When I was growing up, my parents constantly told me to study hard, get a good education, get a good job, and enjoy life. So, I studied hard, got a decent education, and got an acceptable corporate job.
But as I spent my mornings rushing to work with a truckload of other people, I grew weary of life. As I spent 9 hours of my life each day hunched over a desk, doing work that meant nothing to me, I started to wonder, “is this all that life has to offer?” I felt trapped, suffocated. I wasn’t free, and I knew it.
I just didn’t have a clue what to do. And because I hadn’t known any better, I spent my hard-earned money on stuff that I thought would relieve me of my misery. I would go out on the weekends, buy new stuff, feel a bit better, and then be miserable all over again as Monday morning rolled by. Although I desperately wanted to be free, I wasn’t. Instead, all I was, was trapped in this vicious cycle.
One day, I had an epiphany – I knew I couldn’t spend the next 4 decades of my life like this. I told myself to do whatever it takes, to end this cycle as soon as possible. Since then, I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about the concept of “freedom”.
What is freedom? How do I achieve it? Why do most people not live lives of freedom?
It breaks my heart a little, whenever I hear about people hating their jobs and wanting to quit, but can’t because they have bills to pay. I get all downcast when I read about people being forever bound to their student loans, their credit card debt, their expensive mortgages.
Most of us spend our entire lives being shackled to one thing, or another. It’s not just the corporate jobs we hate. It’s not just the crippling debt. It’s more than just that. I’m sure you’ve heard of people having houses full of stuff, yet at the same time constantly complain that they still live paycheck to paycheck.
Here’s the good news. We all have a choice. A choice to either be free, or to be bound by something that holds us back from the best version of ourselves. That choice? It’s ours to make.
Below, I’ve put together a comprehensive 5-step guide on how to live a life of absolute freedom.
- Step 1 – Become Debt-Free
- Step 2 – Understand the Meaning of “Liabilities”, and Stop Accumulating Them
- Step 3 – Live Simply
- Step 4 – Save Money. Don’t Quit Your Job Yet
- Step 5 – Screw What Everyone Else Thinks
- Be Free.
A Quick Guide:
Step 1 – Become Debt-Free
Step 2 – Understand the Meaning of “Liabilities”, and Stop Accumulating Them
Step 3 – Live Simply
Step 4 – Save Money. Don’t Quit Your Job Yet
Step 5 – Screw What Everyone Else Thinks
Everyone’s personal circumstances are different, and not everything will apply to you. I’ve added hyperlinks to each step, so you can skip to the parts that you find the most useful. Take what you find to be valuable, and leave whatever is not.
Enough chit-chat. Let’s get started.
Step 1 – Become Debt-Free
Many of us go through life thinking that amassing debt is normal. Most people go to college, and accumulate student loans. Most people buy a house, and burden themselves with a mortgage to service. Most people love to live fancy lifestyles. With the help of credit cards, these people find themselves in dire credit card debt. This is the behaviour that we are encouraged to partake in.
But when you think about it, debt is the thing holding you back from all the amazing things in your life.
Want to quit your job to become a world-famous musician? Nah, you’ve got to stay in your corporate job because you have your credit card debts to service.
Want to travel the world full-time? No way, you need to keep working. You need to keep the money rolling in to pay off your mortgage and car loans.
Want to do anything worthwhile, which will require an initial few years of low-pay and little reward? Don’t think so, those debts have your name written on it.
When you have a creditor, or creditors, hounding you, you can’t afford to just quit your highly-unlikeable job. You can’t afford to just do whatever you want to do. You have to keep working, so you can earn money, so you can meet next month’s repayments.
Being shackled to a job that you dislike, because you have debts to service – is this freedom?
Having to worry about whether you can meet next month’s repayments – is this freedom?
I found myself in a cubicle when I was 23. A little while in, and I started detesting it. I started hating the person I had become – nothing but a corporate drone doing someone else’s bidding. Life soon became a dreary mess of nothing but work, eat, and sleep. I was miserable.
The only thing that keeps me alive is the freedom that I’d be able to quit work whenever I want to. Because I don’t have any debt.
I went to a community college that was largely subsidised by the government. My college fees for 4 years came up to only about $40K. I gave up buying my dream apartment, even though I could afford it. I had enough for the downpayment and I was making enough to meet the monthly repayments. I pay all my credit card bills in full, every single time. In fact, using credit cards actually save me money. A lot of money.
Whenever I want to quit my job, I’ll quit. Because I don’t have any debt.
Reality is harsh. Anything that’s worthwhile will take months, if not years to establish. Whether it’s blogging. Or other forms of content creation. Or building up a career as an artist. Or starting a business from scratch. These careers, these paths in life – they take years to build up. In the initial few years, you’d see hardly any reward. Barely any recognition. Little to no money at all.
Is this something you can pursue when you’re knee-deep in debt?
With no money to pay your debt, your creditors will foreclose on your house. They’ll remove all your belongings. You’d be made a bankrupt faster than you can blink.
Your Debt-Tackling To-Do List:
Having debt is keeping you from living your best life. The time to destroy your debt, is now.
Pay off the highest-interest bearing debts, before proceeding with the lower-interest bearing ones. Right at the top, we have credit card debt, the most toxic type of debt you shouldn’t have. Throw as much money as you can into repayment of these debts, like your life depends on it. Because frankly, it does.
After you’re done crushing your credit card debt, pay down all your other debts. Every single one – mortgages, student loans, car loans. Is it possible to downsize your house? This could mean a smaller mortgage to service. Or is it possible to get rid of your car? You’d no longer have to meet repayments on something that will have no residual value in a few years.
Your best days will come after you’re done crushing all your debts. No creditors, no repayments, no worries.
Step 2 – Understand the Meaning of “Liabilities”, and Stop Accumulating Them
As a credit analyst in a financial institution, I’ve learnt that assets are something you own. On the other hand, liabilities are obligations, something you owe. The textbook definitions by accounting standards, that is.
But if you really want to live a life of freedom, you can’t view assets and liabilities from this perspective. You should view assets as something you own, which will bring money into your life. Liabilities, on the other hand, are things you own, but take money out of your life.
Gone, is the traditional notion that being debt-free means that you have no liabilities.
Heck, you could be debt-free, but be swimming in liabilities.
Let me break this down.
Assets are things you own, which bring money into your life.
Stocks are assets. You buy a stock, and this stock will pay you dividends quarterly / half-yearly / annually. Not only that, leave the stock in the market for decades, and you’ll get to enjoy capital appreciation. Bonds are assets. Side hustle businesses are assets. All these things bring money into your life.
Make no mistake, liabilities are things you own, too. But these things take money out of your life.
A prime example of a liability is a car. First, you have to pay for the car. Money out of your pocket. But the cost of the car isn’t the only thing you should be considering. What about fuel? Insurance? Road tax? Regular servicing? Parking charges? Parking tickets? Your wheel getting clamped? Accidents that your insurance doesn’t cover?
At the end of the day, after you’re done draining the car as well as your wallet, you get to scrap your car for 10 bucks. Enough for a nice breakfast at a diner.
Is a car an asset, or a liability?
Your house can be considered a liability, too.
Again, it’s not just the cost of the house. Unless you’re Bill Gates, you probably need a bank loan for your house. In your monthly repayments to the bank, you’ve got to factor in interest costs. Then you’ve got to think about the maintenance fees. Property insurance. Property tax. Interior designing to make your place look nice. Furniture and fittings. Garbage disposal fees. So on, and so forth.
It’s just money constantly flowing out of your pocket. Again, liability.
Buy Lots of Assets, and Only the Liabilities that You Need.
I’m not advocating for you to be car-free. If you need a car to shave hours off your commute, then a car becomes a necessity. In which case, you should buy it, even though it is a liability.
I’m also not preaching that you shouldn’t buy a house. I understand the desire to have a comfortable roof over your head. A place of comfort, peace, and solitude. Where you can be away from the craziness of the world. I totally get that.
But don’t buy something extravagant that you can’t afford. Something over the top, just to impress your friends. You don’t need a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz to get you to work, and back. You don’t need a huge garden, or three dining rooms, or a big-ass living room with gigantic, luxurious chandeliers hanging over your head.
How often will you get to drive your car around? How often will you get to walk around your garden, or use your three dining rooms, if you’re too busy slogging it out at work? Just so you can service your loans?
Liabilities aren’t limited only to cars and houses. It’s just stuff in general. Stuff you don’t need, but buy because you have extra cash this month.
It’s that spanking new flat-screen TV you just picked up. It’s that new over the top stereo, or turntable. You bought that because the thought of having a turntable is just so cool. It’s that beautiful $50,000 Hermes handbag that you had to sell your kidney for. It’s that sleek, best-selling iPhone 17 that everyone wants to get their hands on. It’s those AirPods, the only earpieces that can be used with the iPhone 17.
This stuff, it’s just stuff. You spend your weekends cleaning them, trying to keep every speck of dust away. That’s time wasted. Even so, maybe that’s not good enough. Maybe you’re considering buying a dust-proof, bullet-proof glass display case to show your acquisitions off to your friends and family. That’s more money wasted.
And for what? It’s just stuff. This stuff, they’re vulnerable to age, and will break down eventually. Then what? You’ve got to send them in for expensive repairs? Or will you buy something even more expensive to replace that? They’re all liabilities. And they’re all marketed to make your part with your hard-earned money.
Undoubtedly, for most people, there will be some material things that we can’t bear to part with. Liabilities, which actually increase our quality of life.
For me, that’s my drum set. My piano. My guitar. My ukulele. My exercise gear. My collection of books and DVDs. Mostly second-hand, and pretty cheap. Take my music, books and movies away from me, and I might just die a miserable death.
But these are all things that I use regularly. I use my exercise gear every single day. I play my musical instruments on a weekly basis. I watch movies and read books whenever I have free time. Most material things that I have, have a purpose in my life. They increase my quality of life. The rest of my stuff? I’m in the process of getting rid of.
Look around your room. How many items do you use on a regular basis? And how many items did you not know ever existed, buried in the little Bermuda Triangle in the dark trenches of your closet? My guess would be 80-90%.
Your Liability-Prevention To-Do-List:
The next time you’re out on a shopping spree, and you pick up Item XYZ, ask yourself these questions:
- Is Item XYZ an asset? Will it allow you to invest in yourself? Grow your business? Improve your side hustling skills?
- If Item XYZ is a liability, do you need it? Would not having Item XYZ decrease your quality of life? Would not having Item XYZ lead to you not fulfilling your dreams? Will you be using Item XYZ regularly? How regularly?
If Item XYZ is an asset, buy it. No qualms about it, buy it.
Even if Item XYZ isn’t an asset, if it’s something that helps you fulfil your wildest dreams, if you’re going to use it regularly, go right ahead and get it.
If not, put that damn thing down.
Step 3 – Live Simply
In a world like ours, everyone wants more. Everyone wants the fancy apartment. Everyone wants that luxury car. Everyone wants that shiny new thing. In a world like ours, who are you to stray from the pack? Who are you to reject hyper-consumerism? Who are you to stand tall, and say, “I want to live a simple life”?
In a world like ours, it’s crucial for you to stand your ground, to hold your head up high. And to be keenly aware of what brings you happiness and fulfilment, and what doesn’t.
The Difference Between the Simple, and the Luxurious
Imagine you just won the lottery. Let’s say that’s $2 million right there. What would you do with that money? I say you’d quit your job, right away. Then you’d buy a neat little apartment, with state-of-the-art furnishings, and modern interior designing to die for. Would you like a nice BMW to go with that? Sure you would!
Awesome. The house and the car are all set up. And you’re free from your job. What would you do with all that free time? I say you’d do stuff that brings you fulfilment. For me, that’s writing, making music, exercising, learning languages, travelling, seeing cool sights. For you, it could be other stuff. Maybe you could learn how to code? Or how to cook up a feast? Or hike in the woods? And of course, we all want to spend more time with loved ones.
But honestly, can’t we do all of that already? We don’t need money to spend more time with loved ones. We don’t need money to go hiking in the woods. We need a little money to go budget-travelling. We need a little money to buy a guitar before we can make music. We need a little money to pay for hosting and a theme before we can start publishing blog posts. We need a little money to pay for courses to learn awesome new stuff.
Sure, we need a little money. But we don’t need a lot. And for some things, we don’t even need money at all.
I can understand how material things can bring us a few moments of happiness. I used to shop a lot. I used to get that “high”, whenever I was scoring a great deal. But it’s superficial. It’s fleeting. And we’re addicted to that feeling. So, we spend a great deal of time and money sourcing out the best deals online. Just to enjoy those few moments of bliss.
And the scary thing about constantly buying material goods? We always want more. This year, we get a $300 Kate Spade. Next year, we want a $6,000 Chanel. The following year, we’re shooting for a $50,000 Hermes. This year, we’re tolerating our studio apartment. Next year, we’re thinking of upgrading to a 2-bedroom. Within the next decade, we’re dreaming about our fancy penthouse.
While material things can bring us a little happiness, it isn’t sustainable. Since we always want more, we’re always going to be trapped in our detestable corporate jobs. We’re always going to have drag ourselves to work on Monday mornings, hating our lives. Because we need our paycheck to cover our luxurious ‘wants’. This isn’t freedom, not one bit.
What I want to get you to consider, is this – Do you really need that expensive-ass apartment and car, to feel fulfilled and deeply satisfied with life? Do you have non-material hopes and dreams, which can bring you an equal amount of fulfilment, if not more? Would that be a more sustainable avenue of happiness?
Consumerism Isn’t Inherently Bad
I’m not advocating that we reject all notions of consumerism and material possessions. I’m not saying that we should build a hut in the woods, and live completely off the land. I’m not propagating the idea that luxury is bad for us. None of the above.
What I am saying, though, is that we shouldn’t live our lives solely for material possessions.
Perhaps you’re a hard-working business owner who earns a bazillion dollars a year. Or a million-dollar blogger who loves her work. Or a high-flying CEO who absolutely adores his career and the company he works in. Should these people reject consumerism at all costs? Of course not. They can more than afford to buy that awesome apartment and insane car.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most of us, is it? Most of us spend our time in jobs that we dislike. Maybe even hate. And then we go and blow all our hard-earned money on useless material shit, like new bags, new shoes, new suits. Which we wear once, and then completely forget about. And then, we get stuck, chained to these corporate jobs that we really don’t like. We’re forced to work a job we hate, because we aren’t done paying off our huge-ass mortgage and car loan.
Is this freedom?
Simple Living Grants You Freedom, and Happiness
What if we stopped buying useless crap? What if we lived simply? What if we learned to find pleasure in the simple things in life, most of which are free?
When you stop buying crap, and when you love the simple things in life, you wouldn’t have many expenses. Then you wouldn’t need a job to cover those crazy expenses. All you would need is a small nest egg of investments to tide you through the rest of your days. And when you don’t need a job, then you have time on your hands. Complete control over every single one of your days. To do whatever makes your heart sing.
No job. Time on your hands. Chase your dreams to the end of this world. Now, this, is freedom.
Isn’t that worth it?
I used to live quite an extravagant lifestyle. Partying and boozing all the time. Shopping sprees every single week. Eating at expensive restaurants every other day. Each drink that slid down my throat set me back $10 or more. Each shopping spree made my wallet at least $200 lighter. Each meal I ate was $50 rumbling in my tummy. For someone who wasn’t working and was relying on generous hand-outs by my rich parents, I was spending a lot. Too much, to be exact.
Until the one fateful day when I lost everything I had, overnight.
For my survival, I had to change my life completely. Now, I spend the majority of my free time doing stuff that I love – Exercising. Immersing in nature. Learning new things. Reading. Writing. Making small improvements to my blog. Connecting with like-minded people. Spending time with my loved ones. Staring out of my window while mulling over the meaning of happiness.
A few of these things require a little bit of money. But most of these are absolutely free. You know what they say about the best things in life being free? I guess that’s true, after all.
I used to have a 9-digit inheritance. Yes, it was fun while it lasted. Yes, never needing to budget was, in a way, awesome. But losing everything I had forced me to reflect on my life and the choices that I made. Introspection and self-awareness became a part of my everyday life. This has made me more keenly acquainted with what brings me happiness, and what doesn’t.
And I can say this with conviction – I’m more fulfilled. I’m more satisfied with life. I feel more alive. More than I’ve ever been.
This means that beyond a certain level of material comfort, having a shitload of money has little to no impact on our happiness and satisfaction with life.
Why do some lottery winners have a greater chance of suffering from depression? Why do some people who are multi-millionaires still choose to commit suicide? Why do some people living in the slums still have the biggest, brightest smiles?
Because having money doesn’t come with a “happiness” guarantee.
Why then, do we spend decades of our lives, being miserable in jobs that we don’t care for? Why do we spend our life energy, chasing something that wouldn’t give us happiness?
Sure, we do need a roof over our heads. Food to fill our stomachs. Water to quench our thirst. The simple necessities of life. But the rest? Penthouse apartments, Italian cars, the finest leather goods? All white noise to distract us from the simple pleasures of life, the stuff that rids us of our detestable corporate jobs. The stuff that makes our hearts sing.
The simple pleasures of life. The stuff that truly matters.
Your Simple-Living To-Do-List:
Take some time out of each day to think about what brings you happiness. Write down anything that comes to mind – whether it’s a car, an apartment, exercising, or spending time with loved ones. This isn’t an easy exercise; it could take you days, if not weeks or months, to come up with a substantial list. But this isn’t a race to some arbitrary finish line, so do spend the time to do this.
Separate what brings you happiness into two groups – material things, and the simple things. Clothes, cars, dining out, these belong to “material things”. Exercising, making music, spending time with loved ones, writing, reading, these belong to “the simple things”.
I’m not advocating for you to completely ignore the material things that can provide you with happiness. But do focus on spending a majority of your time doing the simple things that bring you happiness.
The more time you spend engaging in the simple pleasures of life, the less expenses you’d incur, the less likely you’d need a job, and the more time you’d have on your hands to chase your dreams.
Step 4 – Save Money. Don’t Quit Your Job Yet
When you’re done paying down all your debt, when you stop accumulating liabilities, and when you start living a simple lifestyle, this would happen automatically – You get to save lots of money. And saving money is important as hell.
You’re probably wondering, “Liz, you just preached about the best things in life being free! What’s up with this?”
Well. In this world, we need money to put a roof over our heads. To put food and water in our mouths. To clothe our bodies. To maintain a basic level of hygiene. To commute to places. To travel the world. All these expenses aren’t going to pay for themselves.
I may be a strong advocate of simple living. I may support the belief that many of the best things in life are free. But I also understand that even the person living the simplest possible life, needs some level of financial comfort.
Let’s say you grow your own food. Don’t you still need money to buy seeds? To buy tools for harvesting? To water the plants when there isn’t enough rainfall?
Let’s say you cycle to everywhere you need to go. You’d still need money to buy a bike. You’d still need money to replace worn out parts. Even if you were to walk everywhere instead, you’d still need money to buy comfortable sports shoes. Money to replace those shoes when the soles wear out.
Unfortunate as it may be, we can’t escape this truth – we need money for our survival.
How do we obtain this money? We spend time providing services for others, in exchange for a sum of money. Usually, the services we provide come in the form of working a corporate 9-to-5 job.
I know it completely sucks, to have to work for money. Most of us are stuck in corporate jobs we detest, just for the money. If you’re doing it only for the money, only so you can pay the bills, it just plain sucks.
But mull over this for a little bit. Having a medical scare, and wondering how you can pay the bills – is this freedom? Agonizing over where your next meal is going to come from – is this freedom? Having to eat dollar pizza or instant ramen for the rest of your life, because you can’t afford anything more – is this freedom? Constantly worrying about whether you’re going to get evicted – is this freedom? Struggling to scrape together a few dollars to take the subway – is this freedom?
When you have the option to quit your job without worrying about money, you have freedom. When you have the option to spend your day as you please, you have freedom. When you have the option to eat a delicious home-cooked meal over instant ramen, you have freedom. When you have the option to choose an apartment over living on the streets, you have freedom.
With money saved up, you have options. And with options, you have freedom.
I don’t like my corporate job. (I mean, who does, right?) I work, only so I can receive a neat little paycheck at the end of the month. Although I’m not downright miserable, I think about quitting, every single day. But I’m still a few years away from accumulating my ideal amount of savings. If quitting now means that I’ll be up all night worrying, if quitting now means that I’ll be in a constant state of anxiety, I’d rather not quit.
How could endless nights of insomnia, ever be considered freedom? How could living in a state of fear, ever be considered freedom? How could constantly fretting about money, ever be considered freedom? Maybe you’re free of the job you hated so much, but are you truly free? Don’t mistake quitting your job, for freedom. Because if you don’t have enough savings, you might just find yourself more stressed and more anxious than ever.
Think of your job not as something that sucks the soul out of your body, but as something that’s providing you with a decent amount of money. Money that you can use to splurge on your freedom. When you take advantage of compound interest, you would find yourself with a pretty penny to tide you through all occasions.
Therefore, think of your job as something that’s providing Future-You with freedom.
A few years of sacrifice, for decades of freedom.
I currently have a five-digit nest egg in high-interest bearing bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. By the end of 2018, at the age of 25, I’d have a six-digit nest egg.
Considering the fact that I can save around $40,000 a year from my job and side hustling, I should have $250,000 in 3-4 years’ time. And that’s from savings alone. If the financial markets rally, I could have a much, much more substantial net worth.
This money, though I had to trade years of my life for it, can pay for my living expenses for years. Actually, taking into account how simple my lifestyle is, this money could possibly pay for all my living expenses for decades.
I never have to worry about whether I can put food on the table. Or whether I have a comfy bed to sleep in. Or whether my medical bills can be covered.
Now, that’s freedom.
Your Money-Saving To-Do-List:
While you’re working a desk job, whether you like or dislike it, focus on putting away as much as humanly possible. I save around 70-80% of my income, even though I don’t earn much from my corporate job.
In the meantime, calculate your annual expenses and cut the fat from your expenses. After which, figure out how much you need to have saved up before you allow yourself to quit your job. (I know this is extremely vague, but I’ll definitely be writing about this in the future!)
Step 5 – Screw What Everyone Else Thinks
Are you trying to become financially independent? Trying to lead a simpler life? Trying to save lots of money? Whatever your journey, you’re bound to meet someone who frowns upon your decisions. Or someone who keeps asking you whether you feel “deprived”.
We feel crappy about this, because what we all crave, is to fit in and be accepted. We long to feel part of a community. We’re hungry for approval that validates our entire existence. But keeping up with the Joneses is a sure-fire way to get yourself into a position of huge debt and little savings. Oh, and of course, a life of being chained to your cubicle. A life of minimal freedom.
Everyone seems to think that being in debt is a normal thing. They view having student loans, car loans, and housing mortgages as “good” forms of debt. Why? Because having a degree, a nice car and a fancy house are indications that you’ve made it in life. On top of that, you need to dress appropriately, wear suitable shoes, and carry branded bags – signs of apparent affluence. Spending, which you rack up on your credit card.
And if you don’t have this material stuff? People look at you weird, and wonder if you’re broke.
Let me tell you this. None of that should matter to you, because you’re insignificant to other people. And that’s a damn good thing.
Take Advantage of Your Insignificance
I hate the stares of some of my relatives and colleagues. I can see their eyes scanning. I know that they’re looking at what I’m wearing and determining how much I spent on my stuff. It used to get me in a huff. Even today, I still do feel self-conscious. But here’s the thing – that lasts for all of 1 minute. Maybe even 30 seconds. After which, something else will catch their eye, and the stuff I’m wearing will be long forgotten. Because I’m insignificant to them.
People just don’t have the time to spend hours and hours obsessing over your latest acquisition. Or, for that matter, whether you’re broke or not. The world we live in has too much to offer. People will get excited over something new for a minute or two, but then they’ll be distracted by the millions of other things out there. When you buy a $10,000 watch, or a $50,000 car, what is it for? Does the watch or car provide you with an equivalent amount of happiness? Or are you buying these things for that 1 minute of approval from other people? If so, is that even worth it?
My family is extremely wealthy, and my relatives love to hold fancy parties at their equally fancy houses. Even though the dress code is usually casual, everyone will be decked out in pretty dresses and expensive shirts. And into the parties I’ll stroll, in a $50 dress and a 3-year-old Herschel backpack. Easy to maintain, and perfectly functional.
But the pressure to look better, sometimes, can be a little overbearing.
My mum talked to me a few times about this. She told me that I needed to spend more money maintaining my image, and that I couldn’t always be using a 3-year-old backpack that looks like it’s going to fall apart. My grandmother gently chided me about the same thing, too. She always told me that I need to go out and buy more dresses. “Having 7 work dresses is way too little”, she told me, “What will other people think about you?”
Does it bother me? A little, but I continue to be firm. I don’t believe in buying new stuff until my current items become irreparable. I won’t buy a new backpack until my current one gives way. I won’t buy new pair of shoes until I can’t walk in my current pair. I won’t buy new dresses until I’m not able to wear my current dresses. Doing otherwise will force me into a vicious cycle of shopping and then getting rid of perfectly functional items.
A complete waste of hard-earned money, and for what? So that other people can fawn over me and my new stuff? Should I go out and spend $1,000, just for a couple minutes of approval?
The few years that I spent pondering about happiness have made me realise that I don’t derive a lick of joy from buying new clothes, new shoes, new bags. I only have one body, one pair of shoulders, and one pair of feet. No matter how many dresses I switch up during the week, no matter how many shoes I show off in a month, I never feel any different. My body, my feet, my shoulders don’t feel any different whether I’m carrying a $100 bag, or a $10,000 bag. A $100 pair of shoes, or a $1,000 pair of shoes. A $20 dress, or a $200 dress.
It doesn’t make any sense for me to buy new stuff, for the sole purpose of gaining the acceptance of other people.
After all, I’m insignificant. People may think I’m broke. But they won’t care for longer than a few minutes.
When you’re deeply aware of what brings you happiness, and what doesn’t, you don’t feel so insecure. When you’re in tune with what you want, not what other people want, you wouldn’t care so much about what they think about you. When you’re dead-set on pursuing a life of freedom, that’s when you stand real tall, even when others look down on you.
That’s when you can walk into a room full of wealthy relatives with extravagant stuff, carry a 3-year-old backpack, and still be at ease in your skin.
It’s liberating, when you stop caring about what other people think about you. Nothing brings you down. Nothing touches you. You’re free.
“Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner.”
– Lao Tzu
When you’re taking in your last breath, when you’re going to be stripped of all your worldly possessions, what’ll matter are the people you’ve touched, the lives that you’ve changed, and the beautiful memories you’ve created.
Not the people who gave you approval for dressing up real nice.
Understand that most people are naturally nosy curious. They’d want to know what you’re wearing, what you’re buying, what you’re driving, where you’re staying. Recognise that these people will judge you based on this stuff, but only for a few minutes or so.
Become deeply acquainted with the fact that you’re insignificant. And use that to your advantage. Screw what everyone else thinks.
Many of us seek freedom, but few of us ever achieve it. Because the pursuit of freedom is not an easy one.
It’s easy to accumulate debt. To only pay the minimum on your credit cards. To live in the lap of luxury. To spend beyond your means. It’s easy to do all that.
You know what isn’t easy?
Having the discipline to pay down all your debts.
Resisting the temptation to bring more liabilities into your life.
Living simply, but with intentionality, where everything in your life has a distinct purpose.
Cultivating the persistence to stick it out in a corporate job for a while. Delaying gratification to save money.
Nurturing the self-confidence to stand tall when everyone else looks down on you.
Living a life of freedom. This isn’t easy.
But like everything else in the world, nothing worthwhile ever comes easily.
To a life of freedom for all of us,
Hi Liz! I love how you write that freedom is a state of mind as well as the state of your pocketbook. So very true! You are so right that to know our place in the world (ie, we’re pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things) will truly set you free. The inner journey to a better life is the most vital part, and I thank you for the inspiration for that on this post!
Cheers, Dragon Gal
Thank you, Dragon Gal! I’m so happy that you found inspiration in this post. I love writing about the inner journey to a better life and I hope to do more of that in the future. Thanks for the kind words! 🙂
I live by these words of wisdom daily. I drill this into my teenagers on
a regular basis and the importance of simple living , and living to work, Not working to live. And I annoy them with my constant “ how many hours would you need to work to buy that item and is it worth your time and money”. I rid my life of 75% of my household possessions and furniture 4 years ago and have been living simple for around 10 years now, which has allowed me to work less and have any amazing work life balance and moved to semi rural place in Australia 4 years ago which also allowed only a minimal mortgage remaining. There really is a more authentic happier fulfilled life when every area of your life is well, simple..
Your teenagers are so fortunate to have a parent like you! If I should be lucky enough to have kids in the future, I’d want to drill them on simple living and the value of money as well. I think those are the most important things in life that should be learnt while young.
Congratulations on getting rid of 75% of your possessions! That is completely admirable! Was it very difficult for you to get rid of so much stuff? I’m still in the midst of decluttering but I’ve found many items hard to get rid of. Especially things that I’ve attached sentimental value to. It’s definitely a work in progress. I’m really happy that you’re leading an authentic and fulfilled life. It’s a lot easier to do that with less stuff in the way, right? 🙂
Hi Liz, no it wasn’t difficult Decluttering 75% of my household. It’s was liberating beyond words.. I’m not hugely sentimental which helped. But I do have a box for my two kids with a handful of things from when they were babies and young kids (now teens) and scanned lots of loose photos. But I sold and donated bedroom furniture , lounges, kitchen items, clothes, TV’s and many more items and I donated a lot to a client of mine – a mum who become a single mum of three kids which was unexpected in her life, so that felt wonderful to give to someone in need. I’m always still Decluttering and selling items on eBay., I moved to a smaller home but on larger land, so we have a big veggie garden & great outdoor entertaining area with an outdoor kitchen . We Have solar panels and lots of water tanks on our property. We did purchase a new Energy efficient Fridge & Washer/Dryer and two new ‘very expensive’ leather lounges, but frugality is not about being cheap, it’s about saving up to purchase eco and quality over quantity and being intentional and doing your research (in our case lots of research) before buying.
I can imagine how decluttering 75% of your stuff can be liberating. You’re so kind to have donated everything to someone in need. It’s very, very nice of you to do so, and you should be so proud of yourself for having done what you’ve done. 🙂
I completely agree with your definition of frugality. People always conflate frugality and being cheap, but they couldn’t be more wrong! And by the way, can I just say that your life sounds AMAZING? Wow! And good for you for buying things that are environmentally friendly! Which part of Oz are you staying in? My partner and I have considered moving to Oz to settle down! She also wants the outdoor entertainment area and kitchen and loves having lots of space 🙂
My life’s is not amazing, just content from many many intentional baby steps over past decade starting with living within my means, starting my business and moving to a peaceful county town. Non of this would have ever happened if I was still trying to buy happiness thru purchases, had I not found Minimalism, frugality and intentional living in my life a decade ago which lead me on the path to true internal happiness and contentment. My mantra has always been ‘Less is More’.. I just function better with Less in my life. Less stuff, less commitments, less noise, less stress, less drama, less multi-tasking.
Congratulations on finding minimalism, frugality and intentional living! I’ve definitely found these philosophies to be important facets of my life as well. I haven’t really quite found my way, but I hope to one day, like you 🙂
Love the “less is more” mantra! I find that I’ve been reminding myself of that more these days. Here’s to trying to cut out all the rubbish in our lives, and living better lives! 🙂
Excellent write-up. I absolutely love this website. Thanks!
Thank you, Martin! I really appreciate that 🙂