Cutting Back to 100 Things?

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I don’t know if it’s becoming popular again, but I’ve read a few articles online in the past week or so which involved people committing to the 100 thing challenge.  In taking part in this, people have cut their belongings down to 100 things (in some cases less).  I really enjoy reading about how people do this, and would really like to get close to that point as well, but I think it would be pretty difficult to maintain a 100 thing inventory.

I’ve read quite a few of the stories of people involved in getting down to owning 100 things, and I have to admit, I’m jealous of how freeing it would be to do this.  There wouldn’t be much to clean up, to fix, or really to buy, because anytime you purchased anything, you’d have to get rid of something.  I can understand the attraction to this movement but for me, I don’t know how I would get to this point.

In order to get to the point of 100 things I would have to stop the vast majority of hobbies or interests.  Tools take up a lot of the allotment, but not having tools would seem to cost more money.  I like to make my own beer – this takes up a considerable amount of space, but (so far) has saved me some money on something I consume fairly regularly.

By limiting the amount of stuff I would have, it would definitely focus the hobbies I was involved in because I would only be able to manage one at a time, rather than several that I have going on right now.  This sort of focus would be good, but may be boring at the same time.

My wife and I are constantly trying to get rid of stuff.  This seems to be a modern day problem, being able to accumulate enough stuff that some people need to move into larger houses.  When my wife and I were looking at houses, we were amazed how full the number of people who had closets which were just rammed full of things.  We, along with many people are continually fighting a battle against stuff.

Ideally, I could get down to 100 things, enough stuff that I would be easily able to live in a Tiny House.  As it stands now, my 1,000 square foot home is relatively clutter-free, but there is still some room for improvement.  I just don’t really see the point in getting rid of stuff only to need a tool, some sort of sporting equipment, or something else that I have stored in my basement.  Additionally, things such as seasonal decorations (especially Christmas) just seem wasteful to throw out.

This topic seems quite similar though to an Early Retirement plan.  I am not going to tell someone who has achieved this sort of achievement that they’re wrong, I just realize that it doesn’t really work for me.

Do you think you could get down to 100 things?  If no, what do you think would hold you back?

How much should I earn?

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.

It’s been snowing for a few days now in Calgary and it seems that winter is finally here. Luckily, I already changed the tires on our minivan. That was a small project consisting of driving to my father-in-laws house, using his air compressor and power tools and changing the tires myself. He bought all the tools so that he could do it properly, but still avoid spending two hours or more for an auto mechanic to change his tires (twice a year). He’s a physician, so his time is quite valuable. Whatever the mechanic would charge to change the tires ($30?) is nothing in comparison to the “cost” of having to drive in and wait around.

For me, the calculation isn’t so simple. I’m not working, so I can’t simply divide how much I make (in $) by how much time I spend working (in hours) to come up with $/hr. These days, I’m involved in a number of different projects (besides raising kids) including volunteer work, political action, writing and university courses. These projects each take time, but don’t generate income. My income arrives whether I work or not (assuming the stock market cooperates).

So for me, it makes sense to change my snow tires myself because I have access to the tools and I have the time. Because my schedule is flexible, I am generally able to rearrange my commitments if I want to accept something new. My time has basically no cost, because it’s not really a scarce resource. In reality, I don’t have any more hours in a day or days in a week than other people, I just have more control over what I fit into my time.

Having said that, there’s the constant risk of wasting time. What if I don’t feel like working on something difficult or making progress toward a self-imposed deadline? I could watch a movie instead, or drop in to the library or go grocery shopping. There are no consequences and the only one I’m accountable to for how I spend my time is myself.

So the question is: If I were to get paid to do temporary work, how much should I earn? Any amount is more than the $0 I’m earning right now, so it would all be an improvement. But I’m not willing to just give up my freedom to spend my time how I please. In part, it depends on what type of work I’m doing, whether it’s valuable, skilled work (like financial advice) or work that anyone could do (like my kids shovelling snow for money). In part, I just feel that I’m beyond receiving minimum wage, but I also suspect that I’ll never again earn the hourly rate that I did when I worked full time. Between those extremes, I guess I’d be willing to accept almost any amount, as long as the setting is pleasant.

If you were to take on temporary work or be paid for a project, how would you determine how much you should earn?

Down, Then Up

So last night I lost my re-election bid for the Regina Public School Board and not just by a little, but rather the winner had double the votes I did.  I just got crushed.  How am I feeling?  Well like any person I’m a bit upset by the entire thing, you do put in some time, money and effort into running a campaign, so to see it was for nothing is disappointing.  That’s the down.

Yet at the same time I have to realize something important.  I only thought I wanted to do the job again.  My heart and full effort wasn’t into the campaign from the start.  I let myself lose this election, not really at a conscious level, but on subconscious level I certainly did.  Why the hell would I do that?  I’m tired.  It’s been three years now of me running around doing three jobs and I can’t do it anymore.  I enjoy all the work I do, so that is why I found it so hard to let go of any of it on a conscious level.

In the end I couldn’t decide what job I enjoyed more: writing or the board work.  So I let fate decide by running a minimal campaign.  If I had won, I would have likely stopped some of the writing I do.  Yet I did lose because in the end I think I had to let go of the board work.  I enjoyed the board work and learned so much about business, working with people, public service and politics.   Yet for sake of my family, not mention me, something had to give.  Four more years of this would have been a recipe for disaster.  I was stretched so thin I was becoming transparent.

So now I’m on the up as I realize I get to celebrate not a lose of an election, but rather gaining back 10 to 15 hours a  week of my time.  I no longer have the stress of making the big decisions about school closures, strategic student achievement targets, or lobbying the provincial government for funds.  I get to worry about the education of only 2 kids (my own) rather than 20,000 of them.

While I’m still mourning the loss of that part of my life I’m looking forward to other adventures.  I’m still paying off my mortgage next week and I’m still saving for early retirement.  Perhaps with a little time I’ll realize what I’m just starting to feel:  I’m happy I lost.

Have you every been in a situation where you thought you wanted something?  How did that turn out for you?