About the LeM Blog

Thanks for checking out our blog!

We started <=> (Less = more) because we sincerely want to help you find a quick way to leave the rat race forever.

Working all your life for a dull corporation sucks!

We want to show you how to transition from corporate slave to economic nomad without stress, or the risk of ending up starving and homeless.

At LeM you’ll discover the most effective ways to live simply, to minimize your living costs and to generate the income you need without compulsory economic slavery.

Word of warning we’ll talk about life design, investing and living free from the corporation every chance we get!

Our family started this transition in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of the late 2000s. Businesses weren’t doing well at that time and that’s about when they go from stingy to downright mean. Everyone is under pressure to take a pay cut while hours climb. At times like that worklife can really grind you down.

Up until the GFC we were a pretty average family unit earning a couple of comfortable salaries, but spending it all on the coolest stuff.  We’d both graduated tertiary education (Uni/Polytech) and were about 10 years into the workforce by then.  We had a lot of debt, small savings, and a few nice things then one day…a new baby was on route to the moon-base.

Babies make you evaluate your life and we discovered we weren’t heading to a very smart future. We earned good money, but it was also well spent. Often before we actually earned it!  We had earned two decent salaries for over a decade yet we had only managed to stored away about one month’s worth of earnings and we were about to do a stint with one of those salaries disappearing completely.

The flat that we lived in was cluttered to the brim with crap. Much of what we owned we barely used and frankly there were several things that we were surprised that we owned when we finally laid them all out in the yard.

Somewhere here, at this place in time, things changed dramatically. Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Graham and my friend Dave share the blame. Actually it was a blessing. We stopped sailing into the mist and charted a deliberate course.

Soon afterwards the < = > philosophy started to crytalize. We began saving 75% of our income. We reduced spending on our home to 15% of our income, and paid all the other bills from the 10% that remained.  We began to actively invest and we started to buy and make assets (things that generate money) instead of loading up on consumer goods (things that cost money).

Our goal was to quickly (less than 3 years) earn enough to buy our freedom from full time salaried work.A major motivation was to have the freedom to kick back and play with our son in his most precious years.

Since then we paid off all our debt and killed most of our household expenditure and ongoing liabilities. We axed many of our bad financial habits permanently. No more cable TV, mobile phone plans, impulse buys, eating out every night, no gym memberships…

Our savings piled up. We bought a rental property, and then our own home. We set up a stock portfolio for the first time and we learned a lot about the challenges and benefits of living with less. Actually we began to enjoy living on radically less than we spent as our former free spending slave-selves.

We’re always toying with new ways to make money. We’ve had some success and some failure, but importantly our days now have more variety and massively more freedom than when we worked the McJobs. This blog is a combination of our philosophy, our experiences and summaries of the things that we have figured out on the fly as we transitioned from full-time workers to idle penniless aristocrats. Now we receive money from assets instead of slaving our lives away in McJobs that we both hate.

We’re really passionate on finding systems, opportunities, and actionable steps to help you to make this transition and join us on the other side! How can you beat beach time any Tuesday you please?

So welcome. Please subscribe for all our updates. We truly hope you find what you need to overcome your inertia and make that shift to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Mr & Mrs Simple

The idlers guidebook to the good life

There is no time like the pleasant
Oliver Herford

Life can be simple, pleasant and happy.

Make simple changes one at a time and keep a score card on whether life got better.

Sell your car and ride bikes.
Plant a garden and eat the plants you grow.
Rent a house and save yourself from maintenance and mortgages.
Sell your screens and cut off your internet. You’re smart so you can still access the web free when you feel like it.
Sell your wardrobe and almost all the clothes in it. You can only wear one shirt at a time.
Generate some electricity and income that doesn’t take too much effort.
Smash your bills down.
Quit your job.
Involve yourself helping others in your community.
Spend time making more friends.
Celebrate for no reason.
Play your own music and dance your arse off.

Die happy and contented. Surrounded by people that knew you intimately and loved you passionately.

Kill Bill: How to turn 10 of your bills into payments with liability alchemy

“I have ways of making money that you know nothing of”

John D. Rockefeller

One of my big things is to try wherever, whenever and however possible to take something that 99% of people pay for, and come up with a way to not only get it for free, but to make money doing it. Ms Simple says it’s an addiction. I say cheaper than heroin and better for my health than sniffing glue!

This post, more than any others, probably encapsulates my perspective the best. By Killing Bill I avoid wasting significant amounts of my time doing silly things prescribed by fools with money. This frees me to fully enjoy the life of a penniless aristocrat.

The first step in my Kill Bill Programme is to fit all of your liabilities, expenses, bills and outgoings into the following framework.

Reduce: We are continually focused on the most efficient use of resources possible. Example – Turn off a light to reduce electricity costs.

Breakeven: Gaining access to a resource that we need without any cost. Example – borrowing a floor sander from your neighbour.

Profit: Turning a liability into an asset. Example – Renting out something you are paying off.

Here are some thought-starters to swing this powerful mindset right into practise.

10. Hire purchase bills

Reduce: Put down the biggest down payment you can and only buy on 24 month interest deferred.

Breakeven: Have someone else buy it for you by renting the purchase out for the cost of your fees. You get a perfectly good quality item for the rest of its life for free.

Profit: Save, buy in cash and run a community tool shed with a regular or per item charge.

My first rule: never buy on hire purchase. Hire purchase is greedy bankers way of telling you that you can’t afford it. However, if you have possessions lying around that you have already bought, that you’d like to keep, that you use infrequently, and that you are still paying off consider renting them out. You might be surprised how many people will contact you if you put a notice up in the village or at a cafe. Unless you are an extreme minimalist it likely you have lots of things that you use so infrequently that they can be regularly rented. These trickles of income can become torrents at times. My friend runs a community tool shed. His rates are way better than commercial and he also can help organise some volunteers for the big jobs (so long as you a willing to pay it forward or back when someone else needs a hand).

A caution here: people typically thrash rented items, but that can be overcome by holding a bond. Also if you don’t know them personally make sure you know where to find them (in case they don’t return on time). Best to lend to people that are connected to you through the community (kids schools, sports teams, churches or antenatal groups).

9. Accommodation

Reduce: Live in a smaller flat or house. Pay rent rather than high mortgage costs.

Breakeven: Share a house with tenants or find a job that provides accommodation free.

Profit: Buy a cash positive rental property, subdivide a home or progressively acquire a small apartment building.

Take a job that pays you with accommodation or pays for your accommodation for you (think Army, contractor, travel writer, hotel manager or…[insert your ideal job here]). It’s also surprisingly simple to find people willing to buy a house for you!! Think rental.

8. Car payments

Reduce: Drive a smaller car, own less vehicles, drive less.

Breakeven: Company leases your vehicle.

Profit: Operate a vanpool, ride a bike or walk (health benefits).

There are jobs that pay with cars (or fully paid fuel and car lease in lieu of salary). In addition learn to fix your own car. Use those skills to fix other peoples cars to break even on the auto you operate.

Run a vanpool with a mileage contribution from users.

Talk to local car rental companies they always have cars that need to go places = free travel and some travelling cash. This is good if you are spontaneous and would enjoy free unplanned road trips and holidays.

7. Education costs

Reduce: Source the cheapest comparable qualification or pay for assessment only (meaning you must learn the curriculum content yourself)

Breakeven: Find free community education or self educate using resources from the public library.

Profit: Teach a night school class on topics that interest you [Highly recommended].

If you have the confidence you could teach a night school class on a topic that you’d like to know more about. You only need to be a few steps in front of your students to provide value. Think of it this way – you are being paid to learn, you will be highly motivated because you will be standing in front of a class soon enough and in answering the questions from your students you will gain a deep and rich understanding to the subject area (if you are wondering if I’ve actually done this the answer is yes! Topic – exercise physiology).

If teaching  sounds like a stretch just select jobs that will pay you to complete qualifications or give you on job training in useful skills that will advance your devious plot to live simple. Don’t feel bonded to the company. Once the useful training is finished. Just take that next step in your education by working for their competitor. Only be as loyal to a corporation as they are to you (which is generally not at all).

6. Fitness bills

Reduce: Find a cheaper gym provided by the city council, a university, a hotel or a community centre.

Breakeven: Play outside for free.

Profit: Become a part-time Personal Trainer (guessing you’ve figured out why I was teaching night school now).

Start a local yoga group, a parkour club, a novice bicycle ride group or morning fitness boot camp and charge a modest fee that you will pay back at the end of a certain number of sessions. If people don’t participate you keep the money or a proportion relating the sessions they missed. Having people relying on you is an excellent motivation to get up in the dark, cold or rain. You’ll likely get into and maintain very good personal fitness at the same time you can really help and inspire other people into a healthy lifestyle. This is so rewarding that it is worth doing voluntarily.

5. Internet bill

Reduce: Limit your internet use at home. Avoid mobile internet data use on your phone.

Breakeven: Use only free Wifi connections at cafes or downtown.

Profit: Sell residual Wifi to your neighbourhood.

Selling unused Wifi data from your plan to your neighbours is quite easy and is cost effective for everyone. Most people have plans that are too big and most of the charge is the fixed fee component (sometimes called the line charges). A Wifi range extender can expand your signal range quite a distance. If you are considering sharing your net you need to be sure that your neighbours won’t use your connection to do anything that they shouldn’t. Pricing this you can fairly charge people enough to fully pay your connection or pay your connection plus. You can also include additional services to make this extra fee more attractive. Most people don’t have very sophisticated computer skills so having someone on call to come and help them with their usually fairly simple issues (all for a few pennies) offers them great value for money.

4. Grocery bill

Reduce: Eat less. You could live happily on one meal a day or choose smaller portion or eat cheaper simpler foods.

Breakeven: Work as a chef or dumpster dive (the new way using the internet to hook onto free food opportunities).

Profit: Eat from your garden. Sell or make some surplus items to buy whatever you can’t produce or make a profit.

Grow expensive fruits, vegetables or other plants and sell them at organic markets, food shows or at local fruit and vegetable markets. Having a surplus (beyond what you need) of the right items can help subsidise or pay for the grocery items you can’t grow yourself. Lookout for free bulk goods on freecycle or other local swap and trade forums. Sell home-made baked goods to the local cafe. Make 12, sell 10. Eat free or price to make a profit.

3. Mortgage bill

Reduce: Save a larger deposit. Live in a smaller house.

Breakeven: Take in ESOL borders or residents to help cover mortgage expense.

Profit: Subdivide once income from a tenant is greater than outgoings to pay the mortgage.

Rent out your property so that rental income fully pays the mortgage bill. This is effectively having someone buy your house for you. You could also subdivide your house and rent it to fully or partially pay your remaining mortgage. There are also options like renting a room to an English language student, operating one room in your house as a bed and breakfast accommodation or temporarily renting your house out when you are on holiday. As your loan dwindles all of these become cash flow positive.

2. Entertainment bills

Reduce: Consolidate your hobbies.

Breakeven: Choose only cheap or free hobbies.

Profit: Monetise your hobbies.

Next time you feel like partying consider selling tickets. There will be no cost to you and you will get to meet a bunch of new people. If you are organised you might make a small return on the deal. Learn to play an instrument you can entertain with around a bonfire. Guitar is good. Ukulele is better. If it becomes your entertainment – entertain others. Busk, play gigs. Record put it on iTunes. Who the heck knows. You’re probably the next big thing. If not do it anyway. Just 200 crazy fools with click happy fingers can keep you in beer and biscuits for year.

If you start to think about it there are a zillion other ways that you could monetise your hobbies. So many perhaps a separate post is necessary…

1. Electricity Bill

Reduce: Conservation of electricity.

Breakeven: Home generation of all personal electricity.

Profit: Generating a surplus of electricity to sell to a neighbour or back to the grid.

Generate your own power and sell any surplus back to the city for a tidy profit. Check out this essay.

As you can see I am fascinated by liability alchemy. Turning a red bill gold or green is delightful! I’ve also noticed that this idea is embryonic. A few of my friends have mulled it over and it’s grown on them. Slowly, but surely I see them putting their own versions into action. Pounce on the idea if something grabs you immediately. If not give it time to percolate. Good things take time.

In that vein…the slow burn…I’m also working to become known as the neighbourhood handyman who’ll fix your stuff for a song (or wicked sweet barter, trade or swap). Unfortunately I’m still more dangerous with tools than handy. Check back in 40 years though. I might have an interesting and eclectic retirement living!

Got any other ideas to kill bill? Please, please share!! …I’m a stone cold kill bill cotton shooter! 😀

An idle thought…

Consuming more and more every year is wasteful and destructive.

It is corrosive and enfeebling.

Vainglorious corporations gleefully sell us back the skills we have lost.

We are indebted buying fancy babbles that tether us to jobs that we don’t like.

Our happiness is deferred. To be enjoyed by our future selves, but life moves fast.

Blink and you can miss it.

This moment is your life.

The next one is not guaranteed.

Give future you a gift.

Relax. Be idle.

Take back your freedom.

Live simply.

Enjoy yourself right now. Live free.

Income allocation

 “Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy”

Groucho Marx

We believe the best income allocation is to divide our money as follows:

10% Living costs

15% Housing costs

75% investment

Every paycheck 75 % of our earnings goes automatically to our investment call account. When the balance in that account reaches $10,000 we invest what we call an ice block ($10,000).

It is easy to manage investments and it is easy to compare performance of investments because all of our positions started out at $10,000 greenbacks.

We automatically pay our mortgage, city taxes, and home insurance from the 15% that we set aside for housing. The remainder is saved in a separate account for home repairs, maintenance or any other home management cost.

This leaves about 10% of our income in our day to day account. With this we juggle our bills against the other things that we would like to spend on. There are a lot of priorities competing for money in this pit. This includes all of our utilities bills, clothing, food, haircuts, money for hobbies, entertainment , the replacement of things that have broken and whatever day to day cash we both want for the period.

As first it was tough to live off so little, but as our savings have ramped up (and we can now see retirement in our very near future) it has become a lot easier.

For the record we don’t have any credit cards. We complete as many of our our transactions in cash as are practical. Using real money has helped us to keep in closer contact with our spending than when we operated our finances electronically and automatically.

Bottom line. It’s very simple and it works for us.