In no particular order, with no particular theme, here are a few random simplification tips. Each one of them were ideas I had for separate posts, but they never really gelled, except #2, which was one of my early, early posts. Hopefully taken as a whole they provide a few simple ways to simplify life…simply.
- Learn to cook. You will be healthier (fewer health-related bills if you eat homemade healthy food than if you stop for takout every evening) and you will save money (unless you shop exclusively at Whole Paycheck, and even then it’s probably cheaper). Learn to cook healthy food, though. If you don’t cook, learning to cook will change your life for the better: it’s cheaper, healthier and better for your social life.
- Consolidate accounts. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about ten different credit cards and five different brokerages and a half-dozen retirement accounts and three checking accounts… you get the picture. It got worse when I got married – but then we saw the light and consolidated our accounts. Now I can go to Yodlee (easily the best account consolidation site out there, bar none, which I get through our bank) and tell you my net worth within seconds, pay all of my outstanding bills in minutes (those that aren’t autopaid) and check up on all of my accounts immediately. Our financial “basics” take less than an hour each month to maintain, freeing us up to concentrate on other things.
- Get married (and the corollary, don’t get divorced) or at least keep a stable monogamous relationship. If you get married, you’ll inevitably spend more money and save more money, have more time and less time – but I believe on balance being married means you have two brains to assault money problems (and opportunities) and we all know two brains are better than one.
- Stop trading, start investing. One of the worst time-wasters in my life used to be trading. Trying to keep up with the markets was a losing battle. Sure, I won some and lost some but the amount of time I spent and the tiny net improvement over passive investing was not worth it. Make targeted investments in things you understand. If you understand real estate, invest in real estate. If you understand hedge funds, invest in hedge funds. If you don’t understand anything, invest in some books about finance.
- Take public transportation if it’s available. I know you love your car, and I know the bus is a half mile away and crowded and doesn’t run on your schedule and blah blah blah blah. Public transportation is cheaper, better for the environment, better for your health (lots of walking and stairs). You don’t have to get train insurance, or fill up the subway with gas. You don’t have to take the bus in for repairs or buy new wipers for it. The bus is destroying the planet at a slightly smaller rate.
- Don’t buy stuff. I’ve already written about this, but I am a firm believer that you should buy stuff you need and don’t buy stuff you don’t. That’s a simple concept but hard to execute for a lot of people.
- Adapt to change. Trying to fight change in your life can waste money and make life more complicated than it needs to be. At every stage in my life I’ve found instances where I fought changing my habits – I didn’t want to cook at home (too lazy), to consolidate accounts (too much work), to get married (too busy with career), to invest instead of trading (I was smarter than the market, oh yeah), take the bus (I’m a busy international jet-setter, I have to take taxis!), or make do with what I’ve already got (this recipe calls for peppercorns ground by hand in a mortar and pestle, I couldn’t possibly find anything around the house to duplicate that action). Be willing to change your thinking and you’ll be ahead of 90% of the population of Planet Earth.