Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Adam Tervort of Lean, Mean, Minimalist.
On a recent Saturday I was getting ready to speak at a conference about teaching English. It was a business conference, and most of the people who were attending had interest in either becoming teachers or investing in English schools. You see, I live in Taiwan where teaching English is big business. The other speaker came up to me, shook my hand and asked, “How many do you have?”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“How many do you have?”
“I’ve got three kids.”
“No, no. How many English schools do you have? I’ve got over thirty. I just wanted to know how many you have so we can decide who will speak first and who is last.”
“I have zero. I’ll go first.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. I explained that my talk was about being a teacher, creating a brand for yourself, teacher development, that kind of thing.
“How much do you make per month?” I hate this question. Part of the reason I don’t like it is because I do pretty well, but I hate playing the comparison game. I knew that he makes so much more than I do that comparing income with him would be like telling him that my sedan could give his Ferrari a good race down at the track. He started guessing, got the number right in two, and then said, “But why don’t you open a school? You could make so much more money.”
“Our family decided a while back that we just wanted to have enough. I don’t want a school, the money would never be enough to make me happy with that life.”
He nodded with a funny grin, and wished me luck. When my presentation concluded he started his, and throughout his time he talked over and over about how hard it is to run schools, how it is not a good way to live, but the money is great. And he referred over and over to me. “Maybe I should be like Adam, and just say enough is enough, I don’t know.” To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
You can choose what kind of life you want.
In every field, you can make a choice. You can choose to live with enough, to stop making money when you have what you need. Yes, there will always seem to be another way to make money or another reason that you seem to need more, but when you find a balance of having enough, it will free you. When you stop chasing, then you can start to appreciate how wonderful the place you are now is. Millionaires aren’t the only ones who have everything they want. (They usually don’t, they just seem to.) You can too, but you have to choose what you really want, and then be happy when you get it.
Here are three strategies to help you get started. Their ease of execution depends less on how much money you have and more on how much you want to really change. The clearer your vision is, the easier it will be to execute!
- Savings comes first. Want to be in debt the rest of your life? Here’s your formula: Income – Spending = Savings. Want to break the cycle and become “independent?” Income – Savings = Spending. Set your goal and then save before you spend, every month, even if it is really inconvenient. When you have that hunk of savings in the bank life looks a lot less desperate.
- Eat at home. You can save so much money by figuring out how to make (and make time to make) the things you like to eat. I love pizza. It took a while to figure out how to do it in a toaster oven, but now the kids complain if we eat pizza from the store. It doesn’t taste as good as what we make at home. You’ll save a ton, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your culinary labors much more than those of a greasy teenager making minimum wage.
- Make a budget. I’m not one of those aesthetic minimalists who lives on lentils, morning dew, and good karma. I like to live a simple life that makes me happy. This includes things like insurance, which costs money up front but would kill you in the end if you didn’t have it. Whatever you need in your life to make you happy, make sure you put it in your budget. I like Tim Ferriss’s approach; find out how much money you need to make every day to finance your “dream lines,” add 25% for incidentals and you’re set. If you are minimal in your wants and buying habits, this turns out to be a surprisingly small amount. Find your number, find how to get to it, then stop worrying about it.
You can be happy with enough. You’ll never be happy if you never have enough. Choose to have enough, and the details will fall into place for you.
When was the last time you turned down more to be happy with enough?