11 certain signs you are living a simple woman’s life

How many things are there which I do not want”

Socrates

11 certain signs you are living the life of a simple woman are:-

11. You enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal with your extended family in the last 7 days and it probably didn’t cost $20 for the whole rabble.

10. Friends compliment your clothes and ask you where you bought them. You tell them how you got them from Repel Le Label (vintage, second hand, free or cheap non label clothes). It’s all about an eye for the buy. Define your style. Buy for life. Avoid ill fitting fashion of the week and above all no harm clothes warm from within.

9. You worked the soil this week. Planting or tending to the fruit, veggies and native plants on your landholding.

8 You decluttered, tidied or optimised something to save time later. The effort today is a gift to future you.

7. You’ve made some furniture or other household item out of a packing crate or other found materials. It’s not just the men that have rights to escape child care duties in the shed.

6. You make your own household cleaning products for your man to use around the home. Forget toxic expensive supermarket cleaners (heck forget supermarkets – they are evil!).

5. Your free time is active free not passive expensive. Life’s way better when you play with the kids and exercise rather than shop and watch TV.

4. You’ve changed your hairstyle to something simpler and cheaper to maintain.

3. You’ve had a chat and a laugh with your girlfriends in the last 2 days.

2. You smiled twice this week when people living rich complained about their working life. Bigger smiles when over spenders give you a subtle put down for living within your means (and having all the rewards that job freedom offers).

1. You didn’t work today, but you still received some money along the way.

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How to build a freedom fund…the first salvo

“Price is what you pay; value is what you get.’ Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down”

Warren Buffet

I’m not a financial adviser. Perhaps I should be.

Anyway be warned that is my disclaimer. If you follow my advice and lose all your money so be it (some kind of adviser eh!).

First and foremost rule of financial management is do it all yourself. Don’t pay a brokerage, a money manager or a financial adviser. They do not work for you. My father found out the hard way that these people are in sales not education. The second rule is of course learn how to do it yourself. The third rule is that we never talk about financial fight club…but that is another post altogether.

The first point that I’d like to make is that you actually don’t need a huge fund to stop working and start living. This point is singularly responsible for my current work ethic and continued tolerance for the droll perturbance that is trivial paid work. It might also be worth noting that up until 5? years ago I was always a dollar each way on where to direct ‘spare’ money. I would sprinkle a bit on my mortgage, a bit on our rental property, put some aside for a business startup and a little extra into our investment account. Now I  am resolutely focused on using my income to buy an income.  I’ve realised that to be free all you need is regular cash flow that is equal or greater than your living costs. With that income you can buy your house, a rental, your clothes, hot water and all the lentils, beans and barley you need for sustenance.  If your living costs are very low then generating the required cashflow becomes very easy. In my opinion it is premature to leave work entirely until your alternate incomes not only meet but exceed your living costs so that you can continue to save just as you should be doing when you are earning a salary. To put a ball park figure on it the cost of freedom from the mcjob…as little as $300,000 and much less for any folks that have really embraced simple living. With two adults working full-time a committed couple could put this fund to bed in a little over 3 and a half years. Longer if you are in menial labour, but not that much longer, but overall a far better plan than working all your life to retire destitute!

Getting to your magic number (or thereabouts) is not a race. We are getting there by working part-time, maximising our passive income and creating other ways to earn a crust (note blogging is not one of our endeavours. Blogging is never going to become a significant and stable income source for most people. We blog for the fun of it and because we feel that we have something worth saying – but you are the judge of that. Still I see on the interwebs an illusion out there there that people can make a hell of a descent living off adwords. Those who do are in my opinion are the exception not the rule.)

Anyway to get back to guts and eyeballs – Here are my suggestions on how to invest your money to accelerate the accumulation of your freedom fund. Buyer beware!

Property

Buy an affordable rental property that is cash neutral or as close to cash neutral as possible. That means that the rental income that you receive from your tenants has to be equal to or greater than any loans that you need to borrow to buy the property. Expected return 6-12 % p.a from friendly tenants. The benefit of this investment is that you can provide very nice housing for a very nice family in a way that delivers mutual benefits. We give good tenants gifts, thank you notes (if we notice something). In return they pay a fair rent and translate this goodwill into caring for our property, fixing minor things themselves and generally treating our home as their own home.

Business

A solid business partnership that treats people so well (employees and customers) that they will do all of your marketing for you is one of the best investments. If you’ve done your homework the business should be able to deliver the value that creates such a loyal fan base that it can survive almost any economic environment. The ideal business has enough margin and is uncomplicated enough that you can become a director, which beats being a worker or a manager. Expected return 50-100%+ return on capital p.a. We don’t have any business interest now, but stay tuned. We are investigating business 2.0. Business beyond profit.

Exchange Traded Funds

These are available in every market. They are computer managed weighted funds that generally out perform the most impressive (and expensive fund managers). A well known provider is called Vanguard. Expected return 8-15%. Extremely easy to understand. Perfect for starters (until you really know where to put your money). Easy to manage.

Equities

Don’t diversify too much. Diversification is the overalls of the wrong strategy at work. Pick a strategy that is sound (1-5 companies). Go deep. Know everything about your stock. Buy large when they go on sale. Good businesses thrive during a recession. Just look at Coca cola in 1987.  That was a buyers time to spend. Fearful sellers unloaded a very good company at a stupid price that had nothing to do with Coco Cola’s performance.

The two primary strategies that I use are Dogs of the Dow and value investing.  Expected return 10- 20%. We have much more money in a value portfolio than the Dogs strategy.

A word on returns. Make sure you know exactly how to calculate your return and actively watch your performance (but not too actively. Once a quarter is frequent enough). Further on the subject of returns – Warren Buffet used to make 100%+ year on year from value investing. Now that he has such a large market position these types of returns are unlikely due to his visibility to the market, but his comment is that if you are financially smart and starting out with a smaller portfolio you should get 50% p.a. as a minimum. I think what Warren discounts is that his financial IQ is a lot higher than the rest of us and we are going to make some mistakes. For me if I can’t make a better return than the interest costs of a property mortgage then there is no point investing in either EFTs or Equities. I should save up and buy another house. Usually I can make more  from stock than a cash account (currently 3%) and more than the cost of mortgage interest (currently 5%), but if I can’t I will quickly redirect my money to find the best return available at the time.

The final point and probably the most important is to protect your investments and stay on plan. Don’t get greedy and chase deals that are too good to be true. It is better not to lose money by being over aggressive or inflexible to the point that you are ignoring the signs that your portfolio is in trouble.  Also every dollar that you spend or lose requires that you work to earn $2 to replace it. $1 to the tax man and $1 for your pocket so it’s easier if you just keep (save and protect) the dollars you already have rather than spend it or gamble it on a risky investment.

If you are new to investing read, meet, learn, talk, watch, listen before you leap. Paper trading is a good idea, but be careful. There is no emotion playing with pretend money and things will be very different once you put your hard earned dollars into the market.  A nice tool to start paper trading is here.

Best advice from my father: Build your fund when others run for the fire door!

Let the sound of the firebell become music to your ears…

Your love alone is not enough…this is your burn notice

“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind”

Jeannette Walls

The other day I heard a particularly melancholy tune on the radio by the Manic Street Preachers.  In the song the lead singer of the Cardigans Nina Persson bluely trills “Your love alone is not enough…”. Something about this lyric caught my attention. Having never been a fan of either the Manics or the Cardigans I didn’t know the back story to this song.

The lyric is apparently a piece of text taken from a suicide note someone close to one of the original band members left before they ended their own life.  I don’t know all of the detail but I suspect that you can guess who in the Manics was affected by this tragedy if you look out for the singer who mumbles “I could have written all your lines…” in this video.

For the rest of the afternoon I thought about something I’d never thought about before. Why do otherwise healthy people get so depressed that they kill themselves?

If you are sick of life and thinking of suicide I doubt that you are sick of life.  Life is too wonderful, too precious, too amazing to be sick of ‘life’. I don’t think you could say you were sick of waterfalls, sunsets, the stillness of dawn, the warmth of a roaring fire or a dash of rain on your face. I can however, understand how someone might grow sick of their life. We get let down by lovers, double crossed by siblings, rejected by parents, trapped in debt, and stuck in cycles that keeps telling us that we are burdens to our families. When these things are happening to you (and hurting you deeply) you probably won’t notice the waterfalls or sunsets.

If you feel so depressed that you want to end it don’t kill yourself just yet. Instead of killing yourself wake up tomorrow pack a small bag and walk out your front door. Keep walking in one direction until you are a completely different person . Forget your responsibilities, dependants, current job, interests, friends and hobbies. Most of all forget your identity.  Tomorrow morning take a totally new name. Start a brand new identity. Embark on a new life. That suicide compulsion is your burn notice. It is time for radical change.

The chaos and upset of your disappearance will be nothing compared to the feelings people would have if you kill yourself. Imagine how much worse they will feel if you leave a note saying that you are killing yourself than if you just up and leave. Now imagine how much worse it would be for the ones left behind if your reason for ending it all is ‘because their love alone is not enough’. That’s a rough way to exit stage left. Rougher for those left behind.

Instead try a totally new identify on for size before you go ahead and kill yourself. Retain nothing of the old life that has driven to the point that the warmth of a good fire is no longer enjoyable. Leave no connection to your old life. It died in the dawn. Burn it down and arise a new.

Take the time to grow into your new identity.If you still feel the urge do it quietly and peacefully. Do it because you feel tired. Do it because you are submitting, but do not do it because you want to send a message to the people who’ve hurt you. This is about you and you alone. It is not about revenge.

The other thought that I’d like to share on suicide is that in a tribal community an uncared for child would be raised by the whole village. If a child was abandoned by it’s parents it would either be adopted (and loved) by others in the village or that child would wither and die from hunger and cold. In our time we have an abundance of food and water. Even the most uncared for children can grow up. Unfortunately, though they tend to become very broken adults unless they have the strength to overcome their circumstances. Although they have had all of their physical needs met they have not had any of their emotional needs fulfilled and this I think is a contributing factor in the prevalence of suicide.

If this is your burn notice, please try on a new life.  I hope that your new life delivers the best that the universe has to offer. Love alone can be enough. You must become a treasure seeker and find it.

10 Surefire signs you’re living a simple man’s life

“I’m just a simple guy, I live from day to day.  A ray of sunshine melts my frown and blows my blues away”

Led Zeppelin

 

10 surefire signs that you’re living a simple man’s life: –

10. You probably don’t poo…shampoo that is. After a few days your hair will go greasy. You wear a hat. A few days longer and suddenly your hair will look great. Hot water is all that you need to keep a skull clean.

9. Face fuzz is King. What simple man would bother chopping off that manly fluff every day? Save time. Trim your cheeks and your dome all in one hit.

8. You baked, brewed or built something this week. Beer, bread a shed – whatever. Solving your own problems with your brains, your hands and a few primitive tools is the simple man’s delight.

7. You’ve repaired the spouting on your house or done some other home improvement in the last 7 days.

6. You’ve taken a couple of daytime naps. The simple man’s life is active with time for adventure, exercise and physical work. The reward for freedom from mcjobs is a seista in a hammock in the sun during the middle of a beautifully sunny day. Ahh the bliss of simple living!

5. At least half your meals started the week growing in your backyard. The simple man also cooks simple meals, with simple ingredients and makes enough for left overs. Reheating food is much cheaper than cooking from scratch every night. The simple man also makes recipes from whatever ingredients are cheap. The simple man doesn’t shop for ingredients to make predetermined recipes.

4. You rode a bike at least 5 times this week.

3. Your home is small and uncluttered. You own more of it than your bank.

2. You received money in the mail. Walking to the letterbox sure beats driving into work.

1. You probably didn’t work at a formal career job today, but you probably didn’t spend any money either. Actually you probably didn’t spend any money yesterday either!

Build a pleasant frame to show off your mind from its best angle


“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”

Mark Twain

The other day I forgot to do something. I left washed dishes on the bench to air dry and I went out.

When I got home Ms Simple gave me the hard word about the dishes that she had found sitting on the kitchen bench.

“Why are you getting angry about dishes?” I asked.

“I’m not angry about dishes” she replied. “I’m passionate about simplicity!”

A good reminder about the value of taking the last 5 minutes to finish a job. Sometimes returning to finish the final 10% of the work can take the same amount of time as doing  the first 90%!

This somewhat dull domestic narrative has another important takeaway.

As I reflected on this experience I came to appreciate how much nicer it is to live with someone who is passionate rather than living with someone who becomes filled with rage by the smallest of life’s upsets. Ms Simple could have been mean and angry. Instead she was passionate and empowering. Instead of feeling hostile towards her for telling me off over an unimportant domestic task I ended up being thankful of her reminder and encouraged to do better in future.

She is a good person to share a life with.

Just another reason why I love her.

Mortgages usury bondage and freedom

“Usury once in control will wreck the nation”
William Lyon Mackenzie King

Perhaps the single reason why more people feel they can’t join the leisure class is that they must earn the money that they need to pay off their mortgage. The mortgage being the primary cause of their wage slavery.

When does mortgage lending become usury?

Usury is the practice of making unethical, immoral or unfair loans to people that really can’t afford to pay back the debt. Usury is bonding for life.

Before we move on I’d like to run this up against the definition of structural violence which is the form of violence that occurs when a social institution (say a bank) harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. I don’t really think about needs as absolute. They are a continuum, but for the sake of the argument shelter from the elements could be considered a basic human right.

The case may be made that the forces within society that deny my basic need for shelter are a form of structural violence against my livelihood. The banks then exploit this opportunity by lending me money that I cannot afford to easily repay in the short term (usury).

Some will argument that if I am in horrific mortgage debt it is of my own choosing and that I could live more modestly or that I am not sufficiently wealthy to own property, but what of those too poor to rent? Why should their basic need for shelter be denied? The people that make such arguments generally believe in personal responsibility. Poor individuals have chosen and actively choose poverty while successful folk, like themselves, are rightful home owners.   Those making such assertions should suspend their mortgage payments for two months and test whether they really do own their own homes. If poverty or wealth is simply a matter of personal capability then why don’t more wealthy people agree to trade their personal circumstances with a homeless person. Surely if the world is a meritocracy as they claim it will not be long before the homeless person has lost their gifted wealth and the newly poor has recovered to their former level through application of their brains and sweat equity.

Silly ideas aside I think everyone should view debt or mortgage debt as voluntary wage bondage or knowing usury. That way we are not deluded into believing that the banks are our friends or that they are doing us any favour by lending us sums of money that require a life time in labour to repay. More might chose a simpler shelter than they elaborate walls and roof they currently work to pay for.

Fundamentally, don’t we all have the right to meet our need for shelter more simply that we can currently and more affordably? Shouldn’t I expect that living in a civilized society affords me the opportunity to be able to meet this very basic?  When we were savages the tribe ensured caves for all. As barbarians we came together to build dwellings for each new family added to the clan. In the middle age the village sheltered all of the town’s people who cared to live there harmoniously. Many hands were turned to the task of constructing the shelters of village members without money or debt or bondage.

Yet here in the period of history that we occupy and after some 10,000 years of social, scientific, spiritual  cultural and technological development people who lack the means to bond them self to financial institutions must sleep in a doorway in the street.  From the perspective of access to shelter our street dwelling homeless (who do not actively choose this free way of living) would have been better off born a neanderthal.

When you say ‘simple living’ what do you mean?

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”

Hans Hofman

There are a wide range of different, but highly compatible lifestyles sheltering under the simple living umbrella.

There are survivalists who have stockpiled supplies for Armageddon that are living simply (Survivalists).

There are green thumbed sustainable folks looking to minimise their ecological footprint that choose to live simply (Sustainability).

There are financially independent people that prefer not to work who live simply (Financially Independence).

There are friends of the animals and humanitarians that seek to minimise their impacts and harm to other beings that live simply (Vegan, Vegetarian, Humanitarian, Socialist).

There are minimalists that live without the anchor of possessions that are living simply (Minimalist).

There are self reliant people who generate all of their own energy, keep bees and animals, drink rain water, grow their own food, have a composting toilet and make all of their own clothing that are living simply (Resilient).

There are families that save their money, only ever shop with coupons, and negotiate unbelievably cheap deals that live simply (Frugal).

There are travellers and wanderers that enjoy the road, or prefer to live in tiny structures that they have made themselves that are simple livers (Travellers, Drop-outs, Tiny House, Nano Housers).

…and there are many others that seek meaningful, rich and interesting lives through voluntary simplicity.

When we say we live simply what do we mean exactly? What do we all have in common?

If I were to try to sum all of these threads up and distill their essence I suspect that at the core what all of these approaches share is:

A yearning for freedom,

Respect for others,

Connection to nature,

Concern for for the future, and

More efficient use of resources.

The definitions of simple are –

Simple [sim-puhl]

noun

an ignorant, foolish, or gullible person.

something simple, unmixed, or uncompounded.

textiles: cords for controlling the warp threads in forming the shed on draw-looms.

a person of humble origins; commoner.

an herb or other plant used for medicinal purposes: country simples.

adjective

easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.

not elaborate or artificial; plain: a simple style.

not ornate or luxurious; unadorned: a simple gown.

unaffected; unassuming; modest: a simple manner.

not complicated: a simple design.

I can relate my life to these definitions. I certainly can’t deny my foolishness, ignorance or humble origins either.

Our take on simple living is a blend of all of these approaches  and many aspects of the definitions.  We take freely from any discipline if the the learning can make our life easier and more interesting. We test concepts for a while and chose to adopt them if they make us happier and if we feel that they unweight some burden from our shoulders.

We have enough food and supplies to see us through a natural disaster.

We live locally and travel by bike.

We  try to buy products that aren’t harmful to the environment.

We try to buy products that aren’t harmful to other people.

We try to by products that aren’t harmful to animals.

We consume as little as possible so that we can work less.

We eat from our garden.

We try to use resources as efficiently as we can.

We have few possessions and little attachment to things. Our family relationships are far more important.

We try to change ourselves to fit into the environment rather than wasting our effort to reshape the world or others to wrap around our needs.

We try to solve our own problems by making or repairing whatever we can.

We save money and use it to support free living.

We build and maintain our home, but we are happiest wandering with a backpack.

We spend our time on whatever is most important to our family. This means not doing many common things that other people feel that they ‘should’ do.

So how to describe ourselves?

Free, frugal, minimalist, environmentalist, vegan, gardeners that dropped out to work less, become happier, enjoy more leisure, better connectedness and a vastly improved quality of life.

That’s us. What about you? What do you mean when you tell people you live simply?