Toward a leaner and less stressful lifestyle…

Years of easy credit have led many of us into lifestyles that included a lot of creature comforts that did nothing to advance our careers. Adjustable rate mortgages enabled unwary credit junkies to buy houses that could never be afforded otherwise. The rising tide of an ever-expanding economy kept most of us off the shoals of economic reality that should have sunk us instantly.

It seemed for many years that the perfect antidote to boredom was to go shopping or to go out to dinner at a new restaurant. If that failed, we would take a vacation trip for a week or a weekend in an effort to find satisfaction in a increasingly hectic and unsettling life.

For many of us, life in the fast lane snuck up on us somehow through a series of job changes. We went from being really good at some job where we were seemingly in control of our destinies, although unhappy with the restrictions we worked under, to middle or upper management where we became those managers and directors that we had always viewed with fear, scorn, or envy.

Along the way to knighthood as a manager/director we picked up the accouterments of a different lifestyle. Our automobiles, homes, and wardrobes became far more expensive and somewhat more comfortable. They were badges indicating our success.

In some cases, they were necessary parts of our corporate or business personna, but in many cases, these accessories did little to ensure our success. High end media systems and home theaters, top of the line sport cars, exotic SUVs (Hummers, etc.) do little to help you hold on to your position in a corporation.

When the economy sours, your real estate holdings and other possessions are a huge liability if you have no equity in them. Six years ago, too many people in Silicon Valley lived precariously even with two large incomes. The deflation of the Internet bubble triggered an immediate reaction for these people. Overnight, some went from gorgeous homes in gated neighborhoods to rental units in outlying towns.

The Internet bubble is history, but the lifestyle lives on for many up and coming middle managers in other cities across the USA and probably around the world. I know personally of several talented people who are working their butts off in an increasingly chaotic corporate environment and who have accumulated a debt load that can swamp them in an instant if their careers falter.

These are really competent people, but they have been under such stress that they acquire "things" to give them creature comforts or they take expensive vacations and trips, just to "get away for a while". When the acquisitions or trips are not paid for by cash, they add to the stress. It’s a vicious spiral that gets worse over time.

Take a hard look at your family possessions and the monthly services you are contracted to pay. How many of them are helping you earn a living?

Those things that are not helping you earn a living, are adding to the burden you have to deal with every payday.

See if you can’t lighten your burden by cutting back on non-essential services and activities.

More later. Have a good weekend.

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0 Responses to Toward a leaner and less stressful lifestyle…

  1. zoom says:

    I had cable TV for about 10 years.
    About a year ago I stopped the subscription.

    I had a gym membership almost 5 years.
    Now I do more out doors jogging.

    Now suppose that I eat about 200g meat per day. Thats about 6 kg per month. The price of cable TV & Gym ammounts to more than 10 kg of meat. (Because most of the time I prefer to eat chicken and not red meat that is even more)

    So to sum it up, what I save on cable TV and a fashionable gym pays for much of the food that I eat in a month.

  2. Carl says:

    Good stuff David.

    So much of this consumerism has to do with keeping up with the Joneses. Sometimes I wonder if the psych crowd on Madison 5th Ave has figured out the “average American” and is now so effective that that is why we now have zero to negative savings rates.

    There is no longer any perceived valor to saving – too bad.

    As a relative once said to me, “you can’t tell who has money, you can only tell who is spending it.” Pretty scary given that pension systems are no longer much of a backdrop for folks these days. Scary indeed.

  3. Food for thought (literally and figuratively) but I have to wonder if we must set “will it help us make a living” as the delimiter?

    If quality of life is truly an important aspect of our careers then some of what we buy and do should be aimed at supporting activities that have nothing do with our work.

    In a previous life, I drove a Porsche. Yes, success allowed me to purchase the car but the use of it evolved into a myriad of off-work activities that included rallying, racing and work through the local Porsche club. The Porsche may be history but the friends we made through our involvement with other owners and enthusiasts live on long after associations from work and career.

    Easy credit and a desire to appear and act successful have ruined many a life but I would argue that limiting oneself to things that only benefit income or career is even more self-destructive.

    Balance must be the goal.

  4. shuchetana says:

    Doug, I really like your comment.
    I think that the point is not to stop spending money, but to stop spending money for the sole purpose of impressing others.

  5. Jim says:

    This is good advice. For most, you can either live like a millionaire or become one, but not both. And let’s not forget that this country is an anomoly in that our poorest would be considered well off in most other countries, yet we still complain loudly and often blame our government for our own problems. It’s all relative.

  6. David M says:

    Not everybody gets to make the choice between “keeping up with the Joneses” or buying a Porche vs. saving for the future. And the people who get to make the choice to “live like a millionaire or become one” are not MOST of the people in this county.

    Most people work their butts off in an effort to get just a little ahead, keep their families fed, clothed, and healthy, and put the kids through college.

    For “most” living “simply” is not an option, it is a necessity. Of course, if you are brazen enough to get really sick in America today, you had darn well better have insurance. If you don’t then you will be suitably punished.

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