7 tips to simplify today

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

20 Replies to “7 tips to simplify today”

  1. All good tips Brip, but number 7 is without a doubt the most important one, in my opinion. Everything else is easy to set up and get in the habit of, but those curveballs are what define your goals. If you can manage the unknown, you’re on your way. I’m great at managing my money and keeping spending down, but when something unexpected comes up, I’m just not ready. It doesn’t compute.

    Once I get a hold of that I’ll be much more streamlined, much more efficient, and much more in control. Be prepared for the unexpected!

  2. Pretty good tips Brip Blap. In the case however that your city does have a good public transportation system (point 5) i would advice you to commute with friends/coworkers to your job.. That way its more fun and cheaper 😉

    As for Point 5, even if you don’t know what to invest in, get a financial adviser but also seek advice from successful people that have been in your situation..

  3. I SOOO wish I’d have taken your advice about getting married & staying married when I was young (but then you weren’t even a gleam in your parents eyes when I was young…).

    I have been married 4 times. Owned a house in each instance of divorce, had 401K’s and as I got older, lots more investments. The divorce that hurt the worst was the last one – I was married for almost 20 years and since he made WAY less than me nearly the entire marriage, he wound up with well more than 1/2 of what we had – unfortunately having to clear out my 401K so I could split it with him. I just didn’t have enough liquidity to buy him out. He even got a portion of what my father let me when he passed away. It killed me!

    My present husband, indeed my LAST husband, is much younger than me & had nothing when we met having given almost everything he had to his divorce. He offered to have a pre-nup and I took him up on it. He does what he loves & makes very little & I do what I’m good at and make 6 figures and we are both happy with that, however, heaven forbid we part, he only gets back what he put in.

    SO, I’d add that if you marry later in life & have more than your spouse, of even forsee that your incomes may be very disparate, do a pre-nup – NOT romantic, but then most financial decisions aren’t.

  4. Hey! Great article. I love this article. Do you mind if I post it up as an entry on my blog? You will get full credit for it! 😀

    Tony Tovar

    P.S. Send me an email if you wish.

  5. I have learned and agree with everything on your list. Except maybe public transportation. I haven’t learned that one yet, the thought of waiting for the bus, with my kids, in 110 degree heat to save $5 in gas just isn’t on the top of my fugal list. Maybe if I lived where there was a subway I would be more on board.

    1. @Mom@WOW: Public transportation is tricky that way. But I guess I’d say that you’re not just saying $5 in gas, you’re reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are being poured into the atmosphere, as well – you’re reducing the amount of money that future generations are going to have to pay for illnesses and disasters arising from climate change, as well as contributing to more and more 110 degree days. But I own two cars, so I’m certainly not a purist on public transportation. I guess I would just say that if you can use a bus instead of a car when there isn’t much difference – say, on the day when it’s 75 and pleasant and you’re not in a big hurry with the kids – then maybe it’s worth it. Public transportation varies so much city to city in the US that it’s hard to universally say it should be used, I know.

  6. We’re doing well on 1 and 3. One of our earlier “dates” was a cooking class although neither of us was afraid of the kitchen before. It’s great to serve a really good dinner and know that it would cost 5 times as much at a restaurant.

  7. @Mom – Another way to think of it – the mess we make of our planet today is what we leave for our kids tomorrow. Do you really want to leave them with something worse than 110 degree days? Because that’s where we are headed – you might not live to see it, but your kids will reap the consequences. What legacy do you want to leave them? I take the personal finance approach to the health of the planet: spend today and go bankrupt tomorrow… or invest in frugality/sustainability today and live well tomorrow… (that being said, there’s no rule you have to take public transportation *every* day – just like you can occasionally splurge responsibly!)

    @Steve – the first sentence of #5 is on my favorite quotes list now! Unfortunately, no one has yet convinced me of #3. 🙂

  8. Steve, I’ve been staring at this one for a long time, thinking it wasn’t quite right but not knowing how to fix it. I just recalled Harrison Ford desperately saying “I want to complicate the hell out of my life” to Anne Heche at the end of Six Days Seven Nights as his declaration of a desire for a monogamous relationship, it occurred to me that this is not about simplification, but about building a foundation.

    In our youth, we try on different roles and different actions to see which fit. Some of us never find a fit, and endure a life of multiple shallow relationships, fast food, job hopping, you name it, as if in an endless and destructive WHILE loop (I’ve written a few of those). You advice is to stop that, choose from our experiences, and build the foundation that defines who we are. Once we can do that, I think you are describing the benefits of that choice and the resulting actions.

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