Minimalism Gives Us Options

Yesterday, I read a great post by Frugalwoods called 19 Reasons Why Frugality Is The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened To Me. I realized as I was reading that everywhere the word frugality was used, I could easily insert minimalism instead. Which is only fitting, since to me, minimalism and frugality go hand in hand. The last reason on Mrs. Frugalwood’s list was that frugality gives you options and freedom. That’s the truth if I ever heard it! And it got me thinking about how minimalism (and frugality) have given us some pretty good options of our own.

First, a little background…

Two years ago we moved to Tennessee to help care for my mom. At the time, she was having problems breathing and had repeatedly coughed so hard that she fractured 7 vertebrae in her spine. During one of her many trips to various doctors, they found a spot on her left lung that they thought might be cancerous. To add insult to injury, through the cancer screenings she found out that she also had a genetic blood disorder that would require monthly phlebotomy. When we arrived in June 2015, we had no idea what to expect but we felt certain that the prognosis was not going to be good.

Fast forward to present day…

While still not the picture of health, my mom has much improved. The spot on her lung was not cancerous, though it is still something that will need to be monitored every 6 months. Her spine has healed and after a horrible experience with osteoporosis medication, she is eating better and taking only a calcium supplement for better bone health. She will always need to monitor her hemochromatosis (iron overload) but the phlebotomy procedures have slowed from monthly to every 12 weeks. She’s back to working 2 days a week (mostly for social interaction and spending money) and she is running a lot of her own errands these days. A few weeks ago, she even wanted to go camping with us. And we all had a blast!

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Last year, I cut my work schedule down to just 4 days per week so that I would always be available to take my mom to her doctor’s appointments on Wednesdays. For most of this year, Wednesday has been a true day off – no appointments, no errands, no obligations of any sort – and it has been really nice. We’ve hiked. We’ve picnicked. We’ve gone letterboxing. We’ve gardened. We even spent a few Wednesdays just doing nothing. It’s been great!

When I spoke about this to an acquaintance the other day, she asked, “Now that your mom is doing better, are you considering going back to work full-time?” Without missing a beat, I answered with a resounding no. A puzzled look crossed her face and I could see the wheels turning. It was the same puzzled look I received from my boss last fall when I tried to quit my job completely and I knew even before she said anything what the next question was going to be.

“How are you going to manage long term on one part-time income? Don’t you want things for yourself? Like a house someday? I thought you loved to travel? What about retirement???” 

I couldn’t help but smile at her barrage of questions. I have to admit, I love confounding people. I love watching their expression as they try to figure out how we do all that we do while only one of us works part-time (and for a non-profit organization, no less!). I especially love it when Facebook friends post comments insinuating that we must have won the lottery or retired early. It makes me feel pretty proud of us.

The truth is – we do pretty darn well living on 80% of my old income. In fact, we barely noticed a change in our lifestyle at all. We still live in our same apartment. We still eat what we want. We still go places. We still have hobbies. Heck, we even bought and paid for a newer car this year and are on track to kill two more student loans. As for wanting things for ourselves – well, the things we really want, just can’t be bought anyway. And we owe all that to minimalism.

Minimalism made it easy for us to pack up our belongings and move to Tennessee in 2015. We didn’t have a house to sell or jobs that tied us to one location. We had money saved. But most of all, we had freedom – the kind of freedom that can only come by owning your own time.

Minimalism doesn’t mean that every day is going to be a walk in the park. If you’ve followed us for a while, you probably know that coming home hasn’t been all that easy for me. There are days I still wish we were back in Florida, looking for sea turtles and sand dollars, while walking along our favorite beaches. I know that we will go back one day. But for now, our goal is to be happy where we are. Keeping our Wednesdays work-free goes a long way toward that goal. Living minimally (or frugally, if you prefer) has given us the option to work less and enjoy more time together and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.

What options/freedoms has minimalism or frugality afforded you?

The Ups and Downs of Side Hustling

I think I have become obsessed with side hustling and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. This week alone, Angie and I completed 2 mystery shops and more Field Agent and Bestmark assignments than I can count. Not to mention the surveys! In all, I think we made $104 in our “spare” time. I also accepted a regular gig that offers 2-10 hours per week (starting next week) and I signed up for a few new job boards that allow you to pick work when you’re available. I’m certainly happy with the extra cash but for every dime earned, there’s a time trade-off, and that’s where I’m conflicted.

As minimalists, we’re taught to value our time over all else. When we own our time, we can invest it in the things that bring us happiness. If I were to list the many things that bring me happiness, that list might look like this:

  • Spending time with my family
  • Travel
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Cooking
  • Being outdoors (hiking, camping, or kayaking)
  • Working in the garden or yard
  • Making something with my hands (ie. sewing or building something)
  • Volunteering

Making money is not on that list. It never is. At the same time though, many of us became minimalists as a way save money. By redefining our relationship with stuff, we learned to differentiate our wants from our needs and stop wasteful spending. We minimized our expenses and our debt, not just to free up our time, but to be able to allocate our resources (money) to our favorite happiness-producing activities. Some have even taken minimalism to the extreme, using it as way to make an early exit from the world of work.

And that’s where my problem with side hustling come in.

Side hustling while still employed full-time will accelerate our financial goals exponentially. We can pay off my student loan earlier than the 3-years we planned for. We can sock away a full 30-40% of our income while still enjoying a bit of fun along the way, or even the full 50% if we don’t do anything but hustle.

But…is it really worth it?

This busy week of side hustling has not been without it’s costs. We’ve had to rearrange our schedule around the time-sensitive hustles and 3 nights this week, I’ve found myself entering reports on my computer at 10 PM! We’ve also had dinner after 8 PM several nights (and have been tempted to just “grab a bite” to save time). Worst of all though, we had our 13-month old great-niece for the day yesterday and felt we had to rush though taking her to visit my mom because we’d spent over an hour on a mystery shop!

So I find myself asking…am I really doing this to speed us along the path to early retirement? Or am I doing it because I’m bored with my real job and this is an exciting alternative? And if it’s the latter, would I be happier if I side hustled for a living and forgot the 9-5? Would I have more or less time for the things that bring me happiness? It’s hard to know.

The one thing that I do know for sure is that there’s no amount of money that can buy back missed opportunities.

Side hustling can have a place in a minimalist lifestyle. It’s a great way to get out of debt or avoid creating debt. It can also be fun. What it should never be though is stressful. The pursuit of anything…including money…should always fit with your overall life plan. As minimalists, our life plan is to live simply and intentionally, dedicating the majority of our time to building happiness, not necessarily wealth.

So while we will likely continue a few of the easier side hustles, I’m not taking on any larger projects until I figure out what I want to do about my full-time job and we will definitely not be doing any more mystery shops. There’s just no room in our day for a mystery shop that requires an hour of data entry for a 30 minute shop (and pays you only $5, plus reimbursement).

What are your thoughts on balancing minimalism with the pursuit of money?