Monday, March 1, 1999

Less Is More

by Michelle Anthony

More is always better, right? Think taxes, calories, brokerage commissions, and ex-spouses! So perhaps less can be more.

I've always been a packrat by nature and my significant other is an electronics junkie. That adds up to a two-bedroom townhouse with 5 TVs, 7 VCRs, 6 cars, no garage, and just the two of us living here! So living simple has become as much of a necessity as anything. But, I'll never go back. A weight has been lifted off me -- I've never felt better and never felt like I've had so much.

It started when my mom pointed out that if I sold two of my cars that had been sitting idle I could pay off my first (and last) car loan early. That would free up some much needed cash flow. It had never occurred to me to get rid of my stuff. Did she also mean I didn't need that espresso maker/cd player/scanner? Stuff had become a security blanket for me.

But I threw caution to the wind and began the mass divestiture of more than $10,000 of valuable stuff I could sell and never miss. A garage sale was first -- cha-ching! Now nothing in the house was safe. I was looking at everything, thinking how much could I get for that? Only cherished and needed items stayed. A couple of the cars stay -- those that are good investments like my '68 Z/28 that was bought for $4000 and is now worth $24,000 and my beloved Morris Mini from Britain that is the size of a shoebox.

I went through my closet and pared down to the basics. I'm planning menus (using the weekly sale flyer) so I don't haphazardly buy food that spoils before I can eat it. I'm checking out books from the library instead of buying new so that they don't sit on the shelf and collect dust (save the books by the Motley Fools, though -- they don't collect dust around here!). I'm also spreading the word in my own circle by giving as gifts, consumable items, gift certificates, movie passes, donations to charity, etc. I'm scrutinizing every purchase, every service signed up for by asking the question, "If this were a man, would I marry it?"

The benefits?
- Paying off debt
- Having my money available to go into good investments instead of losing value in things like a Chipmunks collector glass from 1985.
- Giving all the things I hadn't been using or wearing to charity so others can benefit, too.
- Having more money to give.
- Being very comfortable in a smaller, less-expensive house now that I don't need to store all that stuff.
- Paying no more late charges because the bill was stuck under a pile of stuff.
- Finding no spoiled stuff hidden in the back of the fridge.
- Saving time, money, and sanity.
- Filing less buy/sell orders with commissions because I'm using the RP2 method.
- Compounding returns on that saved money!

All very Foolish things. So less, by choice, can be more!

[For more ideas about living within (or below) your means, check out our message board devoted to the topic.]

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