The Efficiency of Killing Clutter

Simplifying life is one of the recurring themes here at Simple Economist. In many ways, clutter, both mental and physical, is one of our biggest competitors to an efficient life. Ironically, I’ve lived with a lot of clutter. There have been times in my life where I was a ‘collector’ of anything of value. I had the strange part of my brain that wanted to hang on to everything just-in-cluttercase. I hated the idea of recycling or throwing something away just to have a need for it a few weeks later. I’ve since learned that I could minimize most of the extra in my life and simply replace it with cash.

For years I only thought of clutter in relation to its physical presence. I considered all clutter, stuff. However, I’ve since expanded my view and now I think about clutter in terms of mental clutter, organizational clutter, and physical clutter. Each different type has a different effect on my body, yet they all keep me from living an efficient life. My goal is to live a life devoid of waste. And mental, physical, and organizational clutter often build over time and end up squeezing out the important things in my life. My physical space is easy to observe. Anyone who walks into my house will instantly notice if I have clutter strewn around. However, dealing with organizational and mental clutter provides a different, but equally important challenge. Continue reading

When It Makes Sense to Buy The Popular

Marketers are pretty good about translating the things we buy into statements about ourselves. Instead of just owning an object for its current functionality, an additional layer of social status has been interjected into the objects we own. This process can be good or bad. We often identify with our purchases or, on the other extreme, will choose not to purchase something because of the identification associated with it.

iphone6Popular items tend to have a polarizing effect. Apple spent millions of dollars on marketing their products to a (former) niche that suggests ‘think differently’. The strategy paid handsomely and their products have reverberated through the tech and popular sectors. However, with their success, many people (especially the uber-hipsters in my town) will no longer buy the popular products due to the very lack of uniqueness.

Despite the mental push back it takes to buy the popular, I often find that my economizing ways lead me to buy objects that are recognizable and easily obtained. Even if there are superior products available, it often makes sense to buy the popular for a variety of reasons. The benefits of buying the popular include having a well-developed (large) support community, high liquidity when buying or selling, availability of parts and accessories, and easy access to information when trouble arises. Although this notion could be extended into plenty of other areas, I’ll keep the focus on larger consumer purchases (cars, technology, housing) to make the point more succinct. Continue reading

Your Personal Rate of Inflation (Destroying Inflation)

General inflation typically refers to the tendency of goods and service price levels to increase over time. Basically, one U.S. Dollar will buy you fewer loaves of bread than it did when your parents were born. Personal inflation is a subset of inflation that looks at our own (often rising) personal consumption choices over time. The general assumption portrayed by society and economists at large is that we need increasingly more (often higher priced goods) as we grow older. As we will see, we often have a lot more control over our personal rate of inflation than the economy at large.

inflationThe bottom line is that inflation in developed countries is overrated for efficient people and early retirees. In fact, I would make the argument that we can actually train ourselves to utilize our income more effectively as we gain more life experience. As we age, we gain a much better understanding of what our wants and desires truly are. We get better at understanding what is a need versus a want, and what luxuries actually make us happier. In addition, with a few lifestyle changes, we can position ourselves to maintain constancy while our peers’ personal consumption drastically increases over time.

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The Timeful Productivity System

I’m always looking for something to improve my efficiency and help process the never ending to-do list of life. I’ve tried different types of productivity systems over the years and taken bits and pieces from each. Although personal productivity is highly individualized, there have been several recurring themes across many popular systems. I’ve enjoyed Ariely‘s books and content for years, and his behavioral economics approach to time management resonated with me.

timeful logoI’ve read through all of Allen and Leo‘s stuff and incorporated that into my timeful productivity system. I don’t use the dedicated smartphone app, but I have adapted various parts of timeful productivity to my exact needs. This has helped me get a lot more done. I’ve come to realize that I tend to be more productive when I have more to do. I don’t waste as much time- however, I’m not immune to the effects of Parkinson’s law.

Basically, the timeful productivity system (or at least my modified version) is quite similar to a zero based financial budget. In essence, you are budgeting your time each day. The trick is simply to budget for all of it- including non-productive time. In addition, uni-tasking, structured procrastination, and productivity patterns are all facets of the timeful productivity system. Continue reading

New: I Recommend Page

Services | Products | Books | Blogs | Everything

One of the main tenants of Simple Economist is simply being efficient with our spending decisions. This often means buying fewer things and being mindful of the items we do purchase. We frequently get asked about different products or services we actually use and have truly enjoyed over the years. Here is a collection of different things we can personally recommend to our readers. This page will constantly be updated as we experiment and try new things but many of our recommended companies, services, and books have been consistent over the years.

We do a lot of research before we make any recommendation but many individuals have unique situations that make specific selections a personal decision. We are always looking for improvement so let us know if you feel like there is a better option or we are missing a clearly excellent product or service. If we like your recommendation better, we will update our page to reflect the changes.

Bloggers are often supported by referral links in their articles. A few of the companies listed happen to offer commissions for online referrals. Several others do not. We do not make our recommendations based on revenue, but where available, we use special links so that this blog will get a credit if you end up becoming a customer. It is an optional way to support this blog so we can continue to write and provide great content!

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Living Intentionally (And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Everyone I know wants to live a fulfilled life. Almost everyone I know would agree that paying a little more attention would make our lives better. Living intentionally is simply a lifestyle that attempts to live according to our values and beliefs. Although the term “Living Intentionally” may be a bit clichéd, the underlying premise is timeless. Prioritizing your life so that your values and interests determine your lifestyle is vital for anyone who wishes to live a fulfilled life.

living intentionallyI really enjoy reading. I try to read a few different books each month if possible. And, if not a book, I’m spending hours reading different types of content across various other mediums. Rarely does a book capture a concept so eloquently that it sears into my psyche. I don’t read a lot that falls within the philosophy genre. I do however enjoy stories that illustrate philosophical points in entertaining ways. Zen and the Art does have a way of polarizing readers into camps of love or hate. I wouldn’t say I love every aspect about the book, but several passages are incredibly mesmerizing.

I stumbled upon the 1974 modern classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, after seeing a post about it make the front page of reddit earlier this year. I wasn’t really looking for zen and I’ve never owned a motorcycle. Although I actually do have my motorcycle license, I spend a lot more time on the bicycle than anything else. I think biking is actually even more connected and a better illustration of intentionality than a motorized cycle. Continue reading

Buy For Life

We live in a disposable culture. We are constantly being introduced to objects with low price tags and seemingly even lower shelf-lives.  We often find ourselves with more stuff due to the excess junk that surrounds us. Each week we are introduced to cheaply imported, lower quality, disposable versions of what we already have. And we buy it in order to save a few ticks on the altar of convenience. I’ve contributed. Over the years I’ve purchased plenty of low quality, disposable items that I’ve used and discarded. I’ve also purchased inexpensive things only to have them break a few weeks later after a couple of uses. It doesn’t take an economist very long to put together the notion that high quality items uniquely provide a better experience and often cost less in the long run.

SBL-BC-800x380Buying for life is a philosophy we have adopted when purchasing non-consumable items for our family. The notion of buying for life is simply about acquiring high quality, timeless items that will last a very long time. It often requires a bit more capital up front, but the returns come about for years since the well crafted items rarely break or need to be replaced. High quality items can often be repaired instead of being tossed thus contributing to a slightly smaller pile of junk in our municipal wastelands. Buying for life is the antithesis of our disposable culture. Continue reading

Understanding Money Gives You Choice

Money can be pretty confusing. Between 401k, roth IRAs, budgets, futures, options, interest rates, and credit scores- the acronyms and implications are mind numbing. However, the one thing we can all agree upon is that money is a useful tool (when used correctly) that can make our lives better.

MoneyAs important as money has become in our society, it is strangely absent from our school or public curriculum. Some were fortunate to have family members that understood money and were able to teach about its power. But the vast majority of Americans have never really been taught the basic principles of how money operates.

Often we default into our money habits and patterns. Rarely do we actively align our spending, savings, and overall consumption with our goals. We tend to follow our friends, facebook, family, sally mae, marketers, and bankers. My point is simple: The value in understanding money is more about understanding the priorities in our lives and figuring out what is actually important. Continue reading

Cultivating Relationships

Relationships are arguably the most important part of our lives. Along with health and safety, they make up some of the most basic needs it takes to live happily. We spend a lot of time reading about money, careers, sports, celebrities, or skills that will help us in the marketplace. And we spend a lot of time cultivating success (or attempting to) in those areas as well. But often, we discount the importance of relationships to our overall well-being. In fact, we frequently spend our time doing things that directly harm, or indirectly make it difficult to successfully manage quality relationships.

cultivating realtionshipsRelationships are interesting to study. We all have some combination of relationships that exist in our lives. They normally start with family but involve friends, coworkers, neighbors, and casual acquaintances. Although some people would argue that relationships extend to pets, celebrities, or collectible cars, we’ll limit the scope of this article to fellow humans. Intuitively, we all have a basic understanding of how relationships work. We have good ones and probably some that could use some attention. Relationships are constantly evolving and mean different things as we move through different stages of life. We must learn to cultivate relationships or they will atrophy over time. Continue reading

We Are All Getting Richer

It seems that most of what is being written about the current state of the political economy is pretty gloomy. The Rich Are Getting Richer seems to be the mantra of many on (surprisingly) both sides of the political spectrum. And statistically, the numbers don’t disagree. We also are bombarded with the ‘rising cost’ of seemingly everything even though wages are only growing slowly for some. I’m not here to debate the whole wealth and income inequality issue. I’m not really into stirring that pot and I’m pretty sure it has been stirred enough. But it is interesting to see what is often neglected and fails to make headlines or cover pieces for major media. In many ways, we are all getting richer.

we are richerAre we actually getting poorer or richer? I think we are getting richer. We live in a time of incredible security and opportunity. Technology has increased so rapidly in the past fifty years, we can’t even comprehend how fortunate we are. It is a pretty cool time in history to be alive. First world countries today are incredibly wealthy. Even second world countries have access to amenities that would have only been available to the insanely wealthy just a hundred years ago. We are really rich. We have so much, not just in material possessions, but in security, opportunity, and availability of knowledge. We even have access to incredible, delicious food year round! Continue reading