Financial independence and early retirement are two subjects that are impossible to avoid in the minimalism/frugality/simple living world. In fact you could spend a lot of time reading about this topic, and feel it is the only game in town.
What are the other benefits of adopting a simpler, more consumption-conscious lifestyle?
More time and more mental space and more physical space free from stuff.
Different forms of wealth can grow in that space and time.
What follows are some of the ways simple living has made my life wealthier.
Warmshowers & Cycling
I make no secret of my conversion to full-time cycling (no car) and my love of all things two-wheeled.
Warmshowers (www.warmshowers.org) is a website for hosting, but centered around cyclists. I have had some good experiences with Couchsurfing, but generally find it too fussy and cumbersome. I rarely use it now.
I have hosted on Warmshowners many times and in return been hosted and consider the people I have met and my profile on the site to be a genuine source of wealth.
It’s possible to cycle anywhere in the world, meet interesting fellow cyclists with local knowledge, and have a roof over my head (plus bonus warm food!).
It wouldn’t have started without my conversion to cycling which came about from adopting a downsized lifestyle.
If that doesn’t sound like wealth, I don’t know what is.
The same point applies to social media where I can get in touch and maintain contact with others who share similar interests, especially in simple living.
Hedonic adaptation is the idea that we return to the same level of happiness once we get used to a new level of material comfort.
We’ve all heard the story of the lottery winner who returns to being the same miserable sod six months after winning as he was before.
A frugal, minimalistic lifestyle is kind of like that in reverse.
It slowly promotes greater enjoyment of things that were once routine or even a chore – getting a take-away for example. Fixing my bike. Cycling. Saving money.
It makes us seek out activities that don’t revolve around purchasing enjoyment. Doing so ultimately reinforces neural pathways that are based on enjoyment of the world about us as it is, not only what we can take from it.
Additionally it reduces the desire new, shiny things. I really couldn’t give a shit about cars, phones, or the latest didgeree-whatnot that is supposed to deserve my attention. That feels liberating.
I do have an impulsive side to my personality and when let run amok, it generally wreaks minor havoc. As an antidote, simple living is a kind of material stoicism.
I switched careers four years ago from a suit-and-tie government job to the more freewheeling world of software development. It wasn’t easy but was relatively straightforward to pull off with a frugal lifestyle as the solid base.
Switching careers may not be for everybody, but it’s nice to know you can make that change if you want to. If I want to change careers again, I can.
That flexibility allowed me to get a job closer to my family home, purchase an apartment in a location I can actually afford, and give up my car. The money I saved from not having a car? I used it to follow a dream and build a home in Ecuador.
I don’t say these things to come across in any way boastful. Good habits and simple living have given me more than any amount of career or promotion-hunting ever have, including options in relation to that career.
I am rich in proportion what I have versus what I need.
Frugal living affords you huge flexibility. I don’t have kids or a family to support, but there’s thousands of blogs written out there on the benefits (financial and non-financial) families of all shapes and sizes see from adopting consciously downsized lifestyles.
It’s all about having options.
Health Being Wealth
Simple living doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for processed food and junk. It really can streamline and improve how you eat. To a greater or lesser extent, an improved diet is often a welcome symptom of simple living.
Saving $100k a year and retiring by 40 means a lot less if you do not have your health.
This is another area where a strong DIY ethos comes out as you learn what works for you.
Blind trust in mainstream medicine is not really an option for me anymore after I was massively oversubscribed antibiotics when I was younger. Never again.
I still have my vices too, but I’m working on them.
Does it piss you off when you cannot fix something you own when it breaks? I don’t like having to get some outside expert in to fix stuff when it goes wallop.
Given that there’s only so many waking hours in the day and I’m not going to learn to fix all the items I surround myself with on a daily basis, the most elegant solution is to remove all the excess crap.
Who wants to learn to fix stuff they rarely use anyway?
Best not have the option to even use it/break it in the first place.
Learn to fix the things that matter.
The main areas I’ve focused on to date are transport (bike repair), housing (building a house – much improvement yet to be made in the areas of plumbing, carpentry etc), computer maintenance, and musical instruments.
This builds in a kind of internal resilience to life that I like.
How about you? What sort of wealth does simple living allow you to build?