more than enough money to buy a few toys I occasionally
want, like computer equipment, photovoltaics. I live in a house I built from
homemade adobe bricks. I've had great fun devising a water-delivery system,
electrical system, and so forth. I find the lifestyle to be quite
pleasant,and the garden, woods, and fields themselves are endless sources of
wonder(as are city streets, alleys, and vacant lots, for that matter). I
learn at least 5 or 6 new things each day in the garden and many more from
reading. From the latest neurological research I've read, this constant
exposure to new ideas should keep my mind agile into my old age. Most
important as far as I'm concerned, I'm eager to get up and start each day,
and I sleep well at night, and eat very well indeed.

Bonnie BUILT her own place from homemade adobe bricks and figured out things
like water and power as she went along! This is a pretty cool lady.
Bonnie, I have a feeling that if you make it to the singularity you will end
up being a pioneer on Mars or some other exotic location. :)

Bonnie continued:
She was one of those generally referred to as "homeless" although I don't
think she would have characterized herself in that way. She'd found some
pieces of lumber and sheet metal and built a shelter in a vacant city lot;
she'd planted a little vegetable garden there next to her shelter. She told
me that the night before she'd found some lobster and shrimp in a grocery
store dumpster and had invited a bunch of homeless people to share in her
bounty. "I have so much," she told me, "I feel as though I should share."

It occurred to me that overall, Donna's quality of life was higher than
mine, although she was jobless and I enjoyed a position in one of the more
highly paid professions. Her days were her own; she lived by her own clock
and didn't feel constantly rushed by this or that deadline; and she felt
herself wealthy enough to indulge in charity. I'm forever grateful to this
woman, whom I never saw again after that day. Meeting Donna didn't move me
to take up a life on the streets, but I began to give my thoughts a much
wider scope in imagining possible futures for myself.

I found this a touching story but had some reservations about it. I found
your friend Donna to be very resourceful in building a shelter and planting
a garden, but by squatting on public property she could easily be kicked out
and see her efforts all be bulldozed away. Being homeless she is at far
greater risk to be robbed or raped. And if she gets sick she will get
substandard medical care, if any. After all, you only knew her a short time
and don't know what became of her. I hope she is alright.

she continues:
>From my own experience and from what I've read, I've concluded that cutting
down on stress is one of the most life-prolonging things a person can do.
There's no doubt that abject poverty is stressful, but for many people
there's a far distance between their present level of income and abject

I agree that chronic exposure to high-levels of negative stress can be very
harmful. A prime example being when a person is stressed by a career or job
that drains them without getting a lot of positives from it.

Abject poverty is indeed very stressful and individuals and families plagued
by it often age and die years before their time. I'm sure poor nutrition
must play a big part. I think the causes go beyond simply not having access
to good medical care.

Brian Atkins wrote:
No offense, but from my point of view this comes across as something more
likely to be heard from a commune-dweller in the 60s rather than an
extropian. Committing to a lifestyle that you describe could put you at a
big disadvantage when it comes to having access to new technologies.

For instance, in the future you might not be able to afford some cutting
edge medical tech that could extend your lifespan. And again no offense,
but spending your days tending your garden is not exactly helping you get
closer to the days of posthumanism. For the individuals advocating or living
such a "static" non-expanding lifestyle, I would like you to go over to and re-read the principles.

I admit that if Bonnie is living on under ten-thousand a year that she is
financially limited. Then again, I work full-time in a large retailer and
not much more then that! LOL My problem is having not gotten my education
when I should have. I hope to go back to school, get a degree and then get
a decent paying job.

I agree with Brian that by being *poor" she is in a vulnerable position if
her health goes bad or if a powerful but expensive rejuvenation treatment is
perfected. She may not be able to simply shift gears and become once again
a high-powered lawyer. I just hope she has or soon gets a cryonics policy.
Bonnie is old enough that it would be a good idea.

I just don't think her simple and close to the earth lifestyle is
anti-extropian. Do all extropians have to be an engineer, programmer,
scientist or other type of professional who makes $60,000 plus a year? lol!

Rob Sweeney wrote:
I wonder if extropians have resistance to consumerist memes, if only because
we pay attention to information sources other than consumerist media?

A good question. I would think we would have a great deal of vulnerability
to Madison Avenue's mass marketing machine also. Based on what I read on
the list, there is a strong love here (among at least many list members) for
the material bounty of this world(myself included). I think that is why
nanotech is seen as SO appealing to us all! :)

Brent Allsop wrote:
You're post describing yourself seemed to describe me exactly. I've got my
stereo speakers, cars, house(only this with a little remaining to pay
of).... many years ago, who needs new ones? Even my home computer is still
an old upgraded P5/90. If the stock market keeps going up, I'll be able to
pay cash for my cryonics membership in about 10 years or less. That,
retirement as soon as possible, and leaving funds for my kids so they can
continue the growth, hopefully by them also living within their means, is by
far my biggest goal. Like you, I hate "stuff". I guess expensive food is my
weakness, largely because it doesn't collect.

Brent, it sounds like you have your financial house in order. I wish I
could say I hated stuff, more like I resent it! lol I am a packrat by
nature and have tons of old magazines, comics, videotapes, computers,
papers, books and miscellaneous items that I just can't bear to part with.
lol It could be scary if I actually had serious money to spend...

Brian Atkins wrote:
Saving is definitely good, can't deny that. However I wouldn't focus all
your efforts onto that route of achieving millionaire status, since it may
take you so long to achieve it that way that the singularity will be here
first. On the other hand there is no guarantee a singularity will occur.

I think everyone should take at least one shot at the "join a hot startup
and get rich quick" route to millionaire status. You may fail, in which case
you can fall back onto the careful saving/investing approach, but then again
it might work out quite well, leaving you enough cash to help use for other
extropian/singularitarian purposes.

If only the person knows which startup to join AND if they have the right
skills to offer them. I wish Max More, Mike Lorrey and others here good
luck in their efforts in this area. They just may have the insight and
knowledge to do it.

I realize that education, hard work and career are the best way to acquiring
a good living and making one's way in the world. But still, on the side I
like to enter contents and sweepstakes, because I MIGHT (one in a many
million chance) just win.

I learned from a newsletter I get that the publisher of Silhouette romances
was having a seven million dollar grand prize sweepstakes. I mailed five
entries a day for almost three months. Sadly, I didn't win despite my
effort! lol But had I won the effort would have seemed worth it.

Now I often go for the smaller and less exciting contests. I did win a
prize once, not the automobile grand prize but a tote bag built with the
quality of a potato sack that on the side advertised for Marlboro

Brian D Williams wrote:
I recently finished Thomas Stanley's "The Millionaire Next Door" and "The
Millionaire Mind". Both books deal with his extensive research on
millionaires, who they are and how they got there. His main point is that
the vast majority got there in this lifetime, on their own. They stay
married to the same person for life, and they are very pragmatic about
spending money. They are not at all what we have come to expect via the

These are great books that I have read large portions of while on my breaks
at work! lol I need to break down and buy them. They tend to stay married
to the same person for life? They sure do beat the statistics in more ways
then one!! The books indicated that these people were not always highly
intelligent or educated(many were of course) but that they were risk takers
who enjoyed being in charge of their own enterprise rather then working for
someone else. And they got a great amount of work satisfaction which
usually had a strong spiritual connection of some sort. These were
generally not the people that Robin Leach would show you on "Lifestyles of
the Rich and Famous." lol

Interestingly, they often counselled their children to not try to follow in
their footsteps unless they really were compelled to do so. They encouraged
their offspring to get professional degrees with solid income making
potential. Some of these adult children picked up at least some of the
positive traits of their parents in terms of saving, building wealth and not
being ravenous consumers while others definitely did not.

Anyway, these threads have been interesting food for thought. Somehow in
discussions like these, I think of the Madonna song, "Material Girl." :)
There are plenty of material boys out there too, of course. I have learned
from painful personal experience the importance of being able to do well in
our material society so one can gain the mate, children and lifestyle they
wish for. I have not done that yet.

Of course what we are talking about here is the idea of at least partially
getting off the treadmill of out of control consumerism. "Do you own your
possessions or do they own you?" is my final thought.


John Grigg
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