In order to connect to the internet today, all you really need is an obsolete smartphone with a wireless signal and transportation to get to the local Starbucks or McDonalds, and you’re good to go. It was much different when I first connected to the web. In our household, we had a 2nd phone line for our 28.8 kbps dial-up modem. When DSL modems and routers became a thing in the early to mid 2000’s, that was sort of a game changer in our household, because then it meant that we could all be connected to the internet on different computers at the same time. In the old days, when your sister or parent wanted to use the internet, you had to find some other activity to occupy your time. The struggle, people.
Our first computer was so old that it didn’t even have Windows on it. Only Microsoft DOS. I bet it was crazy expensive too. “Cloud” storage? Are you kidding with those internet speeds? I feel a little old. Kids today have no idea…
Experiences vs. Things is the Wrong Question.
If you spend any amount of time in this corner of the internet, there’s no shortage of people who will tell you that you should minimize your consumer goods as much as possible and redeploy your expenses towards the more valuable type of expense, the “experience”. I don’t like this binary style of thinking and I don’t see why it’s necessary. This isn’t an either or scenario. If you frame the message in this way, I feel you are just trading one unhealthy habit for another. What difference does it make if you’re buying physical stuff in excess or buying “experiences” in excess?
The thing is, many experiences actually require a lot of stuff. Even if you’re just renting the stuff for a short period of time. Is it supposed to be more environmentally friendly to allocate your financial resources towards the accumulative burning of air fuel and the construction of airplanes and trendy restaurants with posh decorations vs. the construction of the more “ordinary” consumer goods like automobiles, home entertainment systems, gardening equipment, sofa’s and mattresses? I don’t think it is. But that is a message I hear sometimes. I assume it’s for validation rather than backed in science. Not a lot of scholarly peer-reviewing happening on the internet.
Why do we need external validation for our lifestyle choices?
I feel like the question that we really should be asking is this: I have X amount of money available after-taxes in a given year. How can I allocate my money towards my most optimally happy life? If I don’t have enough financial resources to get there via re-categorizing my expenses, and indeed, perhaps downsizing undesired goods, then the next question becomes: How can I earn more money to bridge the gap?
There’s no reason that there can’t be room in your budget for both experiences AND things if you happen to be someone who desires both of them. I am someone who doesn’t particularly value things. Every apartment I’ve ever lived in has looked pretty barren in terms of decor. For example, Christmas decorations have only happened if I had a roommate who had them and was enthusiastic about it. And I would get enthusiastic about helping them decorate, but it’s just not something I have personally done on my own.
I went back to my spending tracker spreadsheet from 2010 from where I tracked every individual credit card charge. I noticed that I saved 37% of my after-tax income that year. But even back then, I was hustling on the side with over $1,000 in credit card rewards/bonuses, and nearly $2,000 from selling no-longer-wanted compact discs and DVD’s.
But I still have a 65″ flat screen that I never ever use. And I bought a new car in 2010 instead of a beater. For me, it makes sense to unload the flat screen because it adds no value to my life. If you have a 65″ flat screen and your finances are in decent shape and you actually utilize said appliance, then it would be pretty silly for you to deprive yourself and sell it just to generate some cash.
My childhood included both experiences and things.
I’ve written about childhood travel experiences before, but I also remember several nights in front of the television at home watching professional wrestling and baseball with my dad. Or watching sitcoms with my parents and sister after the family dinner.
I couldn’t tell you diddly squat about the plots of any of those TV shows, or the results of most of those sporting events, but none of that matters. What matters is that I recognized the value of family time. All those childhood memories of community and togetherness, which incorporated both things and experiences, helped shaped me into the person I am. Was the TV experience more valuable than the Travel experience? No. They were complementary experiences. The TV was a lot smaller than 65″ too. 😀
The choice to allocate your funds towards the short term rental of couches, kitchen supplies and beds does not inherently make your life any more awesome than the person who invested in a fully loaded kitchen, comfortable couch and amazing bed to utilize every day in their life at home. It could be the better choice for you personally at an individual level. However, I don’t think we can say it’s true at a universal level.
The Minimalist Nomadic Life is not inherently superior.
We hear a lot about stuff-based consumerism being powered by debt. But how do we know that the person you read about on the internet who quits their job to travel the world and live out of a backpack isn’t utilizing credit to fund their adventures? Most people don’t share their balance sheets publicly. I don’t have an issue with buying stuff or buying experiences, even if it is powered by debt. I wouldn’t go the debt route myself, but if someone else does, hey, that’s on them. They have to deal with the consequences. There’s no shortage of resources to get out of said debt if they do conclude that it’s not the optimal way to go. The issue I have is with the lifestyle shaming. Regardless of what the lifestyle is. I see a lot of this sort of thing implied, if not overtly stated around theu internet:
My lifestyle choice is great. Your lifestyle choice is stupid. And here’s why you need to think exactly the way that I think. So that you can validate my choice as the universally superior choice.
Which brings me to myself. I’ll soon have the opportunity to discover for myself if I prefer a home base with familiar creature comforts when I downsize into my Honda Civic and hit the road. Obviously I’m expecting to enjoy the downsizing process and decreasing my worldly possessions because it seems like it would suit my personality and worldview. However, it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion that I will love it and it’s certainly not the right decision for everybody else.
There’s a lot of internet personalities who want to sell others to follow in their footsteps. This blog isn’t that. If this sort of lifestyle change is of interest to you, then I’m sure that thus blog can benefit you. It could give you some tips or ideas that you hadn’t considered. But you are still the one who needs to do all of the work and analysis for your own individual situation. It’s NOT an easy lifestyle to choice to make. Don’t quit your job because I am. Build up your resources. Develop a financial and lifestyle plan. As Matt over at The Resume Gap so brilliantly said, Don’t just go!
Readers – When was the first calendar year that you were on the internet? What sort of equipment did you use to access it?