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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Enjoy Life Now and Save for Later

Article written by Leo Babauto, Author of the popular blog, Zen Habits

Published here by permission via uncopywrite

ed.note - North American culture has conditioned us that the pursuit of happiness is based of spending lots of money for possessions we don't need. Being a Vandweller forces you to make hard choices about possessions and luxuries, but the lifestyle rewards you with simplicity, minimalism and a better financial footing. This article reflects some of these values.

Often we're told that we have we have to suffer now - give up what we want - in order to succeed later, that in order to save we must sacrifice. Give up instant gratification to get delayed gratification.

But you can do both.

For years, I was confused about this, as I read books and websites that sent me two different messages;

1/ Pleasure later. The first message was that in order to be successful, in order to build wealth, you have to delay gratification. You can't have instant gratification and be successful.

2/ Pleasure now. The second message was usually from other sources on happiness, but sometimes from the same source: enjoy life now, while you can, because it's short and you never know when your last day will come. Live every day like it's your last.

Trouble is, I agree with both messages. And if you read this site often, you'll see that I send both messages: Live frugally and simply! But also enjoy life!

That's because I've reconciled the two philosophies into one: Live life now and enjoy it to the fullest - without destroying your future. The key to doing that? Find ways to enjoy life completely, utterly, maximally ... that don't cost your future very much.

Here are some tips for actually living that philosophy:

Find free or cheap pleasures. Frugality does not have to be boring or restrictive ... if your use your imagination. Be creative and find ways to have fun - loads of it - without spending much money. Have a picnic at the park, go to the beach, do crafts, board games, fly a kite, make art, bake cookies ... I could list a hundred things, and you could come up with a hundred more. Make a list of simple pleasures, and enjoy them to the maximum. This is the key to the whole idea of enjoying life now without spending tomorrow's dollar.

Make simplifying fun. I'm a big fan of simplifying my life, from decluttering to creating a simple lifestyle in every way. I get rid of stuff (and possibly make money selling it) and have a blast doing it. That's good math.

Rediscover what's important. Oftentimes we spend tons of money, shopping, going out, watching movies, eating out ... without really enjoying life. And when we stop to think about it, we never have time for the things we really want to do. Well, that's probably because your life is filled with things that aren't very important to you. Instead, step back and really think about what's important. Listen to some stuff on my list: my wife and kids, other friends and family, reading, writing, exercising, volunteering, spending quiet time in contemplation. Guess how many of those tings cost a lot of money? Not many.

Make people a priority. This is related to the above point, but I thought I'd give it a little more emphasis. If you give 'stuff' a priority - stuff like gadgets, nice furnishings, nice clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. - then you will spend a lot of money. But if your make people a priority - the people you love the most, your close friends and family - you don't need to spend a dime to enjoy life. Make some time to visit with friends, or your parents ... and have a conversation with them that doesn't involve eating out or going to the movies. Just sit, have some iced tea or hot cocoa, and talk. Tell jokes and laugh your heads off. Talk about books you've read, movies you've watched, new things going on in your life, your hopes and dreams.

Find time for yourself. Make time every day, and every week, to spend time alone. It really gives more meaning and enjoyment to your life, rather that rushing through life with no time to think, to breathe.

Sometimes, splurge. You shouldn't restrict yourself from expensive pleasures all the time; it's not good to develop the feeling of deprivation. To prevent that, once in a while, buy yourself something ... or better yet, give yourself a decedent treat. I love things with dark chocolate or berries. Just don't go overboard .. and learn to enjoy the splurge to the fullest.

Track your successes. It doesn't really matter how you track your success - you can use gold stars for creating a simplifying or frugal habit, or a spreadsheet chart to track your decreasing debt and increasing savings. Tracking is a great way to not only provide motivation, but to make the process of changing fun.

Reward yourself. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Volunteer. One of the most rewarding things for my family has been when we managed to volunteer. It's actually only something we started doing last year, but since then, we've done it a bunch of times in a number of different ways. And while it doesn't cost a dime, it is tremendously rewarding in ways that money could never buy.

Live in the moment. Learn to think not so much about the past or future, but about what you are going through right now. Be present. It may seem trite, but it's the key to enjoying life to the fullest - without having to spend money. Think about it - you can spend money eating out, but if you are not really thinking about what you are eating, you may not enjoy it much at all. But if you cook a simple and delicious meal, and really taste every bite, it can tremendously enjoyable without costing a lot.

Slow down. In the same way, you can't really enjoy life to the fullest if it's rushing past you like it's in fast forward. Ever think about how quickly a week, a month or a year goes by? Perhaps you are in the fast lane too much. Try slowing down and things will be less stressful and more enjoyable.

Learn to find cheap, cool stuff. I like shopping at thrift stores. You can find many cool/useful things there, and it costs so little. Garage sales are the same way. Check out http://www.freecycle.org/, or maybe http://www.ebay.com/ - you may find that item you need for little expense.

ed.note - I have always found that for myself, life and decisions are to be approached with a sense of balance, yin and yang, give and take, indulgence and thriftiness. Do you really want to spend your life on the acquisition of possessions or have the freedom to enjoy life? Some food for thought.

Cheers, Urban Vandweller

1 comment:

tamara said...

This was lovely. I found you via Hobo Stripper. I've become increasingly intrigued with the idea of a mobile existence, and I'm, for the moment, enjoying your experience vicariously.