A friend recently introduced me to the excellent website of the strangely named Mr Money Mustache, and I have to say that despite my initial apprehension about it all being rather money driven, it is actually a very helpful and interesting blog. The gist of it is basically, how can you save enough money to retire early and lead a life of general enjoyment. Which is a good thing, unless you are one of the blessed few who have a vocation that they truly love, in which case retirement is probably the last thing on your mind. By retirement I mean having the time to do the things that you enjoy without work taking over your life. I don’t necessarily mean not working at all.
I confess to sharing many of Mr. Mustache’s broader ideals, although I can’t profess to have such a well thought out path to not working yourself to the grave. My way relies on reducing outgoings to the point where it takes a lot less income to cover them, rather than saving up ahueg nest egg and living off investments, so it is a less secure way to life, but hey ho. What I do have though are a couple of straightforward suggestions that might help you free yourself from the proverbial yoke.
1. Focus on needs, not wants. Sounds easy, and its different for everyone. I’m not suggesting that you sit in a dark home made shelter wearing a hair shirt, but it is a good exercise to think about what it is you really need to get through life. Somewhere to live is probably on the list – preferably warm – preferably light. Food, water, and enough money to pay the essentials are likely there too. If you work from home, internet access might be a need too. Its up to you. Work out what these needs are costing you.
2. Stop being a Good Consumer. Following step 1 will probably lead to step 2, but not buying stuff will make a huge difference. There are many fine guides to living a bit more frugally and being inventive, not least the aforementioned Mr Mustache. It is so easy to want the lastest phone, laptop, car, clothes – but the reality is that they probably aren’t needs.
3. Live within your means. This is considered a terribly old fashioned concept now that credit is readily available, but if you can follow it, you will ultimately be better off. The general advice is to pay off your debts, those with the highest interest first, until they are no more.
4. Be creative. It might not be for everyone, but we lived in a converted horsebox for a year and a half, and felt better off than we had ever, despite having low incomes. Can you grow your own food? Use the car less, or not at all for a while. Find a living space that is small and easily heated?
5. Change your mindset. You have been conditioned to think that not having a job that occupies at least 5 full days of your life, 48 weeks a year, until age 65, is a Bad Thing. Guess what? It isn’t. As long as you meet the needs you have identified and are happy with, you are free to do what you like with your time. The important thing is that the lower the cost of your needs, and the lower the amount of money you owe, the more freedom you have.
Now I realise all of this is easy to say, and that there are many, many people who feel completely trapped in their cycle of working to live, but this is one of those things that you can begin chipping away at, until things begin to gradually improve. There is hope, it is possible, and you can get out the other side.