Digging into the “less is more” lifestyle

A relief of Frugality on the Ceska sporitelna building, Czech Republic. Image by SJu, Creative Commons.

A relief of Frugality on the Ceska sporitelna building, Czech Republic. Image by SJu, Creative Commons.

The list of dangerous topics best avoided in polite company often includes religion, politics, money and sex. But what would be left to blog about if we honored that wisdom?

So today I’ll hit up money. Specifically my new guilty pleasure, something called “Mr. Money Mustache“. Which comes with a rowdy working slogan: “Financial freedom through badassity”. (And I should just caution anyone who cares, he cusses sometimes. Likes to use the f-word for emphasis.)

The search phrase that took me there was “early retirement.” Retirement has different definitions and is movable target, of course. Easy for some, impossible for others. Something I like about the “MMM” website is it can help anyone (at any stage of life) re-think their relationship to money, values and thrift.

Soon I was hooked. Mind you, I’m one of those types who has to read books, watch movies, etc., in chronological order. So I haven’t even made it to the 2012 posts yet. But I really like some of his key concepts. None of them will shock All In readers, but they are worth contemplation:

~ time is a limited commodity of great value

~ relationships matter more than things

~ massive material consumption is bad for the planet and does not bring lasting happiness

~ intentional frugality can be a form of freedom

~ cycling and libraries totally rock!

~ many of the best things in life are found in nature and are free

~ most of us can find ways to spend less – which is worthwhile, if only to free up money for that which you value most

He’s also fun to read, with nods to things like the virtues of stoicism and picking good places to live.

Sure, it’s easy to find fault with his set-up. (Or his numbers. Or his advantages.) But Mr Money Mustache says the hyper-critical are missing the point:

A Complainypants looks only at results – seeing the external trappings or the successes of a particular role model’s life, and justifies why he can’t have those things. And then makes himself unhappy because of not having those results.

Instead, the Complainypants needs to think about the reward of puzzle-solving. It’s not the results that make you happy, it’s the using of your own mind and skills to advance your own cause. You won’t get any further telling me that I have failed to account for your particular life’s situation in my blog.

You will get further by figuring out how to solve the situation for yourself

There’s a whole genre of books and blogs devoted to saving money, but this one has an amusing mix of everyday-practical and broad theory. In his own words:

Mr. Money Mustache’s whole deal is that even by just paying a tiny bit of attention to the details, I find that you can have the whole middle-class lifestyle with well under a third of the standard US level of consumption.

As Mr. Money Mustache told Forbes Magazine in this 2013 interview:

It’s not like I did anything complicated or difficult to retire early. Minimize your spending regardless of your income, and then good things will happen. People in other countries write to me and say, “Do you realize how silly this is? In Germany, you’re just a normal guy. This is what normal people do: They don’t spend all their money.” But in America, the first guy not to spend all his money gets into all the newspapers.

Forbes has this slide show of 12 money tips from Mr. Money Mustache.

My own life has been a mix of economic circumstances. I didn’t come from real poverty, but at times I have had little. Now I’m comfortably middle-class, most gratefully so!

Which is to say, I know talking about early retirement as if that’s a real choice for all is insulting. We don’t all have the same education or skill sets. Mr. Money Mustache and his wife both started out as high-earning professionals. (And he still works for pleasure and additional income doing carpentry and house renovations.)

But it seems to me everyone can benefit by taking a closer look at what they have and how they use it, for maximum benefit in their lives and a lower ecological impact. And one need not be thinking about retirement to start the journey of ignoring our culture’s bad messages about spending. Learning to do more with less can be smart and fun!

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4 Comments on “Digging into the “less is more” lifestyle”

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Sounds like the ordinary advise most liberals have been dispensing for a long time.

    At about 35 years old I decided it was time to retire. It’s great! All I have to do is go to work every day to support my retirement for the rest of my life. but I work for myself, sure makes a difference.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    I just read in the Post Star about a 101 man from New Jersey who is still working at the same place he started working in 1941. Only break came was when he was in WW II. And he drives to work!
    I plan to retire when I die. Don’t understand retirement. Too much like waiting at the bus stop to be picked up by the grim reaper.

  3. Lucy Martin says:

    “Early retirement” is just the hook for the philosophy this guy espouses. After all, he’s still “working”. (Does the website and renovated homes, is a landlord, etc.)

    His point is maximizing the potential of intentional frugality.

    Focusing on clever/conscious application of money & time can free one to pursue what she/he wants to do most.

    I think Knuck and Pete are already there!

  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Frugality is often thought of as being cheap. Real frugality is to buy less stuff but make sure that the stuff you buy is made to last a lifetime. Too many people buy cheap junk that they pay to throw away later.

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