Practical Minimalism

What is minimalism? Is it counting the number of items you possess, owning a house with no decorations, or living in a tiny home? Not for me. Sure, those are options, but I prefer to think of minimalism in the broad sense of removing all the distractions, clutter, and non-important commitments in our lives so we can focus our attention on the things that truly matter. Practical Minimalism is the notion of understanding the elements of minimalism that can be usefully applied to reduce stress, develop physical/mental clarity, and fundamentally to makes our lives better.

backpackConceptually, minimalism is about having less of something. The first thought is often about our stuff, but realistically, a minimalistic lifestyle often exhibits itself by helping an individual remove the detrimental distractions to life. Removing stress, bad habits, debt, addictions, and clutter pave the way for clarity and focus in life. By removing negative things in our life we actually add to our overall satisfaction.

My forray into minimalism actually started with my stuff. I’ve had a tendency to collect things dating back to when I was a small child. The first time I backpacked in Europe the seed was planted. I lived in a large house throughout college and always kept my closets and storage areas packed with things. However, just by living out of a backpack for a short period, it finally clicked that having only the necessary can actually be freeing and mentally relaxing. The idea of practical minimalism slowly began to creep into other areas of my life. Continue reading

When The Financial Gurus Are Wrong (For You)

I enjoy the Gurus. I enjoy seeing popular media personalities talk about life, living the dream, and hearing their personal views on finance. I’ve read all of their books, listened to their shows, taught some of their classes, and enjoyed almost all of it. More often than not, the general advice they give is pretty good. Or at least, much better than the population of their followers. Most people would benefit from following the baby steps, getting out of debt, or riding a bike. But are all the gurus right for you?

suzeThe great part is everyone has their guru. In the financial community, it’s Buffett, Dave, Suze, C. Howard or even Mr. Money Mustache. They are all in the big game of trying to get financial information to us in entertaining and occasionally educational ways. They build audiences, platforms, and have followers that most small time authors or bloggers only dream about. And they are pretty good. But, are they good for you? Is it even possible for one person to give accurate advice for everyone in the world?

The trouble with gurus is that they have to ascribe a one size fits all approach. To really build a platform, one needs consistency and quotability. It is more important to have a uniform message than to try and navigate all the unique situations that arise in real life. Continue reading

The Future of Simple Economist

Money, Life, Friends, Food and Nola- That’s FinCon14. I spent some time last month attending a conference centered around financial writing, blogging, and financial media (#FinCon14). Conferences are typically pretty boring but this was one of the best. It was a pretty neat conference that had an interesting mix of fresh faces and fascinating people I’ve only mildly interacted with online. It can be a little awkward when you meet an author for the first time. Especially when you have read a lot of their work and often many of the personal details they have shared about their story. However, I found the experience to be quite entertaining and I came away with a better understanding of the group of authors who write in the financial blogging space.

Back-to-the-FutureOne of the highlights was taking a few minutes to sit down with Phillip (PT Money) and Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) for a one-on-one brainstorming session for Simple Economist. It was a neat opportunity to speak frankly with two very successful bloggers, but also a great session to think and dream about the future of this blog. The simplest question was the hardest to answer: “What is the point of all your writing?” Or maybe it was: “Who are you writing to?”. I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks brainstorming about the future of this site. The great news is that we don’t need to have all the answers upfront to participate in the blogging ride. I’ve also learned you are always making “progress” if you are enjoying the process. Continue reading

Our Journey To Debt Free

The lights go down. The music starts. My heart begins to race as the anticipation builds. I’ve been waiting for this concert for 12 years. The best selling solo artist of all time and he is back in action. Ah, to celebrate the progress we’ve made. You see, every time we pay concertoff $5,000 of our debt we take a little date night. And over the weekend we took our big date. It was awesome. Finally, the whole process of paying off our debt is getting close to the end. Only two more to go. We are almost there. I can almost taste the finish line.

We started our married life with a few small student loans, some rarely used credit cards and then, after a few years, a little brick house. Once we combined our finances we just took the money we had saved up and paid off the student loans. I’ve never really been a fan of payments and I tend to avoid getting into long term contracts for consumable items if possible. I enjoy the flexibility and simplicity of keeping the income that we make without paying out that money to service debt. But do we really need to be debt free? Continue reading

Eating Nasty Food and Watching TV on Vacation

I spent last week traveling for work and vacation. For anyone that goes on the road frequently, one of the biggest challenges we face is maintaining the habits and routines that we create when we are at home. However, new adventures are also part of the fun when we travel somewhere. We get to mix things up, go different places, try new things, and hang out with different people.

fast food feastI love to eat. I’m always interested in trying new foods and eating different things when I travel. At home, we tend to eat healthy meals at the house and much less healthily when we occasionally go out. When we go out, I typically just order whatever I want and run a little more the next day if I eat too much. At home, I also rarely take the time to turn on the television and if it does come on it is often a single episode of one of our favorite shows on netflix or prime. I don’t have the opportunity to spend as much time vegging out watching sports center like I did years ago. However, vacation is different. I seem to throw all routine out the door and spend my time eating, drinking, and watching whatever comes my way. Continue reading

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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