It's interesting how different people do different things. I came across Mr Bo Dangle's blog, Dangling the Carrot, the other day and saw how he'd sunk $30,000, 90% of his emergency fund into the stock market in March. Even at a 29% discount from the market high, that's a ballsy move - generally people are trying to hang on to their emergency cash in these Covid-19 times. I'm not wondering whether Mr Bo Dangle's choice was sensible, I simply find it fascinating seeing how different people have different approaches.
I also found Backpack Finance's post, Extreme Minimalist or Cheap Bastard, where he makes an inventory of what he owns. Spoiler alert - it's not much! I don't think of myself as a minimalist, but I can see a path heading in that direction. We've progressively downsized from a five bedroom house to a compact 61m² (650ft²) two bedroom apartment and, for our last move, the combined worldly belongings for both Sally and I filled only 3m³.
Mr Bo Dangles is 26 years old and plans to retire at 32 while Backpack Finance reached financial independence at 35. That's pretty aggressive FIRE and while they show what can be possible, such timelines are more the exception than the norm. I was a slow coach in comparison, only FIRE'ing at 47, although that still puts me into the not normal category - in my social circle I only know of one other person who's done that.
The fact that their stories are different from mine doesn't make them irrelevant, instead it fascinates me and gets me thinking too.
For example, Backpack Finance has got me wondering about the minimalist question. As I said, I don't see myself as a minimalist (yet), but I can see the attraction. Sally, on the other hand, doesn't - she figures that after working hard to be financially free, why not use that money to buy things?
Of course I do buy stuff, it's just that I naturally apply tests to my purchases - will the new "stuff" be valued and used sufficiently, will it add to my quality of life/enjoyment? If not, then why would I buy it? That's different from saying I don't want to spend money. In fact, I'd much rather spend quite a lot on something that matters to me than a little on a bunch of stuff that I won't use or appreciate. Anyway, that's what I think...I think.
Now I'm intrigued, is what I think I think actually what I do? Do my purchases over the past twelve months support my presumption that I buy things only if they'll be valued, used sufficiently and enhance my quality of life/enjoyment? The part of me that's still a bit accountant couldn't resist looking back over the last year to find out. This is the stuff I've bought, in order of less to more expensive:
Strap for heart rate monitor £9 / €10 / $12
Magnetic knife rack £13 / €15 / $17
Watch strap £19 / €22 / $25
Magnetic spice jars £38 / €45 / $49
Cycling shorts & jacket £140 / €165 / $182
Clothes (1 x shorts, 1 x trousers, 1 x flip flops, 1 x thermal top, 6 x vests) £153 / €180 / $199
Mobile phone £202 / €238 / $263
Bike parts £212 / €250 / $276
Running shoes (3 pairs) £327 / €386 / $425
Bikepacking & camping gear £443 / €523 / $576
Ski touring set up £1,280 / €1,510 / $1,664
I might have missed a few things, but not many, and I haven't included the stuff that Sally buys. So what do my purchases tell me? For a start, I think it says that my idea of entertainment during the current lockdown is a little weird🤦♂️. But other than that, it seems to confirm that I'm closer to minimalism than consumerism, something I'm happy about. It perhaps also shows that while I might not buy much, I'm happy to spend reasonable sums of money on the things that matter to me. Value and cheap aren't the same thing.
This post isn't meant to be about money. If it were, then I'd be delving into the things that most of our money goes on: groceries, going out, coffee shops, plus for the past three years, lots and lots on travel. Instead, this post is about having an awareness that there is more than one way of doing things, seeing how other people think and do things, and maybe being a little inspired by them. And perhaps a tiny slice of this post is that I have to fill my lockdown time somehow😏