I haven't posted a one-a-day minimizing picture in a while. It's not because I haven't been minimizing, it's just that I've been too busy trying to think up other things to post about, and I don't minimize as much as I would like. I do still get rid of things, though. Quite a bit, actually.
Last week, we cleared out four bags of old clothes, and our broken flat screen TV (which we're not replacing). Also got rid of a spare computer we had, and a bunk bed we weren't using. So yes, we're making progress. I think there's more there. We've got boxes upon boxes of books, toys, magazines (still!) and more clothes we can get rid of. I can't walk into my closet yet, but it's better.
What to do with the extra space? Well, I've got plans for that, actually. I want to set up some musical instruments- guitars, keyboards, drum pads, violin, etc.- so me and my kids can jam whenever we want. This is a totally worthy cause, and I'm going to do everything I can to make this happen.
What happens when you sell an internet startup for millions, and you're in your early 30's?
You get a small house and live comfortably.
Life is funny. Since Google shut down their RSS Reader feed, I discovered RSS is a pretty slick way to compile and review bunches of excellent blogs. I didn't even know what the fuss was about until I heard all these people complaining about how convenient it was, so naturally, my curiosity got the better of me.
I started following all kinds of blogs, from friends and people I respected. As I looked through my list last night, I discovered most of them have a common thread. This caught me off-guard at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew why. They almost all have something to do with non-traditional living.
So what does this have to do with me?
Well, I have a blog, too (shocking, I know). What good is it if I just post occasional rantings here? A few people like reading what I write, but it's not doing much other than that. What if I could combine all the things I have experience with in ways people could actually use, and then post them up here to help other people get to where I'm at?
Well, yeah, that's a no-brainer. I've already got a few articles on how to do things, but I haven't tied them in to anything specific. I've just been posting whatever comes off the top of my head, which sometimes is interesting, and sometimes isn't.
So starting today, I'm going to start tying all these things together with a common thread: living a non-traditional, debt-free Godly life, and using that freedom to turn around and bless other people, because that's what God wants His followers to do.
Let's face it. Who wouldn't want to donate thousands of dollars to charities? I mean good charities, not the ones that are business cover-ups. Who wouldn't feel great about being able to genuinely help people who need it? But most people don't, because they allowed themselves to get to a place where they spend everything they have, and nothing is left over.
I'm here to tell you that there's no reason you can't retire early with what you're making now, and spend the rest of your life doing whatever the heck you want to. All it takes is lowering your cost of living to the point where you can put a decent amount into a retirement fund, and then work a little while and let it build up.
Spend less, save more. Sounds easy, right?
It works exactly like losing weight (which I've also done). Your calorie intake has to be less than your output, or you will never- I repeat, never- lose weight.
"But that's uncomfortable!" you say. "Why can't I eat and spend what I want?" Well, you can. But you won't lose weight, and you won't become free from debt. You choose.
Still with me? Okay, this is where it gets interesting. I'm here to help you find ways to do more with less, using stuff I have experience with. We're going to lay out a few things you'll need on your journey to "Less Is More." Almost everything I'm going to recommend is either free, or ridiculously cheap.
Resources You Should Be Reading
You can't change your life without at least a little direction. If you're serious about wanting to change your life for the better, you should start by reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. (Here's a hint: borrow it for free from the library!) Dave breaks it down into seven "Baby Steps" but you shouldn't be discouraged. This is how I got started!
The basics, for Those Who Can't Wait:
- Save $1000 for emergencies. Do what it takes to get there*, and don't touch it!!
- Snowball your debt, i.e. pay off the smallest debt you have**, then move on to the next biggest one until they are all gone.
- Once your debt is gone, use the money you saved from credit payments to save 6 month's of income in the bank.
- One that's done, invest at least 15% into your 401K and/or a Roth IRA***
- College Funds for Children. This is optional.
- Pay off your mortgage. Without dropping your retirement investments****
- Build wealth and give. This isn't really a step, per se, it is the goal!
*If you can't save $1000, then lower your cost of living until you can.
**If you can't pay off the smallest debt, lower your cost of living until you can.
***If you can't invest 15% into retirement, lower your cost of living until you can.
****If you can't put money down on the principal of your mortgage, well... you know.
Seriously, it's a very simple equation. Money in > money out. If you can't increase your money income, then lower your money output. It's just that simple.
"Ah!" you say with a frown. "I can't lower my standard of living!"
Well, yes you can, unless you're already homeless. You just don't want to. But you do want to be debt-free, right? Wouldn't it be nice to not have to work until you're 75, and then pass on debt to your kids?
"Sure, doesn't everybody?" you say.
Right. But what are you willing to give up now in order to be able to do that later? Cable TV? Hobbies? Eating out? Designer clothes? New cars? Chances are you have at least one of those things. If you do, and you're still in debt, you should stop right now and think. There are tons of websites and blogs to give you ideas as to how to save money.
I can see you're upset, so I'm going to just leave you with these words...
Less is More.
I've decided to do something radical. No, not a tattoo (though that would be wild for me).
I'm going to cut back massively on my online presence.
No, seriously. I've spent the last 20 years building up my online presence, developing connections, and working on spreading myself all over the internet. And I'm pretty much over it.
I've begun deactivating online accounts I rarely use, including Pinterest, Brainbench, and several others. I'm unsubscribing from all the dumb mailing lists. I'm leaving the huge lists of forums I used to visit. I'm reconsidering my involvement with social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. More and more, I find myself disgusted with what I have to put up with using these services, and less and less am I finding joy in using them.
I'm hoping that it will free up my brain to make room for more important things like spending time writing, updating my blog, recording music, and spending time with my family. All worthy causes.
I do realize, of course, that I will have to maintain at least one online presence. Most likely I will keep one social media outlet as well (and there's plenty of reasons it probably won't be Facebook). But the truth is, these things don't define me, and I don't need them to live a happy, fulfilled life. Twenty years ago, I was better off without them, and I believe you were too, if you happen to be old enough to remember life before the internet.
It is a gradual process. Places like Facebook make it extremely difficult to leave, but it is indeed possible.
Wish me luck.