When We Don’t Follow Our Own Advice

We write a lot about optimizing life and living as simply and efficiently as possible. But do we actually live it out? Or better yet, have our lives evolved and changed to the point where things that were priorities years ago now have changed? That is the internal (and now external) debate that has been raging in my head the past few months. I’ve started to question many of the assumptions we’ve made to determine which aspects of our life are passing fads and which are grounded principles.

adviceI don’t really like giving advice. I’d rather tell stories about what works for us and give examples of how it is possible to live efficiently in one area or another. There is a point where I still encounter the mental challenge of trying to live out my own advice. I often find myself in circumstances where I can rationalize my way into almost any possible scenario. I find myself saying things like, I would never recommend this to a friend but our family is a little different. Or, we could probably make that work- it would be a stretch, but we could do it for a little while. So, when the dust settles, will we be able to live out what we actually think is best for our life? Continue reading

A Year of Driving Only Electric

Last October we took the plunge and sold our gas sipping hybrid to make way for a fancy new electric car. With the federal and state incentives combined, we actually determined it would be the absolute cheapest form of automobile transportation possible for our family (12c per mile thus far). The transition was slight but we adapted rather quickly. Overall, we have been more than pleased with our Nissan Leaf over the last year and I’m convinced that electric cars are the future. The quick verdict: Success.

20141029_124030011_iOSOur family lives in a smaller college town and almost everything we need is less than five miles away from our home. I walk or ride my bike to work everyday and Ms. SE often uses the car to take the kiddos around and run errands during the day. We make occasional day trips around the state, and for longer trips, the Atlanta airport is about 70 miles from our home. Overall, we make good candidates for the first gen electric vehicle. Despite the hesitation about only being able to drive about 80-100 miles a day conveniently, range anxiety has been a surprisingly small issue. We have literally done zero maintenance and the car drives as well today as it did off the lot. Continue reading

The Pull of Complexity

I want my life to stay simple. But I’m often torn between the ideals of simplicity and the temptations of complex options. As our lives evolve and mature, we are constantly filled with new challenges, opportunities, and decision points. The natural movement of life is toward complexity. Ironically, it actually takes effort to maintain a simple life and a relaxed mindset. If we forget to pay attention, we will default life into a sea of unfulfilling commitments and an unproductive, busy, and stressful lifestyle.

complex-664440_1280We rarely cull our responsibilities. If left without consideration, we often pile more and more onto our already full plates. Our default is to accept new opportunities. We often add activities, relationships, projects, and extra-curiculars without an end goal in mind. We don’t even properly evaluate our current commitments before we add more. Without conscientiousness, we are pulled into a life of complexity. But we still have a choice. If we take the time, we can identify, evaluate, and eliminate- so we are left with only the simple things in life that truly bring us joy. We must actively seek the optimal path for ourselves and direct our life course to it. Continue reading

You’re Probably Living Above Your Means

It’s true. More often than not, we shaft our future selves by making unwise or non-optimal choices today. Do we all live above our means? What exactly is “living above your means?” Living above our means is more than simply running out of money before each month ends. Honestly living within our means involves incorporating all of our values, future goals, risk, and future cost/spending into our current level of consumption.

moneyIt is certainly possible to earn a little more than we spend but still be living significantly above our means. Living paycheck to paycheck, consumer debt, and lack of emergency savings are outward expressions of over-consumption. However, I’ll make the argument that the subtler signs like inadequate future planning, being under-insured and failing to financially prepare for post-working years are all ways we mortgage our future interest for current consumption. In addition, our desire for more stuff (& money) often causes us to work more hours and spend more time away from the people we care about than the return we actually get from additional consumption. Understanding and evaluating the full consideration of our current and future needs will allow for proper planning about how to integrate all of our living costs into our current financial decisions. Continue reading

The Large House Dilemma

This is one article (3 of 3) on choosing the right type of house. Specifically, we are looking at the trade-offs between efficiency, sustainability, and practicality (excluding affordability) when choosing a home.

What size house do you buy when you can afford almost any size? That is the question we are all trying to address. When following the American Dream the answer is always: “Bigger is Better”. But is that really true? Do large homes come with their share of trade-offs? It’s established that most people work backwards when it comes to buying a house. We typically begin with a budget and see how nice/big/small/well-located of a house we can afford and choose the best option. The question then becomes, what do we do when we can afford almost any size house? Even really large houses. Are they still practical? We have already explored¬†how many square feet it takes to be happy and tiny houses, but we’ll spend a little bit of time addressing the costs and benefits of large houses.

dave ramsey houseOur lives are in a constant state of evolution. Our wants, needs, goals and expectations continue to change and evolve as we age and enter different stages of life. We have lived in a large variety of different sized homes over the years and they all have their share of pluses and minuses. Tiny homes and large homes seem to polarize individuals about what is really needed to be happy. This post will examine the excitement and challenges that large homes offer. Will we end up in a large home? I’m not really sure at this point, but I’m certainly learning more about the benefits and troubles of huge home living. Continue reading

The Tiny House Dilemma

This is one article (2 of 3) on choosing the right type of house. Specifically, we are looking at the trade-offs between efficiency, sustainability, and practicality (excluding affordability) when choosing a home.

What size house do you buy when you can afford almost any size? Is there a perfect home? Or do they all come with trade-offs? Most people work backwards when it comes to buying a house. They begin with a budget and see how nice/big/small/well-located of a house they can afford and choose the best option. But what happens when you have a nice income, an efficient spending plan, and live in an area where housing is extremely affordable relative to your other costs? We have already explored how many square feet it takes to be happy, but next we’ll look at the cost and benefits of tiny and huge houses.

elm-photo-slide-003_e9a51ac4-7f09-457f-9982-44fca367b51d_grandeWhen you take money out of the housing equation it brings about deeper fundamental issues. It forces us to ask, what is enough and what will actually make us happy? Do we need a large house? Is living in a small house actually desirable? Why not simply settle for something in the middle? The notion of Tiny House Living has been popularized over the last few years by minimalist authors, bloggers, financial personalities and television shows. But is a tiny house realistic when affordability is not an issue? What are the challenges of living small? And benefits as well?

Conceptually, I really enjoy the idea of having only what we need. It was quite refreshing to move into a relatively small place to force the paring down of essentials right after we got married. In fact, we have lived in a lot of different types and sizes of homes throughout the years. Living in inexpensive housing areas, we’ve lived in homes/condos ranging from 190 to 4500 square feet, and certainly interact with individuals on a weekly basis with homes within that range. But how do we decide what is right for us? Especially when our lives are constantly changing. While we enjoy watching shows and documentaries about tiny houses, for the purpose of discussion, tiny houses will be 200-850 square foot, single family homes. Our most recent move was from a 390 square foot studio to a 850 square foot single family home. With a family of four, we live comfortably but have certainly considered larger homes (but also much smaller condos overseas as well). Tiny might be a simple 1,200 sf single family ranch, a 700 sf condo, or even a basic 14 x 14 single room. You make your own definition, but we’ll spend some time thinking through the benefits and challenges of tiny and huge house living. By looking at the extremes, we can actually put greater context around the issues faced when deciding what type of dwelling to inhabit. Continue reading

Summer Break

It’s really nice outside. Quit reading this blog, hop on a bike, and do something active.

myrtleOur summer should be a lot of fun this year. We are about to head to the beach to see family! I’ll be taking (and maybe teaching) a few classes, doing lots of research, and spending as much time as possible outside. I’ve been writing a lot the last few months and I probably have about 150+ post drafts outlined. After publishing for about 120 straight weeks, it will be a bit of change to not post weekly, but I’ll continue to keep track of my thoughts and write plenty of content behind the scenes.

So, go outside, enjoy the long summer days and I’ll see you back in August! I might even have a new design for the blog.

Also, feel free to email me if you plan on making it through Georgia (or Athens) anytime this summer. I’m always up for a good chat, tasty food, and nice bike rides.

It All Boils Down To Self-Control

When you write frequently about lifestyle design and personal finance you get asked a lot of questions. What does it take to live a happy and healthy life? What does it take to be successful? What does it take to live a fulfilled life? How can my relationships be better? What is the one thing that will change my financial life? I could spend years talking through the details of what it takes to be successful in every area of life. In fact, given enough time, I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually write a post that details specific ways to address each inefficient area in our lives. However, we will all realize pretty quickly that a simple thread weaves through everything we experience in life. Self Control. It all boils down to self-control.

marshmellow testWe define self-control as the ability to control our own impulses, feelings, emotions and actions. Life is all about how good we are at defining our desires and the courses of action in following through with them. To make ourselves better people, we must actively develop our self-control. For the scope of this article, we’ll break it down into health, money, relationships, and success. Continue reading

The Slow Creep of Discontentment

I’ve always been a goal setter. Even from an early age I would put together a list of things I wanted or experiences to try. I really enjoy the art of self-examination in almost all facets of life. Gurus like to expound upon the necessitation of creating goals and striving for the impossible. But what happens when you reach the basic ones? Sure, you could rinse and repeat, but where does it actually get us? Does it make us happier? Does more achievement, stuff, or money bring us any closer to contentment? Or does the very nature of our marketing-consumer driven economy suggest that there is always something slightly better?

bali-254077_1280I see it happen in the mirror. My life is pretty awesome. I have a wonderful wife, beautiful and intelligent kids, a paid off home, a new car, a fancy education, and a nice job. We live in a safe and peaceful county and we have the ability to spend time with close friends and family- even travel the world if we’d like. On paper, most of us have it all. In fact, I would venture to stay that most SE readers are pretty well positioned too. But, despite all of our blessings, contentment can still be elusive. A fancier house, a better school, a bigger or a prettier something. Even a few more dollars on the balance sheet. No matter where we are, there always seems to be something slightly shinier, just a little out of reach. Discontentment (even among the well off) reigns. Continue reading

The Broke Millionaire Athlete in Us All

We’ve all read that crazy teaser of a story about the rich millionaire athlete¬†that made a fortune only to blow it all and be completely broke a few years after they finish playing their tysonsport of choice. The Mike Tysons of the world who earn $300 Million just to end up bankrupt one year into “retirement”. There is something sadistic and intriguing about the unwise financial choices others make. It certainly becomes story-worthy when the numbers are in the millions.

However, as much as we prefer not to admit it, we all have a little broke millionaire athlete in us. In fact, we tend to make the same money mistakes without the media spotlight or the spectacular meltdowns of well known celebrities. So, why are we just like the millionaire athletes that go broke? Do we make the same money mistakes as the ultra rich? Continue reading