Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Art of Simplicity

I subscribe to Get Rich Slowly's blog, in which everyday articles are sent to my email. Often times, in reading what J.D has posted I get great ideas for my own blog. Additionally, he makes me feel better about those times when I wish I could spend every last dime I posess. So it isn't a shock that I read a particularly noteworthy entry on his blog, one in which I feel I should also spread. It's the art of living simply.

In reading many personal finance blogs and books, I often find their stance on spending to grow tiresome. I feel like spending money on frivilous items is a waste and I should be saving every last penny. While I do agree with the concept of saving as opposed to spending, I still believe I deserve to get a massage one month or splurge on that dress I've been coveting. My guilt is entirely self-imposed, but yet, I have not found an escape for it. Reading Get Rich Slowly's article "Five Tactics for Pursuing Voluntary Simplicity" actually eased this stress a bit. In this article, another article from Wise Bread is drawn upon, which actually originated the train of thought regarding this matter.

So, what is voluntary simplicity? It's choosing to live a life of simplicity as opposed to a life focused on money. Instead of choosing a career based upon salary, you're choosing a position in which you truly enjoy; a position that is, perhaps, more fulfilling regardless of pay. Wise Bread goes on to say,

Choosing to live simply doesn’t mean that you have to give up all the cool
stuff you want. It means, rather, that you have to focus on a small number of
wants — the ones that matter the most to you.

It's this statement I found, that resonated with me. AH HA! So living a life of frugal choices and maximum savings isn't about depriving myself of the things I hold most dear, but rather focusing on what I find most important (spa treatments, makeup and shoes) and eliminating or cutting back on the things that are not (cable, clothes, and expensive food). Obviously, different people are going to have different priorities and place their emphasis on other aspects and these priorities will likely change over time. I can not see myself still placing a large emphasis on shoes when I have a child to raise and food may become a high priority. But oh the freedom of wanting a few things instead of wanting everything!

Get Rich Slowly illustrated five excellent ways to pursue this life of simple living and, instead of paraphrasing and not doing the article justice, here are the steps verbatim:

1. Live intentionally. Decide what’s important to you and what you want to do
with your life. Set goals. Be aware of why you’re spending your money. Try to make conscious decisions, and not just react out of emotion.
2. Raise some capital. Personal finance isn’t all about saving, Brewer argues. It’s not all about living cheaply, either. It’s about finding a middle ground that works for you. But every goal will require some money to back it up. Prepare for
emergencies, invest for the future, and use your money to support your values.
3. Find your true calling. “Find meaningful work, so that you can spend your
time doing something that you care about,” Brewer writes. Saving and investing
don’t just yield financial benefits, he says, but they also allow you to choose a vocation instead of basing your job decisions only on salary.
4. Do it yourself. This notion has figured prominently in my thinking lately:
that whenever possible, I want to do things myself instead of paying to have
them done. (This probably has something to do with the fact that I just spent several thousand dollars on a re-wiring project.) There’s a lot of satisfaction to be derived (and often money saved) from growing your own food, repairing your own home, and maintaining your own car.
5. Value community and experiences over stuff. You are not what you own; you are what you do. It took me a long time (nearly forty years) to realize this. I still haven’t fully wrapped my mind around it. But like Brewer, I’m coming to understand that it is relationships and experiences that give life meaning.

For more on the philosophy of money check out Wise Bread's blog.


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