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 When We Don’t Follow Our Own Advice

How Many Square Feet Do We Need to Be Happy?

We are having a debate. Or at least I am having a debate. I’m faced with internal dilemma of trying to figure out where I want to live in the coming months (and years). As a family, we are anticipating many different changes in the next few years, but most likely one will involve buying a new house in the town where we currently live. We really like the home we are in. In fact, we will probably keep it as a rental unit even after we buy a new one. Our house is modest in size for our area and the price per square foot of real estate is super inexpensive where we live. We can easily afford a lot of house, but what do we actually need? All the internal discussion boils down to the question: how many square feet do we need to be happy?

My History With Big Houses
houseIn Georgia, where I’ve spent the vast majority of my life, houses are really big. We have lots of space, a major home building industry, plenty of forestry products and sprawling urban and suburban business centers. I grew up in a family of six and my parents turned our 3/2 into a space with bedrooms for all by the time I finished high school. For several years I had a massive basement to spend the majority of my time. In college, I shared a 185sf dorm with a roommate, followed by a fraternity house with 35 other guys and finally a room in a large house to myself. After college I moved to Manila and lived in a small 200sf studio. Upon getting married, we stayed in a 1,200sf condo before moving into our own 390sf studio for several years. Finally, we moved into our current 850sf home of efficiently laid out urban space with our family of four. (Picture is of a move in ready house that just sold in our town for about 190k, 3,600sf, $829 Monthly payment) Continue reading How Many Square Feet Do We Need to Be Happy?

Your Life is Designed to Be Unhealthy

Do you currently feel healthy? Do you feel like it is difficult to remain healthy? Are unhealthy habits and temptations continually challenging your self control and motivation? Almost everyone I know wants to live a healthy life. We all want to eat well, exercise, sleep well, minimize stress, and have healthy relationships. But is it even realistic? You may know someone who seems to live a healthy life with ease. Without effort, they seem to eat well, workout at 5:00am and live stress-free. In comparison, we often contrast our ideal with the realities of working late, demanding children, rushed meal choices and relationship pressure. Is our life designed to be unhealthy?

unhealthyDesigning a healthy life happens when we understand, prioritize, and automate the important. We don’t accidentally become healthier. It doesn’t come naturally. In fact, society actually pushes us in the exact opposite direction. We have consistent pressure to complicate our lives. Do more. Make more. Spend more. Life moves health to the bottom of our priority list- often until we reach a crisis. If you have the right tool, the project is easy. However, without the right equipment (physical or mental), trying to make progress is an uphill battle. We never get traction. So, until we realize popular society (and the marketing power they exhibit) does not have our best interest in mind, we will be stuck with the mentally exhausting task of trying to live a healthy life. The solution is actually pretty simple. It involves a little planning; but all we really need to do is make healthy choices easier than unhealthy ones. That is when progress actually happens. Continue reading Your Life is Designed to Be Unhealthy

I Need More Than a (Financial) Pill

Everybody wants a pill. People want a quick and easy fix. It takes real work to dive under the surface and address the true challenges we face. We are often too tired, too lazy, and too comfortable to initiate any type of real change in our life. We don’t want to change, we just want our problems fixed. So, we ask for a pill. The trouble is, even when we get a pill, we end up just treading our symptoms instead of actually addressing the underlying problems in our lives. Sure, it makes us feel better for the moment, but does it actually make our lives better?

Debt, weight loss, relationship communication, stress, poor sleeping habits, addictive substances? Sure, a pill will fix all of those.

money pill“I don’t want to work any more or spend any less but I’d like to get rid of this debt. I don’t want to eat any differently or exercise at all, but help me lose 50lbs. I want my relationship to be better with my _________ but I don’t want to be uncomfortable working though current and past issues. I want to feel healthy and wake up feeling good on weekend mornings but I’m not ready to give up cigarettes or alcohol. We see it all around us. We see it in ourselves. We often have major issues that need to be addressed but rarely have the emotional fortitude to address the challenges head on. It is a lot easier to take a pill. It is much harder to fix ourselves. Continue reading I Need More Than a (Financial) Pill

I’ll Be Happy When…

I’ll be happy when I get a raise. I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I’ll be happy when we move into that new house. I’ll be happy when I meet that special someone. I’ll be happy when the little one sleeps though the night, or when they’re out of diapers, or going off to school, or finally graduating. Hey, I’ll be happy when I get the job. Maybe I’ll finally be happy when I retire. Wait, will I ever be happy?

Ill be happy whenTake a moment to evaluate yourself. How is this season going for you? What is making you happy? What is causing you to be stressed? What will likely change and what will remain consistent? I spent a little time thinking through the various positive things in my life and also considered many of the unique stressors that are impacting my current environment. Sure, having a toddler and newborn bring about some new challenges, but the excitement of watching the little guys learn and play is incredible. The seasons will change but the challenges will only evolve as we age. They certainly will not go away. Part of living a happy, healthy life is understanding our mental tendencies and learning to appreciate the challenging seasons of life we are all certain to face. Continue reading I’ll Be Happy When…

Time Poverty of the Ultra Rich

A billionaire’s conference? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I was listening* to a discussion the other day about a conference put on exclusively for billionaires. Founding members of the conference noticed a strange phenomena. Although the conference was originally planned as a week-long event, none of the wealthiest individuals on the planet could actually attend the entire time. Most were only able to come for a day or two. The irony is simple- wouldn’t the wealthiest people in the world have the greatest ability to take a few days off? The surprising answer is No. Although we currently do not have billions, a lot of us fall into similar situations as our careers, incomes, commitments, expectations, and responsibilities grow and mature. The question begs to be asked: Is the money we make bringing us any closer to actual freedom?

stressThis observation has also been discussed on the other end of the spectrum when looking at individuals with very little money but plenty of margin. Although the case is compelling, Simple Economist readers tend to be high income earners with above average accumulation rates. In essence, we actually have to deal with a different set of challenges and expectations that arise when our incomes go up, even if we are maintaining consistency in our levels of consumption. We must be attuned to the fact that income often comes with responsibility and, if we are not careful, can limit our freedom rather than add to it. Continue reading Time Poverty of the Ultra Rich

Why We Paid Off Our Mortgage at 30

Is it wise to pay off your mortgage early? The debate about when to pay off a mortgage seems to be a popular one in the financial world. Some prevailing financial personalities abhor debt and suggest paying it off at all cost. Others (including many finance professors & rich dad) seem to enjoy low-rate mortgages, and fundamentally love the idea of a leveraged debt position. I’m not really sure there is a right or wrong answer in the debate, but I know we have chosen a side and I’m pretty happy with where we currently sit.

Pay off house earlyAbout three years ago we found a little house we liked in a great southern town. We saved pretty aggressively after we got married so we had a good down payment to go with a small mortgage. We fixed up the little house and it has been a great place to live as our family has begun to multiply. Although we chose a traditional 15 year mortgage, we realized if we put a little extra towards the house we could pay it off pretty quickly. Once the idea was planted, we focused, and ended up paying it off much faster than our initial estimates. So, why did we pay off the house? Why not invest the money in the market instead? Is it ever smart to pay off low-interest debt? Continue reading Why We Paid Off Our Mortgage at 30

100 Days of Real Food

“Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much” says Michael Pollan in his book about eating simply. Our diets can become extremely complicated with all of the choices available and the extras that have been added into the products that line the grocery store shelves. Even when we try to eat healthily, many of the products we buy are filled with highly processed ingredients that do not even sound like food. Overall, our family tends to eat a pretty balanced diet, but occasionally we like to try new things to challenge ourselves and break the routine of our weekly diet. So, bring on the 100 Days challenge.

100daysWe discovered 100 Days of Real Food a couple years ago while searching through food/nutrition blogs, and have completed the 100 days challenge in the past (a 100 days without eating any highly processed, refined food). The blogger and creator, Lisa Leake, implemented this meal plan in her family, saw amazing results and is now challenging others to do the same. The plan simply promotes healthy eating, learning to read the ingredient labels on packages, and removing highly processed foods. We conveniently received her cookbook for Christmas, and thought the new year would be the perfect time to start.

Health is one of the most important aspects of lifestyle design. It is hard to do anything efficiently when our bodies feel bad or we do not have energy. So fueling up with healthy foods is a must for feeling good, sleeping well, and overall productivity. 100 Days is really about simplifying our food choices and removing all of the crazy substances that have crept into our food over the last fifty years. -SE

Continue reading 100 Days of Real Food

The Post Christmas Declutter

Christmas is a pretty exciting time in our household. We were able to spend a lot of quality time with our immediate and extended family, eat tons of delicious food, and relax without many external distractions. The highlight of christmas is really spending time with people we care about, but we also enjoy the gift giving process as well. Although the Christmas season is a time of extreme accumulation for many individuals, it can also be a time to evaluate everything we currently own and the new things we received. One of my goals this years is to end Christmas with less stuff than I started with. Is that even possible? What about with kids? We currently have a lot of stuff (and added plenty more), but in the next few days we will take some time to go through our stuff and donate/recycle/sell anything will not be using in the near future.

Christmas TrashBoth my wife and I come from very generous families who really enjoy the holidays. We get a few things and the grandkids get all kinds of crazy stuff. They really enjoy it. I enjoy it too, but I also dislike the deadweight loss of Christmas and the over-consumerism that tends to expand each year. We have done pretty well about communicating our expectations and keeping the entire holiday season focused primarily on spending time with each other. Somehow, we still end the year with lots of new things that make it into our house and take up our valuable space. Continue reading The Post Christmas Declutter

Are you planning to retire early? Extremely Early? Our Plan.

Family, children, and travel. The simple things in my head that made me consider the idea of working towards financial independence at an early age. The idea of retirement is pretty simple to me- getting to the point where I no longer need to work a mandatory job to cover our family’s expenses (ever again). Will we continue to be active and productive after we complete our mandatory employment? Sure. Idleness in not the end goal, choice is. I enjoy my current employment and lifestyle, but there are certainly a few tweaks I would make if money was of no concern.

Goa SunsetHave you ever considered becoming financially independent at an early age? What would be a good target? 30, 40, 50? Have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like if you never had to work for an income again? Any changes you would make? I would love to have a little more time in my days. The primary motivations for me are: time with my family, financial simplicity, and a lifestyle of minimal environmental impact. Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin have been writing about this type of financial lifestyle for over thirty years since the original publication of Your Money or Your Life in 1992. Continue reading Are you planning to retire early? Extremely Early? Our Plan.