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Wealth through frugality

A quick recap. So far in this series, we have explored the issue of how to stop worrying about money. At its root, financial bliss comes when we spend less than we earn, which is very easy to say. The lure of cool new stuff guides our hand to slide our plastic through a lot of slots and into a lot of trouble. We learned that tracking our wealth helps us refocus, change our relationship with money, spend mindfully and invest profitably. We looked at the incredible wealth building power of simple spending changes over time. Naturally, those changes are less painful when they can be done with minimal effort and sacrifice. Getting something better for less. However, another whole range of possibilities emerge when we consider wealth through frugality. Eliminating the actual stuff itself. Not buying it in the first place. Plastic stays in wallet.

Ugh. Could anything be less appealing? Let me guess, we’re going to take away lattes, avocado toast, nice cars, fun vacations, cool clothes and dinners out? Well no, yes and kind of. But hear me out.

The things you own, end up owning you

I first heard that line in the movie, The Fight Club. At the time, I didn’t understand it and just viewed it as one of those slick turns of phrase. Years later it made a lot of sense, maybe too much,

Through a lot of hard work, careful saving and the glorious days of stock options, I found myself with a lot of stuff including a large sailboat, a vacation property, a nice home and a closet brimming with fancy togs. Which sounds like a wonderful lifestyle and in some ways it was. But I needed a toolbox for the boat, one for the cottage and one for the house. Every hour of fun seemed to demand 3 or 5 hours of maintenance, by either me or a hired serviceperson. Then there were the lists. Lists of lists, of tasks, parts and scheduling. Lists by store and by thing. And a ton of work. All of it had to fit outside the hours of my job, my family, friends and other interests. The things I owned, ended up owning me.

If you avoid buying a thing, there is the obvious point of saving money through the avoiding. But you also save on the service, the cover it needs, the extended warranty, the accessories, the place to store it, the related clothing and safety gear, its depreciation and eventual replacement. So of course there is a way to build wealth through frugality. But who wants to not have the thing? Maybe you.

Shift from things to people and experiences

When you dial down the things in your life, some wonderful changes occur. The lists disappear. Your time frees up. The drudgery of sorting, storing and purging goes away. Your life is returned to you to enjoy.

I wrote Cashflow Cookbook to help people build millions of extra wealth without “sacrifice”. The ideas really work, but there is another gear shift to add that brings both wealth and joy. Frugality. And it turns out that having less doesn’t involve a sacrifice at all.

The old joke is that the 2 happiest days of boat ownership is the day that you buy it and the day that you sell it. Totally true. And the reality is that I don’t miss my boat. Spring set up used to consume 3-4 weekends and fall storage another 2-3. I would grimace over the maintenance, the work and the time away from friends and family.

Three years ago, I downsized from an Acura to a Honda. What happened was fascinating. Absolutely nothing. My friends didn’t abandon me. Road trips were just as fun, the car is easier to park and more fun to drive. When I leave it somewhere, I worry less about it getting scratched or stolen.

I did a clothing purge a while back. I rarely wore most of it.  Each time I moved, I would dutifully pack it all up, carry the boxes, unpack everything, fold, hang and store. Then do it all again for the next move. I would hunt for things to wear, moving things I never wear out of the way. Now my clothes have room. And I can find them.

Suddenly the frugality movement starts to make some sense. Not because I have to but because I can. Things are simpler and I have more time for, well, everything. Living more simply and frugally is way to shift our lives from things to people and experiences. There is wealth in frugality, but also calm, connection and joy. And interestingly, no sacrifice.

What do you think? Have you embraced a simpler lifestyle? Let me know in the comments and please share the post if you enjoyed it.

Stay safe and enjoy.

Gordon

P.S .In fairness, I do have more guitars than ever before, but they don’t own me. They even let me share their room.

 

 

It happened again. This time, I was out for a drink with my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad. (How many of us can say that!) Great guy. He brought it up first. He is transitioning from the bicycle industry to real estate. “It’s like serendipity”, he said, “I just keep meeting the right people at the right time who are there to help me.” I smiled and nodded, “Go on”. He offered story after story. He has tapped into the power and is in awe of the possibilities.

I have seen it non-stop since I left the land of the quarterly earnings. I am living a constant Field of Dreams moment. My car dealer friend introduced me to another self-published author and speaker who agreed to share his secrets over a coffee. I couldn’t type fast enough into my iPhone. He laid out his whole business model for me and has followed up with emails to keep me on point. No charge, no consulting fee, no catch. Just doing it for the goodness of paying it forward. But it’s not just him. Old friends are reappearing. Colleagues offer introductions that pave the way for new possibilities. Sometimes it is me, sending drops of serendipity their way. And finding oceans of it washing back in return.

Where is all of this serendipity coming from?

And the serendipity breeds more serendipity. The speaking engagement leads to a newspaper column. The blog post leads to a speaking engagement with the clients of a financial advisor, which then leads to an employee financial wellness session at a different firm.

Was it always there and I missed it? Are we rising toward peak serendipity? Just yesterday, at a client meeting we talked about what we could do together on social media. One idea flowed into the next. Some would help my business, some would help theirs. Didn’t matter. There was a “pull” feel to it. No pushing, no demanding, no measurement. Just people helping people and the results flowing in. In fact, it seems to happen the most, the further I get from the command and control corporate world. Speaking with entrepreneurs, they look at me like I’m from Saturn. Of course that is how things get done. They have known about it all along.

How to open the serendipity tap?

So how can we all grow some more serendipity in our lives? I am no serendipity expert, but let me share what I have seen so far:

  1. Do Good – Choose a vocation that is about helping others. Define a great quest. It feels good and draws in others to help.
  2. Be Open – Accept the invitation even if it’s not clear why you should go. It could be a dinner in Toledo or a coffee in Portland that opens up completely new possibilities for you.
  3. Seek to Help – Meet new people with a mindset of how you can help them in their journey. Seek to understand, then to be understood.
  4. Look for the Synergies – Is there an elegant meeting of needs somewhere that can accelerate what you both are doing? What unique properties do you each have that can help the other?
  5. Loosen the Strings – in the corporate world, it is often about bolting down timelines and deliverables. Let them flow for a while and see what happens.
  6. Connect Others – we are all just a connection or two away from meeting those who can help our plans soar. Keep bringing your contacts together and those synergies will flow among them. And back at you.

Do you find Serendipity is rising? Or are we becoming more attune to it? Share your thoughts!

Photo credit Louis K on Unsplash

In the epoch prior to Netflix there were 2 ways to get a men’s suit. Once was off the rack, a fantasy-based method that assumes that your dimensions are aligned with a mythical standard. With mid-sized shoulders, mid size arms and mid sized paunch all was good. For the rest of us, these are more commonly known as “ill fitting suits”.  The second approach is to go made-to-measure, hand fitted over several appointments with pricing mentioned only if requested and then in hushed tones accompanied by sage nodding. Is there a better way to buy clothes?

Actually, let me back up. Prior to Netflix there was more call for suits in general. We festooned ourselves in them, complete with big shoes, fancy belts and power ties. Work fashion has morphed to jeans and polos or even cargo shorts and rock T shirts with concert listing dates on the back. So who cares about suits? Who knows, you might have a wedding, a fancy dinner out or a kid’s graduation to attend. Or maybe you just want a shirt or dress pants that fit properly. And if you are looking for savings on casual clothes look here.

I may have found a clothing gnome

Some guys love the trip to the mall to fuss over the fabrics and the styling details and enjoy getting up close and personal with a measuring tape. I don’t know any of those guys, but I’m just saying. The rest of us hope for a clothing gnome who magically restocks our closet with suits, shirts and pants that fit, look good and take no shopping time.

In a perfect world you would get measured once, pick fabrics from a web site, order new suits, shirts and pants from your iPhone while watching the Patriots. Click on your saved credit card and, Presto, your clothes show up at your door. No parking,  mall trips or  hassles. No embarrassing encounters with measuring tapes. Well OK, but just once.

The last mouse click sent a digital Gord to China

There is such a place and it is called Indochino. Brilliant. I put them to the test when replacing my ancient tuxedo – pleated pants, circa 1980’s NFL shoulder padding and inexplicably, a mustard stain on the lapel – don’t ask, it had to go. I booked my appointment via their online calendar. Boom. They greet me at the door by name and set to work. Lots of prodding with tape measures and everything carefully noted in the computer system. I wouldn’t have thought that there were that many things you could measure. Tape extended, move here, mouse click, keyboard. Repeat. About 30 minutes worth. Years of careful rum drinking and Breaking Bad binge watching were boiled down to a set of numbers. Then some try ons of sample jackets and pants. More measuring and clicking. Finally done. Time still left on my parking meter app. The last mouse click sent a digital Gord to China to get cut and sewn into exactly the tuxedo I spec’d. $699 plus taxes. I could get 3 for the price of a made to measure tux from a high end retailer.

A better way to buy clothes

About a week and a half later, a big box waited at my door. Inside was something that looked a bit like a tuxedo that had done a red eye flight from China. After a bit of closet time it came back to life. I would too, under those conditions. I slipped it on the jacket and wow, did it fit. Nothing bunching or stressing. Brilliant. On to the pants. Hmm a bit tight in the seat and waistband. Bad measuring? Excess rum? Who knows. I called my Indochino friends and they suggested I take it to a local seamstress. Then they ask me to take a picture of the receipt, send it to them and they will credit my account. And, they adjusted digital Gord so the next suit is perfect. OK, now this is service! Check them out at Indochino.com.

So have I bought more clothes from them? Not yet, but I know that Digital Gord is ready whenever I am. I will be back.

So how does this help my female friends? Ladies contribute! Is there a better way to buy clothes for women? Let me know!

Photo credit: Ruthson-Zimmerman on Unsplash

My iPhone didn’t have quite enough volume. Meanwhile, Hollywood was going a bit loud on the special effects and music, making it hard to pick out the dialogue. And with a nod to Jerry Seinfeld, what is with all of these soft talkers?

About 20 years ago, I had a hearing test that showed some high frequency hearing loss. But I mean, come on, the beeps were so soft I could barely hear them. What could that test show? Another test, several years later, included a section on repeating spoken words. I did well until the technician covered her mouth with a sheet of paper and re-ran the test. I had no idea how much I relied on lip reading to understand speech.

Like most people with hearing loss I waited a good 7 years to get help. Actually that is the average, I likely waited more like 12 years. Why do people wait so long? Two reasons: vanity and the high cost of hearing loss solutions. But with a bit of digging, I found a hearing loss solution for free. If you suffer from the issue, blast out the family with the TV, or ask people to repeat themselves constantly, read on.

Start with a hearing test from a doctor

I began with a referral from my GP. Good to start with a doctor in case there are any other underlying causes of the hearing loss. After a comprehensive test with lots of very quiet (or absent) beeps, I got the results. Normal age-related hearing loss that arrived about 10 years early. Likely too many construction jobs in my youth before hearing protection was in vogue.

I left with an audiogram that showed good hearing at low frequencies, good for male voices, drum beats and doorbells. The high frequencies were the issue and they impacted the sounds of birds singing, water splashing and leaves rustling. Vowels are spoken in low frequencies, but consonants are high, which is why I can hear someone say “cat” very clearly. Unless it was “bat”. Or could it have been “that”?

The search for a hearing loss solution

I began at a well-known chain and was pleased to see that the aids were on a buy one, get 50% off on the other discount. The tiny machines were slick as can be. Barely visible and once in place, my hearing was nearly bionic. Incredible. So was the price at $6,500. Including the discount. The technician helpfully noted that the price included 3 years worth of batteries. Hmm. The battery savings could be a big deal. But these units were awesome and even connected right into my iPhone. I could take calls directly in my brain. Amazing. Could this be my hearing loss solution? Not so fast.

On to the next provider. Lots of gear plugged into my ears and more whispering beeps. Same results – significant high frequency loss. And significant high cost at about $6.500 for the pair. They recommended a different brand, but didn’t have a live set to try out.

I like to use Consumerreports.org to research major purchases (more on that here) and they showed that Costco was highly rated as a provider, so I made the pilgrimage. Yet more ear testing with a very similar result. The tech popped in a set of their house-brand Kirkland Signature 8’s. Yes, there is something a bit weird about buying hearing aids that share a brand name with courderoy pants, frozen broccoli, tool chests and Tilapia loins, but hey, they sounded great. Incredibly they were also Made for iPhone and even included a Lindsay Wagner type app (google it) that lets you check battery life, change the microphone focus and even use your phone as a remote mic. Very slick. Until I found the catch. No free batteries. What? How much for the batteries? $11.50 for 6 months of batteries, or $23 for the year! That first retailer that “included free batteries” wasn’t looking that great.

So what is the hearing loss solution for free?

Turns out that the Costco Kirkland Signature 8 Hearing Aids are only $1,900 for the pair. No tax. As in 1/3 the cost of the other quotes. Here in Ontario, there is a government grant of $1,000 for aids and I had enough benefit coverage to pick up the other $900. So the only real cost was the gas to get to Costco. I had a couple of fitting issues but they gave me an appointment one day later and got everything fixed. And yes, they are all licensed audiologists, just like the other retailers.

They have worked great for the first couple of weeks. I can understand speech in  TV shows and the waves in Lake Ontario have a “swish” sound now as well as a “whoosh”. Leaves rustling are loud enough to scare me. No more lip reading and I can understand people on the first try. Great to reconnect to the world. And no one knows they are there. Except my Cashflow Cookbook readers!

I saved enough to get a spare pair or two or just about make a whole TFSA contribution. Will they keep working this well? I will do another blog post in a couple of months with an update.

If you have hearing loss, don’t wait, get your ears checked. And there is a reason that Costco Hearing Centres are opening faster than Costco outlets overall.

Update – the results of my 6 month test are available here.

Do you have hearing loss? What have you found with hearing loss solutions?

Photo credit Ken Chan from Unsplash