voluntary simplicity http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/6967/all en-US Book review: Wabi Sabi Simple http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-wabi-sabi-simple <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-wabi-sabi-simple" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/wabisabisimplecover2.jpg" alt="Cover of Wabi Sabi Simple" title="Cover of Wabi Sabi Simple" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="164" height="219" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593371780?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1593371780"><cite>Wabi Sabi Simple: Create beauty. Value imperfection. Live deeply.</cite></a> By Richard R. Powell.</p> <p>Is there an intersection between living large and simple living? I think so. To me, living large is not about having more stuff or more expensive stuff, it's about living my life exactly as I choose, without being constrained by what my boss wants me to do, what the neighbors think, or what my creditors will allow. It's about the breadth and width of my life, not about how high I can pile up stuff. If that is how you want to live large, you'll find a lot of inspiration in Richard R. Powell's book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593371780?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1593371780"><em>Wabi Sabi Simple</em></a>.</p> <p>Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term for a concept that is fundamentally Japanese, but that will also resonate with people from any culture. The term, Powell explains, comes from two Japanese words:</p> <ul> <li>wabi means poverty--but poverty of the genteel sort where you have everything you need, even if you don't have everything you want.</li> <li>sabi is a technical literary term used to describe a certain kind of melancholy feel such as evoked by images of nature, rural scenes, and autumn.</li> </ul> <p>Together, though, they describe a certain kind of simplicity:</p> <blockquote><p>It is about respectful conversation, harmonious and peaceful dwellings, and modest behavior. It is ordered but not orderly, planned but not scheduled, simple but not simple-minded, and deliberate without being rigid.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a book that speaks to me. It finds words to describe many of the pieces that go together to make a life that is filled with both ease and meaning:</p> <blockquote><p>Filling life with wabi sabi might be as simple as emptying it of clutter. Wabi sabi cannot be contained in anything square, boxy, or bright, nor can it ever be modular. Quality control kills it, and uniformity negates it. It has to be authentic, genuine, and natural. It perishes under refinement, and sameness wilts it.... Having lots of wabi sabi is a contradiction.</p> </blockquote> <p>And they are beautiful words:</p> <blockquote><p>A friend and I kayaked on a July evening across Northumberland Channel to De Courcy Island just before sunset. The warm golden glow of the sun, low near the horizon, cast elongated shadows along the curving surfaces of the island's weathered sandstone cliffs. A bald eagle soared along the fir- and arbutus- covered ridge at the top of the bluff. We paddled slowly around each bend of the island's varied coastline and craned our necks to look up at the sculpted cookie dough shapes. When we pulled the craft in close, mottled rock, twisted trees, and barnacle-covered stones radiated the day's heat toward us, mirroring the warmth we felt at being there.</p> </blockquote> <p>The book is not a how-to manual. It is an explanation of what wabi sabi is (and what it is not) with some illustrations of how simplicity enriches your life--at home, with your friends, at work. Implicit in the book is the notion that, if you understand simplicity, you don't need someone to tell you how to achieve it or how to apply its lessons to your life. Once you understand you won't need instruction or exhortation--you'll just see that simple living is better. This makes it an easy book to read. The author isn't trying to convince you of anything or talk you into anything. He's just showing you some things that he has found to be true and meaningful.</p> <p>I'm all about simple living. To me, frugal living is a means to an end; when I have to choose between frugality and simplicity, I'll go with simplicity if I can possibly afford it. (Fortunately, simplicity often leads to reasonably frugal choices even when it doesn't lead to the most frugal choices.) If you have any interest in simplicity as a lifestyle choice--whether you're already living simply or not--you'll find much to enjoy and much to think about in Richard R. Powell's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1593371780?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1593371780"><em>Wabi Sabi Simple</em></a>.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-wabi-sabi-simple">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-only-investment-guide-youll-ever-need">Book review: The Only Investment Guide You&#039;ll Ever Need</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-little-book-of-common-sense-investing">Book review: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-self-sufficient-life-and-how-to-live-it">Book review: The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-happier">Book review: Happier</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-game-over">Book review: Game Over</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle book review book reviews books poverty review simple living simplicity voluntary simplicity wabi sabi Tue, 24 Feb 2009 19:16:44 +0000 Philip Brewer 2868 at http://www.wisebread.com Not free to be poor http://www.wisebread.com/not-free-to-be-poor <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/not-free-to-be-poor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/bench-in-herb-garden-2.jpg" alt="Bench in herb garden" title="Bench in Herb Garden" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="233" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Nobody wants to be poor.  It&#39;s a <a href="/voluntary-simplicity-versus-poverty">dangerous and constrained position</a> to be in.  But there are people out there (me, for instance) who are relatively happy to live at a fairly low standard of living.  Choosing to live at a low standard of living means you don&#39;t need to earn as much money--which opens up a huge range of possibilities that ordinary people don&#39;t have.  The way society is organized now, though, that&#39;s not a safe option.</p> <p>The classic early retirement strategy is simple to describe:  Earn a good salary, live frugally, save (and invest) the difference.  If you want to retire very early, you need a pretty big gap between what you earn and what you spend.  You also need to know how little you can afford to live on.  To those ends, living frugally is a double-win:  It frees up money to save and invest, plus it also acts as a &quot;proof of concept&quot; for your standard of living in retirement.</p> <p>(When you&#39;re unhappy with your job, it&#39;s easy to look at your spending and think to yourself, &quot;You know, if I didn&#39;t have to go to work every day, I wouldn&#39;t need to spend so much on X&quot; (where X can be just about anything from booze to vacations to video games).  While there&#39;s some truth to that, most people are smart enough to know that the thing to do is to cut your budget <strong>first</strong>.  It would suck to retire early and then discover that you&#39;re miserable without your X, whether it&#39;s a country club membership or a daily frufru coffee drink.)</p> <p>As I say, simple to describe.  It&#39;s even pretty simple to do, as long as you&#39;re willing to live below your means.  The problem, especially for Americans, is that it isn&#39;t safe.</p> <p>Suppose you do this.  Suppose you get a small, cheap apartment that&#39;s within walking distance of most of the places you need to go.  You quit driving much, parking (or even selling) your car.  You shop your closet for clothing, let your wardrobe dwindle, and only buy versatile, classic items that are made to last.  You eat a frugal diet with lots of in-season veggies and little or no meat.  You forgo new gadgets and toys, and you seek out cheap entertainment such as free concerts, museums, and libraries.</p> <p>Suppose, through such means, you get your expenses down to the point that you can <a href="/how-much-do-i-need-to-retire-how-much-can-i-spend">fund your lifestyle</a> entirely from your investment return.  (Short of that, maybe your investment return can fund a large enough portion of your living expenses that you can choose any sort of work that appeals to you, even if the pay is very low.)</p> <p>Are you now free to retire?  No.  At least, not if you live in the United States.  You have too many huge contingent expenses.</p> <p>A few of these can be dealt with through careful planning.  You can estimate how much you&#39;ll need to buy a new car every so often.  You can estimate how much you&#39;re going to have to spend to put your kids through college.  You can estimate what you&#39;ll need to cover an occasional new roof, furnace, air conditioner, window, door, hot water heater, and so on (generally not an issue if you rent).  But even if you have savings to cover these items, there are some contingent expenses that are simply unknowable.  In particular, you might get sick or injured, and find yourself bankrupted by medical bills.  </p> <p>Huge <a href="/things-to-insure-things-not-to-insure">contingent expenses</a> are exactly what insurance is for, and it works pretty well for protecting you against the loss of your home in a fire or of your car in a collision.  But, at least in the United States, it doesn&#39;t work worth crap for health insurance.</p> <p>Health insurance in the US is not only expensive, it&#39;s also uncertain.  Even if you can afford it, if you&#39;ve ever been seriously ill, there&#39;s a pretty good chance that no one will sell it to you at any price.</p> <p>There are other contingencies that the potential early retiree needs to worry about--investment losses, for example, or soaring prices for basic necessities like food--but they&#39;re relatively straightforward to deal with.  Having more than than the absolute minimum to cover your frugal lifestyle is wise.  A <a href="/best-asset-allocation-for-your-portfolio">well-diversified investment portfolio</a> that includes some foreign stocks, some bonds, maybe some real estate and precious metals can be expected to hold up pretty well.  A fraction of your retirement income should be in the form of an annuity (such as a pension), and a fraction should be inflation-protected (such as <a href="/tips-and-i-bonds">TIPS or I-Bonds</a>).  A willingness to do some sort of paid work (to only semi-retire, as it were) adds to your options as well.</p> <p>Sadly, none of these really solves the problem of medical insurance.  (Well, bumping your investment portfolio up by a few million dollars would be a partial solution, in the sense that most health insurance has a maximum payout of a few million dollars anyway, so with enough cash, you could just carry that risk yourself.  But that&#39;s just a further example of the fundamental problem that there&#39;s no ceiling on your potential liability.)</p> <p>I think everyone suffers as a result of the way we do health care in the United States.  How many people are working at jobs they don&#39;t like, or staying married to people they don&#39;t love, simply to keep their health insurance?  What if those people were unleashed to follow their bliss?  Everyone would be better off--them, their children, the people they&#39;re (unhappily) working for, the people they&#39;re (unhappily) married to, the people who could appreciate whatever they might be creating, if they weren&#39;t stuck in some job they no longer enjoy.</p> <p>I&#39;m looking forward to the day when society is organized such that I can pick a standard of living, arrange to earn that much money, and feel confident that ordinary bad luck won&#39;t ruin my life.  I want to be free to be poor.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/not-free-to-be-poor">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-6"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-care-reform-good-for-people-like-me">Health Care Reform: Good for People Like Me</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-millennials-have-changed-money-so-far">6 Ways Millennials Have Changed Money (So Far)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/its-the-21st-century-why-is-your-money-stuck-in-the-20th">It&#039;s the 21st Century — Why Is Your Money Stuck in the 20th?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/37-ways-youd-be-better-off-as-a-bum">37 Ways You’d be Better Off as a Bum</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-think-like-a-billionaire-when-you-re-broke">How to Think Like a Billionaire When You’re Broke</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Insurance Lifestyle asset allocation health insurance investing medical insurance poverty voluntary simplicity Mon, 07 Jul 2008 21:25:48 +0000 Philip Brewer 2221 at http://www.wisebread.com Voluntary simplicity as hedonism http://www.wisebread.com/voluntary-simplicity-as-hedonism <p><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/wisebread_imce/bench-in-herb-garden.jpg" alt="Bench in herb garden" title="Bench in herb garden" width="296" height="400" /></p> <p>When people talk about voluntary simplicity (or living a frugal lifestyle under any of its many names), they often do so in terms of deprivation. The descriptions are all about doing without stuff. To me, that&#39;s completely wrong. Voluntary simplicity is fundamentally a hedonistic lifestyle.</p> <p>What do hedonists do? They do what ordinary people seem only to do when they&#39;re on vacation. They go places that are interesting or beautiful and they linger in them. They go dancing and go to parties. They read good books. They hang out with cool people. They hike in the mountains and swim in the ocean and go sailing. They play golf or tennis. They eat good food and drink good wine. They listen to music or play music. They go to museums and theaters. They do whatever gives them pleasure until they&#39;re tired, and then they lie in the shade and take a nap. </p> <p>To me, voluntary simplicity is exactly the same thing. You think about what gives you the most pleasure and then arrange your life so you can do exactly that.</p> <p>I saw a poster once that said, &quot;My tastes are simple: I like to have the best.&quot; It&#39;s a sentiment that probably resonates with everyone. But you can&#39;t have the best of everything--where would you keep it? So, you have the best of only a few things, the things that matter the most to you. And, if you get rid of the other stuff--stuff that doesn&#39;t matter as much to you--then your whole life gets easier. With less stuff you can live in a smaller house, or an apartment instead of a house, or a smaller apartment.</p> <p>But a small apartment doesn&#39;t mean a small life. A small apartment is a means to an end. The end is a life doing whatever you want.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/voluntary-simplicity-as-hedonism">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/voluntary-simplicity-versus-poverty">Voluntary simplicity versus poverty</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/windows-phone-7-giveaway">Windows Phone 7 &amp; XBox Live Gold Membership Giveaway From Wise Bread</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-smart-reasons-to-last-minute-holiday-shop">9 Smart Reasons to Last-Minute Holiday Shop</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-cheap-and-easy-formulas-for-homemade-windshield-de-icer-plus-bonus-tips">3 Cheap and Easy Formulas for Homemade Windshield De-Icer (Plus Bonus Tips)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-how-long-these-6-appliances-should-last">This Is How Long These 6 Appliances Should Last</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living hedonism voluntary simplicity Wed, 25 Jul 2007 00:09:27 +0000 Philip Brewer 896 at http://www.wisebread.com Voluntary simplicity versus poverty http://www.wisebread.com/voluntary-simplicity-versus-poverty <p><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/wisebread_imce/sunset-kaufman-lake.jpg" alt="Sunset at Kaufman Lake Park" title="Sunset at Kuafman Lake Park" width="440" height="330" /></p> <p>The first person I met who practiced voluntary simplicity didn&#39;t call it that, and I didn&#39;t understand what she was doing until many years later. It left a lasting impression, though, because it was a source of stress between her and her friends.</p> <p>I was just out of college, working at my first job. I hung around with a group of young software engineers and graduate students, some new families, others single guys like me. Software engineers didn&#39;t make as much money then as they do now--the salaries were good, but there were no signing bonuses or stock options--and graduate students were just as poor then as they are now.</p> <p>One of the graduate students in our little group was different. She was rich.</p> <p>At any rate, her family was rich. They had given her the money to open a cash management account--a checkbook and a credit card backed by a brokerage account--back when those were a new invention. Nowadays you can get an asset management account with a minimum deposit of $5000 or less, but back then the minimum balance was $20,000 (which was, by the way, more than my annual salary at the time).</p> <p>She didn&#39;t spend that money, though. She got by on her graduate student stipend. She did it by doing all the frugal things that get lumped together under names like voluntary simplicity, frugality, tightwad, simple living, financial independence, etc. She lived in a cheap apartment (no air conditioning in south Florida); she had a roommate; she ate vegetarian meals cooked at home; she drove an old Honda; she didn&#39;t buy stuff she didn&#39;t need.</p> <p>She was rather proud of the way she lived, and this was the source of stress that I mentioned between her and some of the others in our group. (I understand her feelings perfectly--I too am a bit prone to feeling smug about the way I live my life.) Other people resented the fact that she seemed to feel that she was living like she was poor. It was a vivid lesson to me in the difference between living in poverty and just living at the same standard of living.</p> <p>Choosing to live a simple life is wonderfully empowering and affirming. Having less stuff saves not only money, but also time and worry. It&#39;s easy on the planet. It&#39;s healthy. It maximizes your freedom of choice. </p> <p>Living in poverty, though, is just bad:</p> <p><strong>It&#39;s limiting. </strong> A poor person doens&#39;t have flexibility to quit a job with an insane manager or to drop everything to support a friend in a crisis. There&#39;s also no clear path out--an endless treadmill where you never get ahead.</p> <p><strong>It&#39;s dangerous, or even out-and-out harmful.</strong> Shoes that don&#39;t hurt your feet are an unaffordable luxury. Medical care and car repairs get put off because the alternative is going hungry.</p> <p>Oddly, <strong>it&#39;s even expensive.</strong> Choosing to live simply gives you the flexibility to take advantage of good deals, where a poor person can&#39;t afford to buy more than just what they need right now, even if the big package would be cheaper or there&#39;ll be a sale next week.</p> <p>These differences exist, even if the people spend exactly the same amount of money.</p> <p>It was good that I came to understand the difference between voluntary simplicity and poverty as early as I did. I&#39;ve never forgotten.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/voluntary-simplicity-versus-poverty">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-wabi-sabi-simple">Book review: Wabi Sabi Simple</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-simplest-way-to-live-simply-and-cheaply">The Simplest Way to Live Simply — And Cheaply</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/37-ways-youd-be-better-off-as-a-bum">37 Ways You’d be Better Off as a Bum</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/frugality-simplicity-and-sustainability">Frugality, Simplicity, and Sustainability</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/not-free-to-be-poor">Not free to be poor</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living poverty simple living voluntary simplicity Fri, 20 Jul 2007 15:50:28 +0000 Philip Brewer 872 at http://www.wisebread.com