The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

IMG00147-20140604-0920In modern American culture, being a big consumer has almost become a badge of honor.

We enjoy acquiring and displaying material wealth.  Our approach of spend now – pay later, is based on the faulty premise that happiness can be purchased with  the acquisition, collection and consumption of things.

Truly, to live is to consume. However, when we make consumption our primary objective,  rather than a limited necessity,  we abuse  the very framework that made the objects of our desire possible.

The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

How do we, as responsible consumers, know when we are making wise purchasing decisions and are avoiding the cultural trap of excess consumption?

Where can we find the ultimate buyer’s guide?

Three Questions

Before purchasing any item, ask yourself three questions:

1)  Do I need it NOW? (as opposed to want it)

2)  How often will I use it?

3)  Would it make more sense to rent or borrow it rather than buy it?

The ultimate buyer’s guide is you.  Only you can know what level of consumption is appropriate for you.

We need to recognize that our relationships, experiences together, the help we give, our love, and our encouragement to one another are the elements that result in happiness. They cannot be purchased.  They can be more fully realized, however, by purchasing less.  Knowing this may prove the ultimate guide – the ultimate living guide.

The Ultimate Living Guide

What are 4 ways we can experience deeper, more satisfying relationships, through intentionally limited consumption?

1)  More margin – more ability to be nimble as we have more resources, time and energy, at our disposal.

2)  The inclination to be more generous with resources – less focused on self

3)  Less manipulation by popular culture

4)  More awareness of things beyond our material desires

That Which Matters Most

Stepping off the treadmill of over-consumption forces us to look beyond the latest baubles and toys, and  toward the greater purpose for our lives.  If we slow down on consumption,  we will realize that we are “filled-up”  by relationships with people.

Buying less stuff allows us to focus on that which matters most – each other.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

 

 

Restore Margin to Care for Others (and Yourself)

Simple Life Reboot MarginTo what extent are we willing to go into debt, make unfair demands on family and co-workers,  or compromise healthy habits,  in order to achieve objectives?

Is our standard of living too reliant upon our willingness to push ourselves to the limit?

Long Term Impact

We may view our pedal-to-the-metal approach as proof of a strong work ethic and ambition, but are we deceiving ourselves as to either the sustainability or desirability of this approach?   We may also be dodging some hard questions  –  such as:

“After meeting our daily quota, do we have anything left to share with others?”

Wise Warnings

Throughout history, faith traditions have urged restraint in the use of resources, cautioning against the utilization of all that is available.

From a risk management perspective, keeping a buffer between resources used and available resources makes perfect sense,  but margin has infinitely greater value as a necessary resource for the care of others.

This value is made clear in the Vayikra, aka Leviticus 19:9-10, which instructs landowners to leave an unharvested margin around their fields. Further,  the harvested areas are not to be stripped bare.  This timeless practice preserves a resource to be shared with those in need.

Margin Needed Today

Restoration of margin is needed more than ever today.  In our overloaded and hectic world, it is only in the margin that we can feel safe to consider the needs of others.  It is in this space that we may be generous with our time, talents and treasures.  For instance, it is only when we have some degree of white space and flex in our schedule that we can welcome a spontaneous and unhurried conversation with a child.  It is when we have a reserve of physical strength that we can help a friend move furniture at the end of a long work day.  And, it is when we have limited our expenditures that we can consider giving generously without reservation.

By reminding ourselves of the reason for margin, we are better able to commit to its maintenance.  The beautiful thing is that by restoring margin,  we are restored and are better able to help restore and love others.

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If you would like to read more on margin, please see ‘The Secret to Growing Margin“,  “5 Step Plan for Protecting New Margin“; and “Margin in Not Just for You“.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

The Secret to Growing Margin

tray 1To be good at life is to have good relationships.  What is life if not our connection to the people we get to know and love?

But, in order to live a life of generosity and connection, we must first take an honest look at ourselves.  We must also understand, in very practical terms, what it takes to have something left at the end of the day to share with others.

We believe the key to unlocking this God given potential is margin.

In his book, Margin, author Richard Swenson says, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience.  It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap;  the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.”

Many of us struggle with having too little margin in our lives.  We feel it.  We live it.  It is painful.  Too little time, energy, and money, to properly care for others.  But feeling it and understanding why we continue to experience it, are too very different things.

We believe many of us lack margin primarily because we have too little financial margin.

Forgive the simple analogy which follows, but it might help to visualize how decisions are often made and the consequences that follow.

For a moment, imagine a garden in the desert.

Margin’s Garden

Margin’s Garden is made up of three plots. Each plot represents a monthly to-do list.  We shall call them our to-do plots.  The plots are arranged in order of priority.

The First Plot is the MUST to-do’s plot.  These to-do’s must be completed by a given date each month without fail.  These to-do’s include paying the mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc.  This plot is full.

The Second Plot is the NEED to-do’s plot.  These to-do’s are important, but do not have a specific performance date.  These to-do’s include items such as fixing the lawn mower, replacing the roof, updating our skills, etc.  This plot is half full.

The Third Plot is the WANT to-do’s plot. These to-do’s are the things we want to do some day when we have more money, more time, more energy, and more emotional reserves.  These to-do’s include spending time with family, improving our fitness, engaging in philanthropic activities,  etc.  This plot has one or two flowers trying to bloom which are surrounded by a bunch of dead weeds.

THE INCOME WELL

Stationed a little way out in the desert is an income well.  Our garden requires income water to live.  To water our garden, we go to the well once per month, drop the bucket in, fill it up and haul it over to our garden.  Such hauling requires most of our energy.

THE PROBLEM

The problem is that one full bucket only has enough water for a plot the size of the first plot.  How can we sustain all three plots?

As the MUST to-do’s plot requires the entire income bucket, we are frustrated because we have no water left for plot #2, much less plot #3, without taking water from the MUST to-do’s plot.

So we work longer and harder.  We now carry a bigger and heavier bucket which holds more water so we can water the other plots.  But once we have a larger income bucket, we feel obliged to plant more expensive and water intensive crops  in the first plot. The extra water we had hoped to apply to plots #2 and #3 is much reduced.  What are we to do?

THE SOLUTION

While it may seem simple,  most of us struggle with the solution – to reduce the water requirements of the first plot which holds our MUST to-do’s.  Yet, if we refuse to do so, we will never have enough water to properly care for the other plots.

The garden represents the tension between our resources and our expenditures. Creating financial margin involves taking action to create a buffer between the two. According to Swenson, there are three ways to increase financial margin.

We can:

1)  Decrease Spending

2)  Increase Income

3)  Increase Savings

Unfortunately, the second two measures, Increasing Income and Increasing Savings, are generally ineffective over the long run because increasing  available resources often prompts a corresponding increase in spending.  It fails to get to the heart of the matter.  While increasing savings is a good thing, it is much like filling up a back-up bucket.  Without addressing the underlying water requirements of the various plots, our savings will most likely get used up at some point as an emergency water infusion for the plots.

Here at Simple Life Reboot we believe the things in life which bring joy do not come with price tags. We must learn to live below our means, so we can be in a position to share more of our time, energy, and resources, with those whom we care about.

Grow margin – and watch your entire garden bloom!

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

A Simple Step You Must Take Now to Reduce Information Overload

screenshot“You can do anything, but not everything. ”  David Allen

 

The Problem

We live in an exciting time.  With easy access to the internet and quality podcasts, blogs, books, webcasts,  forums, and MOOCs, the sky is the limit for growth and service. The problem is our inability to deal with abundance. If we attempt to gather, sift and apply the available quality resources,  the end result may be numbness or withdrawal due to exhaustion.

The Solution

In order to stay in the fray, we need to implement safeguards.  The identification of mentors and information curators is the simple solution. Once curators are identified, available time can be used digesting and applying information provided by them.

Our Curators

Dave and I have great respect for curation. It is expertise in selecting, preserving and maintaining assets. The integrity and skill of the curator determines the value of the collection. Dave and I are beholden to quality content on intentional, simple, minimal, faith-based/value-driven living.  The following list, referenced in part in our earlier post,  Thought Leaders Who Have Inspired Us,  though not comprehensive of all the high quality content providers,  lists the experts who have been most influential in our journey thus far.

Principles of Margin:

Timothy Keller @timkellernyc

Dr. Henry Cloud @DrHenryCloud

Simple / Organized Living:

Simple Life Together – Dan and Vanessa Hayes

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta

The Simple White Rabbit – Christy King

Be More With Less – Courtney Carver

The Other Side of Complexity – Mike Burns

Value of Simple – Joel Zaslofsky

Slow Your Home – Brooke McAlary

Minimalism:

The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker

Getting Out the Message:

Michael Hyatt

Linked In Lady – Carol McManus

Become A Blogger – Leslie Samuel

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We welcome your suggested additions.  Please make recommendations in the comments section.  Thank you.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

3 Reasons to Kill Your Debt, and How to Start

Simple Life RebootConsider some of the reasons why debt is such an obstacle to our ability to realize our full potential.

Debt impacts margin.  Debt has a debilitating effect on our daily decision-making and our quality of life. Debt can prompt behaviors that are counter-productive at best and self-destructive at worst.

1)  DEBT PUTS US BEHIND

One problem with debt is that it puts us behind both financially and emotionally.  We put ourselves in an upside down position by deciding to pay for something later though we receive it now.  Though we have already enjoyed an item, we continue to pay for it. Also, whether we appreciated it or not, when we went into debt, we attached ourselves to an obligation to pay on something which most likely decreases in value as our monthly payment stays the same or increases.

Later, we need to make another purchase, something we really need, rather than just want.  We feel stupid, trapped, powerless.  By our own short-sighted actions, we have limited our options and have made obtaining necessities more difficult.

Being in debt is like starting a marathon a mile behind the start line with bags of sand tied around our ankles.   “Hey, get those bags of sand off my ankles, I want to fly!”

2)  DEBT RESTRAINS US FROM OUR TRUE PURPOSE

We are restrained.  We find ourselves short of our goal with impediments in our way.  We may have settled for the shiny, quick pleasures while sacrificing the long term objective of realizing peace, productivity, joy – margin.  That’s okay.  The finish line is still out there, waiting for us.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  –  Chinese Proverb

So, stop adding bags of sand to your ankles.  Begin by removing the smallest bags first.  Focus all of your excess energy (extra monthly funds) towards paying off the smallest debts first.  As you make progress towards the start line, paying off ever more debt, you are getting in shape to run the full marathon, which for many of us, is the mortgage debt.

3)  DEBT IS A MASTER

Debt is a master because it creates an incessant obligation to perform.  If you do not perform, penalties are imposed.  The obligation is ongoing and usually costs you more over time than the original cost going in.  We underestimate the full sacrifice we must endure to eliminate the debt.

KILL YOUR DEBT MASTER!

So, the time has come to do intentional bodily harm to your debt master.  In order to defeat this tyrant, you must devise a plan, and then execute it with extreme prejudice.  Kill your debt with the ferociousness  of a mother bear attacking to defend her cubs.  If the mother bear fails, the wolves kill her offspring.  If she succeeds, her little family grows and prospers.

Treat getting out of debt with the seriousness it deserves.  We are talking financial, emotional and relational survival, not to mention the future health of your family.  Eliminating debt could literally determine whether you get married, stay married, have children, and whether those children get the education/resources they need to succeed.

Killing your debt can change everything.

HOW TO BETTER ENJOY THE PROCESS OF GETTING OUT OF DEBT

It is by orders of magnitude easier to incur debt than pay it off!  Why?  Because going into debt involves reward without sacrifice.  Pretty obvious, right?  Getting out of debt involves sacrifice without reward.  Not so much fun.  Ugh.

So, do this.  Every time you pay off a debt, regardless of the size, celebrate by doing something special for yourself and/or your spouse.  Go see a movie, go for a hike, go out to dinner, or take a short pleasure trip.  Do something to recognize your sacrifice, and then get back to it and continue to KILL THAT DEBT!

WARNING:  Do not incur further debt in the celebration of your victories!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

A Fast Car on a Slow Budget

gas upI had just been discharged from the U.S. Air Force, and after four years as an Administrative Specialist, I could not leave Dover, Delaware, fast enough.  I drove towards Oregon in my hot, blood-red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, making record time.  It took roughly two and a half days to cross the country, burning up 250 gallons of gas at $1.25 per gallon.  But the cost of gas on this particular trip did not matter.  All that mattered was getting home.

After settling back in Eugene, attending the University of Oregon, it felt pretty cool driving a Trans Am to school every day.  It appealed to my sense of being a post-military man.  I was a rebel with a red car.  I was a road-warrior, an adventurer with a big engine.  Oh yes, I was a sports car enthusiast.  But ultimately, I was broke.  Trying to keep the tank full in that gas guzzler was like trying to catch butterflies with your bare hands.  After awhile it begins to look desperate.

It did not take long before my blood-red ’73 Firebird (blood-red for blood sucker) was replaced with a dull orange ’69 VW bug.  My post-military status had taken a very practical turn.  Having run out of margin, the VW bug had become the solution.  I had to swallow my pride and admit I just could not afford the luxury of owning a fast car on a slow budget.

Looking back, I never really missed the Firebird as much as I thought I would.  The big engine and its status had to be sacrificed for the small engine that could get me where I needed to go with a few extra dollars left in my pocket.

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Have you had a similar experience? Do you recall a time when you downsized to a smaller car, a less-expensive house, or changed your life in some way in order to find margin?

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com