Monday, January 26, 2009

Lifestyle Design

A comment yesterday about my post on Thrifty Living got me to thinking. I too know people who are on the far side of thrifty to the point where they behave in ways that (I think) border on irrational. There is a doctor who only buys suits at garage sales, even when he has to present at national conferences. Then there was Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette which waxes poetic on making her kids masks out of dryer lint (eeuuww). Also people who take things that are offered free then pocket a handful of extras (ie: coffee is free but they take handfuls of sugar packets to fill up their sugar jar at home) make me annoyed because they aren't really taking things in the spirit in which they were offered. The thing with all of these people is that they can easily afford to pay for the things they need, they just let frugality take hold of them and their overarching goal is to be as frugal as possible. Not good. This is where lifestyle design comes in.

Lifestyle design is a relatively new concept in the blogosphere with many niche bloggers expounding on ways to design a lifestyle to match their needs and goals. My thriftiness is actually a part of my lifestyle design. For many years of my life, I kind of did what everyone else did (everyone being friends and family). I had debt because everyone I knew did. I ate at a different restaurant every night because everyone else did. I leased a fancy car because everyone else did. I kept up appearances with "bling" (fancy clothes, fancy watches, name brand apparel and shoes, trips to popular destinations) because everyone else did and I wanted to fit in with my social group.

As I got older and wiser it occurred to me that the life I was living wasn't doing a whole lot for me. I thought about Steven Covey's adage to "begin with the end in mind" and started from there to design a life that I wanted instead of a life that just happened to me. Here's what I wanted:
  • To be self employed with work that I enjoy doing and no work schedule meaning that I could work when I wanted and for whom I wanted.
  • To travel when and where I wanted.
  • To have absolutely no debt since debt limits almost everything you do.
  • To be able to enjoy my hobbies as I want to (these include shooting, preparedness stuff, online stuff like website development and blogging, and sports activities).
  • To keep up with family and friends even though they are scattered all over the world.
  • To help people in any way that I can.

When I look at this list, it makes it easy to determine how to spend my money. For me, being thrifty on things that aren't important to me (the latest movies, trendy restaurants, expensive clothes and cars) allows me to spend money on things that are important. How this has worked out thus far:

  • I am self employed and my work is just about as I had envisioned it.
  • We travel (although I would like to travel more) and by saving money have been able to bring all of the kids and grand kids and assorted other relatives on some pretty good vacations like a week long Caribbean Cruise.
  • I'm still working on becoming totally debt free. When you think about it, this should be the first over arching goal because once you are debt free, you can spend all of your money on other goals.
  • I enjoy hobbies (like this blog and the occasional new firearm) but I also make an effort to save money on my hobbies (ie: buying food preps in bulk and on sale, trading work for a nice handgun, etc).
  • We can keep up with friends and family in part because we are thrifty (and therefore have the money to meet up with people when the opportunity arises) and because of my work being flexible so people know that if they call from the airport we always have time to pick them up and spend time with them without having to stick to a rigid work schedule.
  • Finally, since I really believe that everyone should give back, I have been able to help a number of non-profits either by making their organizations more sustainable or by helping individual clients.

The bottom line is that everyone's goals are different and goals also tend to change at different stages in your life. With small children, you may want to put your effort and money towards experiences that will help them learn and grow as individuals, as you get older, community service may play a larger role in your life. Maybe survival and preparedness is at the top of your list of important things to do and therefore most of your time and attention goes in that direction. The most important thing to remember is that this is your life and you can design it any way you want. You don't have to have a leased car just because everyone else does. You don't have to skip nice restaurant if this is something that you truly enjoy. You don't even need to live in a mortgaged home if living in a motor home makes you happy.

Here's some people who are designing their lifestyle to fit their needs:


  1. I know a guy that refills his ketchup bottle at home with ketchup packets from fast food restaurants that his family frequents. He bragged to me one day that he hasn't bought ketchup in 15 years. i'm all for being frugal but that is a little to tight for me.

  2. Thanks for linking to our site!

    I so totally agree with you that you don't have to keep up with the Jones if you don't want to. That being said, it's very , very hard to make the decision to go your own way.

    Our society raises us in such a way as to EXPECT us to live a certain way . and to eschew that is difficult. It certainly isn't impossible, but you have to make a conscious decision to do so.


  3. Thanks for the mention!! Unfortunately it appears that perfecting my lifestyle might just take a lifetime. :)