A story about why plundering and pillaging definitely did not stop with the Vikings.
Yeah, we’ve been watching Vikings.
We just discovered the show this year, but we caught up quickly on Netflix. There’s a lot of pillaging and plundering going on. I have some Viking blood in me, according to my Ancestry DNA test. Regardless, I would not have lasted long as a Viking. Maybe a couple of raids, maybe incoming or outgoing. One of those bad ass battle axes would catch me across the back of my head, and those Viking hair braids didn’t offer much protection. Or Ragnar Lothbrok would make me feel really bad about not going to invade England with him with a total of 20 other guys. Maybe I could be in the Viking band or something.
Life is much better now. We can sleep soundly in our homes without worrying too much about marauders in the night. We have a lot to be thankful for. But there is still plenty of plundering and pillaging going on right under our noses.
The battles are different, there are hundreds of tiny ones, they never end and you’ve got no army fighting for you. You’re going to need some weapons in life and the skills to use them. And I’m not talking about axes, knives, or handguns.
You’re going to need some frugal weapons
Do you ever ask yourself these questions — When / How did my, cable bill, health plan, 401K plan, mobile phone contract, property taxes, condo fee, product warranty, insurance coverage, fill in the blank_______ change? When, how, did that happen? When did this change? When did this go up? Why was that covered before but not covered now? Why does it say it’s covered if it’s not covered? I had a two-year contract, why did it change in the middle of the contract? Why did the value of the house go down but the property taxes go up? What is this Alternative Minimum Tax? What is that charge? When did I agree to this?? When was this or that limit put in place? Your village is being plundered. One dollar, one drop of blood at a time.
These tiny battles are a pain in the ass. It’s time for people who are fortunate enough to have piles of stuff, property taxes, health plans and 1 hour commutes in SUVs to take stock and ask themselves if a lot of these things are worthwhile.
If you decide some of them are worth keeping, you’re going to need to develop some frugal weapons and the skills to use them at an early age. “Okay,” you say to the village elders, “I admit I am losing these tiny battles. What kind of weapons and skills do I need to win and save my village?”
Save, Don’t Spend
Most importantly, young warrior, save don’t spend. Every dollar you save from a very young age will go to work for you forever. Think of each dollar as tiny oarsmen rowing your badass Viking ship. They keep working for you day and night. Eventually, we will all be working for ourselves it is then, that you will need their help, not at some imaginary finish line at 65. The most important time to save is in your 20s and 30s. Participate in workplace savings plans, especially plans that come out of your paycheck before you have a chance to spend it. Don’t follow the guidelines of putting away just 10%, put away 20% or more. Grow and diversify your personal savings with low cost providers like Vanguard. Read: Your Money or Your Life.
Don’t go into student loan debt
Knowledge is a powerful weapon, but don’t go into student loan debt. College costs are out of control, and many very smart people are questioning the value of college at all. I still believe a college education is very worthwhile but unless you’re offered a scholarship, it is one of the most important purchases you (and your parents) will ever make, so treat it that way. As someone who’s hired over 100 people, I can tell you that a solid student from a mid-level state college, with real-world experience in the community, the world, and in their own entrepreneurial efforts can compete with students from the “best schools” any day of the week.
Skip the commute and the new car
Change your entire thought process about commuting and driving a car in general. There’s plenty of great information out there about why a new car and a long commute are a bad idea. For many workers, this adds up to their largest expense even before you factor in the time they are spending in their car. We’ve entered a time when more and more people are working from home. Start planning now so you can be one of them. Or, even better, imagine your future commute by bicycle. If you do buy a car, make sure it’s a used one. There is a glut of cars coming off of three-year leases that can go another 100,000 miles, if treated properly.
A quote from Fight Club.
The simple message here is that less is more. The stuff creeps up on you and the next thing you know you’re at war with it. The things you own, they end up owning you. Constantly repairing, replacing, paying storage fees, dealing with cell phone plan upgrades, wasting your Saturday morning on the phone with someone from the cable company who doesn’t care. Skip it, when you can, while you still can. You know what your basic needs are, roll with that.
Make Banks and Wall Street Work for you.
Years back, I was visiting my 97 year old Grandmother. I had a laptop with me. I opened it up to show her something. She looked down at my laptop and frowned and said, “I missed all that” — Meaning the technology. She was saying that she never had the chance to use the Internet or computers. She used to have a calculator that was the size of a toaster oven, I played with as a child. She ran a business with it. She could’ve really used a computer.
We have fantastic free tools at our disposal to help us save and make investment decisions. We can get online and get a no fee credit card that gives us 2% back on every purchase we make. We can get on Amazon, Angies List, Airbnb and know we will never overpay for a product product or service again. We can use free tools like Mint.com or Personal Capital and see all of our spending and savings in one place. With a single click on Google finance, we can make sure were not paying over .05 percent in investment fees. With less effort than ever before we can find great investments that make every dollar you save to work harder for you.
Finally, Just Live Lean
I’ve saved the most important weapon for last. Living lean is really about being able to enjoy the freedom that comes from achieving financial independence. The ability to work for yourself and brush off these pillagers and plunderers like dandruff. The time to work on your own terms. Living lean by spending less on stuff and more on experiences. Living lean by taking care of yourself and others so that the spiraling costs of health care don’t take you down like ten thousand tiny paper cuts.
Young Viking, all of these things are hard, but they are easier now than they have ever been before. The playing field has been leveled, at no time in history have we had so many tools to win these tiny battles and create a better life for our village.