Book Review: The Money-Less Man by Mark Boyle

Those seeking to find a more basic, essential existence often get caught up in how far to take the journey. Indeed, many of the people I speak to about my own journey seem set on taking what I am doing to some crazy endgame that seems outlandish in order to nullify the idea at the center of my decisions. Why live with less, I am often told; you may as well become Amish for example. These kind of things always leave me scratching my head. Of course there is a moderating force to my outlook, it's silly to think otherwise...

But what if it isn't?

I came upon this book rather accidentally in a used bin having never heard of it, or the author. The title seemed interesting and since it was free I decided to give the book a go.

What would it be like to live without money for a year? What would it be like to part with everything except exactly what was needed? That is the premise at the middle of Mr. Boyle's book.
Image result for moneyless man press images

The story here is more economic than minimalist, and a good deal more focused at social justice than other books on connecting with what is essential as well. At the center of it though the same questions are asked:

  • What is really necessary to have a fulling life?
  • Do things and money define us?
  • How can we continue on our currently destructive path as a society?
Mr. Boyle focuses on "freeconomy" which is the free exchange of resources, knowledge, skills, time, and friendship without the expectation of an immediate pay-off. Its a bold bet on the goodness of man. 

The book walks you through Mark's journey in securing housing, transportation, community connection, food, and other common needs without the benefit of money to grease the wheels. He connects with resources right under our noses and works out elaborate systems to get his basic needs met. Along the way he creates memories he shares with his readers that presents him as rather endearing. 

I did struggle with some of the ideas he shows support for in the book though. He is a strong advocate for "Organic" food production. Perhaps the UK has more clear standards as to what exactly that term really means compared to the U.S. but I found myself looking sideways at several statements he made on the matter regardless. Mr. Boyle also seems to at minimum support naturalistic "medicine", but also seems to dip his toe into homeopathy as well, regardless of how much both have been either disproved or lack any evidence supporting their validity. 

That said these more troublesome and minimally sited statements are but a small distraction from a wider work that presents a solid case for living with less, rethinking one's connection to money, and how they connect with others. These vitally important points rise well above the farmer's market conspiracy theory notions thrown around. 

Along the way Mark learns a great deal about himself and is never the same again. Overall, I found this book motivating and quirky. I can't say I made new discoveries in this book having read and being interest in reading about alternative lifestyles for some time. At the same time this book is very accessible and provides good insight. I recommend it overall, but like anything take what you need from it, and respin it into your own journey.  

Minimalist Weekend Reads

Person Holding Opened Book

Finding useful content is hard, let me help. Below are articles I have found interesting or useful. Most are not related to minimalism or essential living, but may provide insights in getting there.

Lifehacker recently had a stress management article which provided a useful flow chart to assess how stressed you really are. In order to set goals it is first important to know where you are currently, this could be a useful tool to that end.

Whether a manager or an employee productivity at work is always a topic of discussion. Ironically, it is often the case that you can be more productive while actually doing less and being honest about your teams shortcomings. This is a short read by a productivity specialist in South Africa.

The Tiny House Movement and minimalism often have a degree of crossover. In a recent post on The Tiny House Blog long time tiny house supporter Andrew Odom of Tiny Revolution faces down the reality that his niche has probably jumped the shark. I find this personally very relevant and if you blog you may find it as both inspiring and overwhelming as I do.

Foodie Fiasco is one of my all time favorite cooking blogs. A favorite recipe of mine is the Chickpea Stew on chilly weekend evenings. Fall is starting to set in and I highly recommend this recipe and blog.

Sometimes it amazes me how much we have for resources, so vast they are we often pass by them without seeing them. Foraging for food is a personal interest of mine and a recent article out of Permaculture Magazine is so accessible anyone can find tonight's dinner on a hike today.

The Essential Wardrobe Challenge

Each day we make thousands of decisions, it is never ending. Its so never ending one should not be surprised that they are completely exhausted by the time work is done and we find ourselves standing at the front door of our home where many more decision wait for us just past the threshold.

Clothing is one of those things that is essential, but becomes unduly complicated quickly. Its finding that balance between what is essential about our wardrobe and what is socially placed on us that presents the greatest challenge.

I am sure that if you are reading this you have also read stories about people having uniforms, wardrobes the that fit in a backpack, people that have only 100 things, and a series of other accolades. I politely ask you to put those articles out of your mind.

Minimizing is the mode to discover what is essential. Those of us choosing to live with less are not minimalists, we are essentialists. Minimizing is but one tool, it is only a tool. There is no cookie cutter definition of what is essential other than to have only things in your life that provide you value and serve a clear purpose.

With that I ask: Wouldn't it be nice not to have to spend hours of you life sorting, washing, folding, buying, ironing, dry cleaning, packing, and generally managing a wardrobe?

Are you able to reasonably account for all your clothing without having to physically sort it? 
Can you find one specific article of clothing from an upcoming season in less than two minutes? 
Are you short of storage while your dress, closet, and laundry bust at the seams with clothes? 
Do you wear each item of clothing you own every year?

These are the kinds of questions someone should ask on a regular basis if they feel overwhelmed by their wardrobe.

With this I have a challenge for you: Pack for a ten day trip where you will keep your normal routine.

Take out your suitcase and pack for ten days. Once you do this pack away all your other clothes. Don't get rid of them, just stick them in the closet and shut the door. For the next 25 days use only the clothes in that bag doing laundry when you need to.

Again, get rid of nothing. Also I provide no guidance for what packing for a 10 day challenge looks like. It is more important that you do it than it is to follow arbitrary rules. Use just a backpack or a war trunk, it doesn't matter. Just commit to the ten day trip.

Once the 25 days is up make a list of what worked and what didn't work, then, and only then open your closet. With the questions above and your 25 days of experience ask yourself one final question:
How much of this is worth the trouble?

Helping Family Without a Car

Yellow Chevy Pickup Truck in Low Photography

Long time readers of this blog know I am a huge advocate for mass transit and going car-less. For years my life has been enriched by not having a car. The money saved alone was a huge motivator. At the same time stress needs to be reassessed on an ongoing basis.

Stress has to constantly be reassessed
This is so important because the balance of stress can shift with time and for me the stress of not having a car has reached a point in which it is greater than having one. How did I get here?

As much as we might personally believe stress is often something one has control over; we can only react to it as best we can in many cases.

For me its family.

My grandparents live in a rural area and have gotten to the age where they need more support in order to maintain any level of independence or a good quality of life. They raised me for the most part and I am happy to go there as much as possible to keep them smiling and independent.

The problem is, they live in a transportation vortex, a black hole. It takes the better part of a day to get to their general area and someone still needs to pick me up as my last bus stop is well outside of walking distance. This isn't really good for my grandparents either, but they have lived in this community for their whole lives, and they are well outside the time frame now were a move makes sense. They are the last hold outs, the last ones who haven't moved to more populace areas in my family.

Up until now my partner has let me use her car, a privilege I try to use as sparingly as possible. At the same time in spite of my best efforts usage keeps going up and I feel bad about needing to use her car on her days off which leaves her without something she works hard to have.

So, accepting my situation I bought a car over the weekend and am going through the process of putting it on the road now. For the first time in just about exactly 10 years I am purchasing car insurance. Its a weird feeling. Not because I have a car, but because I was pushed to make a decision that I know is correct while being against a core belief of mine.

Debt, The Enemy I Know Well.

I used to turn my phone off and avoid my mailbox because of the bill collector harassment.

Its a terrible feeling. Helplessness, wrapped in shame, with a side salad of anxiety....its just no way to live. Certainly for me it could have been worse, indeed I have seen many stories online that were far worse than mine. At the same time, no matter the scale the feelings are the same.

Its that feeling, that pit in my belly that motivated me to start this blog.

In some ways I got out, but I don't consider myself a success story. No, like all of us I am work is progress. I still screw up and still fail at financial goals. I'm just a person like any other.

What makes me different is I have found the skills, the courage, and the hustle to get back up each time I fall behind to try my hand at success once again.

As time has past a system to do this has fallen into place, it goes like this:
  • Lower the pressure
  • Focus on what really matters
  • Take some time to think soberly
  • Attack the easiest to solve things first
  • Build capacity
  • Move on and let it go
This blog is about finding those things to make forward movement, no matter how small, to support you as you find your own path. Maybe mine will guide you or maybe it will be just good to know that you are not alone. Either way I look forward to hearing about your story.

Little Steps Add Up

Successful people at the art of frugality know that small habits can have huge payouts, especially when several are combined. These are some habits I have learned that always payout.

1. Stop spending and carrying change

I have always rolled my change, but a few years ago I decided I would take this to the extreme. I did this by refusing to spend change. Any time I get change it goes in my other pocket and when I get home it goes in a jar. If I have 4 dollars worth of change in my pocket and I buy something for a 1.04 I will still give the cashier two whole dollars.

Doing this last year I made 200 dollars in about eight months. Its a good boost to your wallet at the end of the year, right when you need it.

Here are some tips:
  • Find a large jar, close to a gallon. When starting out its also good if the jar is not see through.
  • Use two jars to keep pennies out of the mix. I keep a small tea cup for pennies and I roll them when it gets full so I don't have to waste my time rolling 30 dollars worth of pennies at years end. Just stick the rolled pennies in a bottom drawer or somewhere out of site.
  • Actually roll your change, don't use Coinstar or similar machines. Sure they are easier, but they take a cut. 
  • Don't pay for the coin rolls. Most banks will give them to you for free.
  • If you have to do coin-up laundry always get quarters from the machine using a bill. I spend around 15 bucks on laundry a week so I always just throw a twenty in the machine.
  • Include your bottle returns in this, bottle return places are always happy to payout in change rather than bills
2. Before throwing something out, Ebay it

You will be SHOCKED what people will pay for on Ebay. The key is to always start the auction at one cent no matter what it is. This increases the number of bids which means more people get invested, which drives the price up. Also make sure you have at least four pictures.

I have sold old clothes, books, household supplies, office supplies, and so much more. The only stuff that goes to Goodwill in my house is stuff too heavy to logically ship. The vast majority of the auctions are successful.

Remember, its not about making lots of money on one thing that is important. The goal is to recoup some money from items you spent your hard earned money on. Stacking those earnings across multiple auctions adds up!

Last year I made 300 dollars selling stuff on Ebay I would have thrown out or donated before getting wise.

My Tip: Have a box you put stuff in when you don't want it anymore. When it gets full start listing the items in it on Ebay.

3. Take Up a Hobby That Involves Selling and Trading

Personally, I buy books. I hunt Craigslist in my spare time for people selling hardcovers in larger amounts on the cheap (25+ books at a shot). I then sort and sell my winnings; often with more than enough stock to provide for my own reading enjoyment. I encourage people to take 200 bucks and start such a hobby. Whether its records, glassware, production crafts, comics, baseball cards, or older computers there is gold in having a time consuming hobby.

Gold in spending money on a hobby? Let me explain:
  • Firstly having a hobby takes up time and provides enjoyment. This saves you money by giving you something other than spending money randomly or impulsively. You will have physically less time to spend money buying random stuff and because you will be happier engaging in a structured hobby you will be more mentally able to make sounder choices. I make very little money from my books, but my overall my spending has gone down 50 to 75 dollars a month since committing to a hobby.
  • Trade Based hobbies like baseball cards are perfect if you can be disciplined enough to make it self perpetuating in that you don't spend more than your initial investment. I dropped 200 dollars on my book hobby 8 years ago and I have never had to spend more of my own money on it since. I make enough selling books to buy more books. 
  • Every once and awhile you will make some money. For example a couple years ago I bought about 100 books for 50 bucks. When I went through them I found 20 dollars in cash in the pages and an autographed book I sold for 60 bucks. I kept those earnings for me. Currently my book hobby only has about 100 dollars invested in it directly from me out of the original 200, but it probably worth three times that if I were to completely cash out.
Though my books don't make me much money directly I have found I spend about 1,000 dollars less a year because I am busy with my hobby.

What are some random ways you make some extra money?

Check-in 7.6.2016

Over the last few months I have really focused on digital and technical hoarding. I started by reducing my computer down to a Chromebook as a replacement for my long trusty netbook that finally reached its end of life. For more on my journey to my simple Chromebook, see my earlier post.

I have a long standing love affair with bookmarks, they have a tendency to multiply like rabbits. Before I decided this was an issue I had over 1500 bookmarks spread across 30 folders. After my biggest purge ever I now have less than 200 spread across 7 folders. My goal by next month is to halve that again. I also plan to start cleaning out my Lastpass Vault.

Clothing wise I have always struggled to extend my simple ethic to how I manage my wardrobe. Yes, I basically have a uniform...but I just seem to have more clothing than seems necessary. Part of the problem is I am not strategic with what I have. As a result I have a mismatched collection of misfit clothes. In an effort to move the ball I have decided to give up the color brown. What this means is that I am focusing my "lower half" on wearing only shades of black. This was easy as all but one pair of brown pants had reached their end of life anyway; I just got rid of my brown belt, shoes, and committed not to replacing them. As a result about 20% of my closet opened up and I freed up more space by getting rid of anything I hadn't worn in over a year. My ultimate goal is to get down to 50 or less clothing items not counting under garments.

This is my first check-in since returning from a couple year long blogging break. I had primarily focused on developing my presence on Quora. In and effort to take on new challenges and put to bed some of my older goals/history I have decided try my hand at writing an e-book. This will be my first attempt at this and the idea of taking on this new challenges is very exciting to me.

For those of you still checking this blog after my absence I thank you with all my heart. I have received a few "welcome back" emails from fans and that was something that caught me totally off guard. Very humbling indeed.

If you want to get in touch with me feel free to comment or hit me up on Twitter where I am slowly getting my house back in order there as well @simplidavid

Make 75 Dollars with Little Effort

It might seem crazy, but there really are companies that will pay you for giving them data you often give away for free anyway. Smart Panel, a product of Verto Analytics is such an opportunity.

We have all had anxiety about companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google collecting information on us and then handing it over to advertisers. But what if the advertisers cut us in on the action?

With Smart Panel you install an application that collects analytic data on your online activities which Verto Analytics, a reputable Madison Avenue analytics firm uses to drive their knowledge base of the online landscape for their clients. Essentially they are doing the work themselves, paying you for the privilege of access, and cutting other analytic networks out of the equation.

The payout goes like this:
  • You make 5 dollars for signing up and installing the app successfully
  • After two weeks you earn another 10 dollars and can begin withdrawing all of the money from that point forward
  • Each month of continued use results in a further 5 dollar payout
Thats 75 dollars in your first year alone

So, ready to give it a try?

  1. First go to the Smart Panel Website and sign up
  2. Then follow the instructions to install the app on your chosen device
  3. Then simply forgot you installed it and watch the money roll in
Now, some tips and tricks from my experience with it:

  •  There is no need to register multiple devices even though the sign-up prompts you to, it doesn't change the pay out. Just pick one device when registering and go with that device. I used my phone.
  • The app itself is very basic, you can't even check your rewards with it. In fact other than to set it up there is no reason to even open it. To check your balance and transfer funds via Paypal you have to go to the website to log in

Connecting with Yourself

fire, outdoors, camping

Often times they way one used to do things was likely the most intimate.

I have noticed as I have become older I have become more risk adverse, have an increased desire to feel comfortable, and of course safe. In some respects this is a good thing. Most obviously I now have something to lose, I have skin in the game. I have also worked very hard and feel just a bit entitled to a certain level of comfort.

Its that entitlement that can cut both ways. As much as I should enjoy the fruits of my labor I instead find ways to squander them shopping on Amazon or watching TV.

If you have read this blog before you know this is an active struggle that I often sway from one extreme to the other on. That is what I like the most about this blog, its messy. I am not some polished blogger trying to trick you with an overly rosy picture of a minimalist life so you fall into my advertising trap. I am just a flawed guy doing the best he can.

Balance is an all consuming goal for me. Even though I should be able to enjoy some time doing things I love and I know I will enjoy, I just don't. Do you ever feel like this?

Intimacy is important in everyday life. Intimacy for me are those quiet moments of introspection that allow you to shape yourself. I realize I don't have enough of those. As a step back in the right direction I have decided to spend this summer recommitting to an old hobby that used to provide bountiful opportunities for introspection and was innately minimalist.

15 years ago one of my favorite hobbies was Bushcraft. For those of you who don't know what this is Bushcraft is a form of minimalist wilderness activity. Basically it is packing as light as possible and being in nature with as little barrier between you and the outdoors as possible.

Bushcraft is not camping you are not paying for a campsite, bringing an RV, or even loading up on hundreds of dollars worth of REI gear. People who are really into bushcraft pride themselves on spending as little as possible for their gear and have very little gear to begin with.

I have decided to throw together a ultra low cost pack using what I have and purchasing as little as possible to head out into the woods a few times this summer. There is a state forest near by that allows "primitive camping" with no facilities for free.

As part of this I am going to spend a few posts going over bushcraft and sharing my process as I try my hand at it once again.

Tech Talk

Toward the end of last year my netbook that I had distilled my tech life onto when I started this blog started showing its age. I looked around and ultimately bought a modest, entry level, 15 inch pc laptop to replace it. Certainly, it was a significant upgrade to my old laptop with vastly better performance. Immediately though it brought about negative change to my digital life.

laptop, notebook, grass
Overnight I became a consumer instead of a creator. Watching videos, posting memes, and the lot. It was fun, but rather hollow. The number of bookmarks I had tripled between November and the first of the year.

I would like to say that I put that larger screen and faster innards to good use, but I didn't.

About three weeks ago I bought an 11 inch Chromebook, a true replacement for my old netbook. The experience is less enjoyable and I find I naturally want to both spend less time on it, but also use that time creating. For me the performance constraint helps me to focus. It clearly sends the message to my brain that my laptop is a tool.

In this experiences is just another example that sometimes what seems like it will provide the most value may not.