Downshifting to a Simpler Life, For Men

Thailand

I never could have traveled the world without minimalism.

I was neck deep in the American Dream (which was actually more like a nightmare) only a few short years ago. I owned a lot of things, but I had a lot of monthly payments to make and quite simply, was miserable and powerless to do anything except to to work, come home, and write checks as the bills came in.

Men have been groomed by the Great Marketing Machine to desire more than they actually need, so they can “impress” women and keep up appearances in an economy that thrives on taking people’s lives away so they can buy stuff. Statistics bear out the reality of this empty lifestyle, and paint a picture of a society that tries to buy happiness:

  • The average American home now has 300,000 items in it!
  • Another 10% of homes rent storage to pile even more junk into.
  • Half of all households don’t save ANY money.
  • Two-thirds of homes do not have enough money saved to cover a $1,000 emergency expense.
  • Americans spend well over $1 trillion each year on things they don’t need.
  • 80% of the consumer economy is driven by women.

Even though women waste far more money than men, men have the capacity to make up much less of the pie than they already do, and to stop contributing to women’s lifestyles of materialism and consumersm. What if, we as men, focused only on what we need, and what actually makes us happy? According to scientific research conducted on happiness, what we own has very little to do with happiness, even though from a young age we are told that we can’t be happy without owning the latest, greatest gadgets, toys, cars, and other assorted items the persuaders tell us we need.

Researchers studied some of the happiest people to find out what makes them happy. The research is presented in the film Happy. The things we are told that are important from a very early age – income, social status, where you live, and age – make up a scant 10% of overall happiness. The biggest revelation of the research is that once basic needs are taken care of, more money does not equal more happiness. An amazing 40% of the happiness pie is made up of intentional activity. In other words, beyond genetics which make up 50% of happiness, freedom is the most important aspect of living a happy lifestyle. The irony is, the more you own the less freedom you have. A concise and worthwhile book, Debt is Slavery by Michael Mihalik puts it this way: Possessions are a Prison. The things you own are paid for by lost experiences, and result in less intentional activity, and less freedom.

Another important realization from Mihalik is Money Buys Freedom. If you downshift, focusing on intentional activity instead of the great American pastimes of shopping and eating out, you should be able to drastically cut your living expenses. If you cut your monthly living expenses down to 50% of your income, which means you have the freedom to only work half the time, if that’s your bag. It becomes easier to take a leave from your job, or to quit altogether to pursue your dreams. Having your finances under control makes powerful changes to your life.

Firebird

Driving a 15-year old car doesn’t mean you can’t have style. I purchased this 2001 model in 2009 and have been driving it ever since.

Taking Control

Personally, after realizing this, I decided to drive a 15-year old but very well-maintained car instead of having a car payment, started commuting to work on a $2,000 motorcycle that used $10 of gas every two weeks, planned my daily menu and was able to eat well on less than $5 a day, stopped eating out, stopped shopping for recreation, stopped watching television since the entire business model is based on the ability to make people buy things they don’t need, lived in the simplest apartment I could find, and planned every month’s expenses with a spreadsheet.

As I cut back on spending money and watching television, I found I had time to do things I should have been doing all along but hadn’t been: exercising, reading, traveling, spending more time with family and friends, and writing. Incidentally, as the MGTOWs have done, I also stopped dating, as every time I dated an American woman I found my expenses rose and I wasn’t getting much in return. But more on that another time. (I more than made up for the deprivation when I relocated to Latin America, where hot, sweet Latinas abound!)

I went from bankruptcy to a modicum of financial freedom in a few short years, even on an average income. Interestingly, I didn’t miss the lifestyle I had before at all! I loved the simplicity and the freedom my new approach to life gave me. I started traveling the world and soon discovered places where people were happier, life was simpler, but they were living on much less than I had ever imagined possible. Your journey may be much different than mine. But, I’ve lived it, and I’m here to spread the gospel that minimalism is a powerful tool that can completely change your outlook on life.

Five Ways to Downshift

Here are five of the simplest ways to cut back:

  1. Drive a used car, and drive it until it can’t be fixed anymore. Living abroad, I see vehicles on the road all the time abroad with 300,000 to 400,000 miles on them. 100,000 miles does not mean you need to trade it in. Maintenance and not driving it like you stole it is key.
  2. Further cut commuting expenses. Live close to work. Drive a motorcycle if that’s your bag. Motorcycles turned out to be a passion of mine, and despite what all the haters said about how dangerous they are, I used one to my financial benefit. (And have been having a helluva lot of fun for several years now.)
  3. Stop watching TV. So much wasted time here, not to mention the subconscious messages of fear and consumption the media push. The insidiousness of the materialistic lifestyle presented by the media goes all the way down to the lives presented on sitcoms and dramas – none of the people who star in those shows could afford the lifestyle presented on TV in reality. You can cut a nice, juicy $60-100 or more out of your monthly budget by canceling cable.
  4. Plan your diet. This sounds terrible at first, until you realize how much waste you are creating by not planning it. The average man needs 2,000-2,500 calories a day, and that need is very easy to fill on $5 a day with appropriate planning. Hell, I have a diet soda addiction and I discovered 84 cent 2-liters at Walmart.
  5. Avoid shopping and eating out. These are the simplest, but often the hardest to get used to since recreational eating and buying things we don’t need is so common in the U.S. Eating out is a huge drain on your budget, as is buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like. As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, if you really want to get out of debt you will not see the inside of a restaurant unless you are working in it.

These cuts alone can save you hundreds a month. And remember, money buys freedom. And freedom equals happiness.

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One comment

  • Excellent article. Plain spoken, insightful, and to the point. I too have come to the same conclusions you have. Fortunately I arrived on a less painful path. The only thing limiting me from going all in is that I am married to a wife who is decent with two awesome kids. So for now I’m just minimizing family expanses and avoiding depth till my kids are out of the house. Then we’ll see if the wife is about simplistic overseas living.

    She’s had a taste of it when she visited me abroad, but I doubt she is about living it.

    As you say and I now know, for most men, it’s the women in our lives who are the instigators of debt.

    Like

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