What do King Tutankhamen, Alexander the Great, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, and J.P. Morgan all have in common? Despite living the richest and most luxurious lifestyles for their time and era, their lives sucked compared to yours
Imagine being able to turn on a faucet and have clean, hot water pour over your body for minutes at a time, all in the comfort of your own home. What a wonder it is to be able to read your choice of millions of type-printed books after the sun has set, under the steady light of an electric bulb. How amazing is it that we can eat an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables year round, and store them for days or weeks at a time in a magic box that keeps them cool! What magic modern doctors wield, being able to cure many common ailments with a simple pill. What wizardry allows us to soar through the air like a bird and arrive only a few hours later in a foreign land? What immeasurable power we hold, with the entire sum of human knowledge available at our fingertips.
Indoor plumbing, electric lighting, refrigeration, antibiotics, air travel, and the internet are just a few of the modern luxuries that we often take for granted, yet could have only been dreamed about by these famous historical figures.
Yes despite all of this luxury and abundance, the majority of us still feel a need for more… more clothes, bigger houses, faster cars. What we have, or what the rich and powerful of yesteryear had, is irrelevant… it is what our neighbors have (and we don’t) that defines us.
While all of these modern luxuries can be afforded by even the lowest paying professions, with a significant savings allowance, many find it difficult to save even a modest percentage of their incomes. We spend 90%, 100%, or more of every penny we earn. On what? What do we get in return for our time and hard work?
Many live a luxurious and rewarding life on much less than what is considered normal. They are great role models
Mr. Money Mustache lives a lifestyle that would have made Napoleon Bonaparte envious, and he and his wife and son do it on only a bit more than $2,000 a month.
Jacob Lund Fisker and his wife live a more spartan lifestyle, spending about $1,200 a month. Thomas Jefferson certainly would have appreciated being able to take advantage of their indoor plumbing, rather than having to use the outhouse at 3 in the morning in the dead of winter.
Jason Fieber is on pace to retire by 40, spending about $1,600 a month and saving over 60% of his income. Queen Elizabeth I would have been amazed at his recent trip on an airplane, she herself never having traveled more than 150 miles from home, and then by horse.
To date on our travels, we have been spending ~$79/day, or about $2,400 a month, with expectations for lower spending in the future. JP Morgan would certainly have appreciated our dining experiences.
There isn’t really a secret to living well on relatively low levels of spending. It is just the simple fact that beyond the basics of life, more money and more spending doesn’t make you any happier. Life doesn’t magically get better because your car is newer than the next guys, it get’s better because you realize you don’t need a car at all.
Once you have enough food, water, a place to sleep, and time with good friends and family, more is just more. Once you’ve eaten enough ice cream, more is too much. Once you have enough money, more is only more. Twice as much money won’t make us twice as happy
This may sound like heresy to many, and I’m sure there would be no shortage of offers to help us with our “too much money” problem.
“Seriously, if I just doubled your net worth, you wouldn’t be any happier?!”
I have indoor plumbing. I can access the internet via my laptop from anywhere in the world. I eat fresh food year round. I use electricity on a daily basis. Antibiotics cured my most recent illness in days. I can hop on an airplane and be on the other side of the planet in hours. I already have more than enough of these luxuries, and more money won’t change that.
There are so many aspects of everyday life that were only wild fantasies of the elite of the past. I am grateful for all of these luxuries. Is this gratitude stuff more new age hippie crap? Maybe, but without gratitude, there can never be such a thing as enough
This perspective was a significant factor in becoming financially independent, and to live our lives on our own terms. We both grew up in the lowest quartile of income levels, and gained perspective from it. As the lifestyles of the early retirement bloggers above can show, even at a spending level of the lowest 25% of American families, it is possible to live an enjoyable and luxurious life, a life that would have been the envy of wealth and power and royalty of days gone by. All spending above that amount is truly optional
Gaining perspective can be difficult. David at raptitude.com captures this process brilliantly in this post. It is a work of genius. How much spending is truly enough? It’s probably less than you think. The financial bloggers above provide great examples on how to reduce or eliminate many common expenses
New perspectives can be fragile. I recommend throwing the television out the window (even better if you live on a high floor.) We don’t need the Joneses making a daily appearance in our lives, telling us we need to buy more things to feel complete, that we “deserve” things, or that we should treat ourselves to some high margin (for them) luxury items. Our lives are already absolutely AMAZING! There is more to life than spending extra money to have some dude’s name on your underwear.
It takes time and practice, but gratitude, perspective, and taking control of our own spending builds the foundation for financial independence. And then the day will come when we can walk away from doing things for money, because more money won’t make us any happier. Twice as much money won’t make us twice as happy. That is the beauty of enough