This whole post may sound like an advertisement. I suppose it is in a way, although I’m not receiving any money as a result of it. Does that make me a believer or just a shill? I’m not sure…
I’ve been a bit of a rut over the last little while. I must say that my job is not satisfying at all in anyway that you look at it. It’s over an hour of a commute each way. I don’t get paid very much. I have no hope of moving beyond where I am in the company – which is at the absolute bottom. I see the company’s hiring decisions as completely arbitrary and the way it actually works on the inside is pretty inefficient and just downright stupid. Anyway the point is that anyway you look at the job, it’s just pretty crummy. My girlfriend is pretty much in a similar situation. I don’t know when change will come about. I know that most change in your life is something you have to initiate yourself.
The job and the living situation has been such that Michelle and I have been living like grad students ever since we moved in together – almost three years ago. We don’t spend very much money on anything. We don’t go out often. We don’t drive expensive cars. We don’t buy much clothing – at least I don’t. I hang my clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. We try to conserve as much money and energy as we possibly can. This is not really because we’re super-frugal people or environmentally-inclined. My income is so tiny that I have to scrounge just to get by and tuck some money away for a rainy day. She’s got all her student debts to pay off. So, it’s a question of income with me and one of overhead with her.
A few months ago, I had almost nothing to do at work. I mean, I was literally (I hate using that word but in this case it’s really accurate) sitting at my desk with nothing to do. In a 40-hour week, I’d do maybe 1-2 hours of work. That would be a good week. So, the question was: What do I do with that time? I’m pretty much chained to my desk. I have the internet on my computer. I can’t really look for work at work. That just seems wrong. I can’t really watch videos either. The office has an open floor plan and people walk by behind my desk all the time. You can’t look like an asshole at work – even if the job is meaningless to do. With all that said, what do you do?
I started looking at financial blogs. I just wanted to see what was out there. There’s a lot of shit being spewed out there. I stumbled upon a blog called Mr Money Mustache. This guy somehow, someway has made himself financially independent at the tender age of 30. I realize that accepting money for goods exchanged or services rendered technically counts as “work”, but anything he does is because he wants to. He can turn down work because he doesn’t like it, or doesn’t feel like it or something along those lines. It must be nice. Anyway, his basic premise is that you don’t have to hit the lottery or make big fortunes on the stock market. You have to focus all your energy on finding ways to save money from your expenses and making more money from your income. That’s the basic equation for profit: Profit = Income – Expenses. You can find ways of increasing income and decreasing expenses. It’s not terribly difficult to wrap your mind around the concept.
One thing I really took away from all this was not just tips on how to do all that. Those sort of things you can find anywhere. With the advent of internet shopping and the ability to do comparison shopping at home in your underwear, when you pay too much, you’ve really only got your laziness and ignorance to blame. The thing that really struck a chord with me was inspiration. Here I was bemoaning the fact that I’m not really going anywhere in my life. I wasn’t making much money. I was living like a church mouse. I was getting pretty fed up. I wasn’t wrong about wanting more but I do think I was wrong in my approach.
Anyway, I think I’ve got the spending side of the equation down. Since I’ve been poor for so long, my scrounging habits are pretty much ingrained. I suppose that my attention should be drawn to the other side of the equation – income. I do think that my company is basically low-balling the hell out of me. It’s shameless what they are doing. But I’m not concerned about that. It’s my task to change that. We’ll see what’s possible with any potential move.
One thing that he harps on about constantly is commuting. His attitude toward my present commute would be to act as if my head were on fire. Something has got to be done immediately about it. Well, it appears as if it’s not as easy is that. I don’t know what the future will be. So much of that depends on Michelle’s situation. If it is in Las Vegas, I’ll make my employment decisions more based on where we live than I have done with the current situation.
Anyway, what I’ve learned is not to grin and bear the simple and inexpensive life I’m leading, but to revel in it. The focus and energy in keeping up with Joneses and trying to fool myself into believing that the latest and greatest gadget is all I need for my life to be complete can be redirected into more productive and rewarding areas of my life. This simple way of living not only is cheaper, it is easy to maintain. Besides the fact that it is cheaper to give into all the conspicuous consumption, being in a bare-bones situation never changes its fashion. If you want to be up on things, not only do you have to pay a lot to qualify as “en mode”, but what actually is “en mode” changes so often that you’re basically paying to update your wardrobe, electronics, car, haircut, etc. to impress people you either don’t know or you do know and you don’t like. I’m not really impressed by much. New clothes? I think of the old expression: you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. New car? All I care about is that it’s safe and will cost me the least amount possible to maintain and fuel. New gadget? There have been so many technological dead-ends in my lifetime alone. People spend a fortune for the latest and greatest gadget and so many of these just end up in the “remember when?” pile.
I find a lot of his mentality comes from the Stoic philosophers – something he actually brings up himself in an earlier post. My favorite of those guys is Marcus Aurelius. Maybe I’ll post some more on him later.
I’ve got goals now. I’ve got a (very tentative) plan. It’s not something that will happen overnight. But you’ve got to be patient if you want to get somewhere very far from where you are.
P.S. I’ve been on an Iron Maiden kick lately with the new album coming out.