By Brad Beckstrom
I’ve been busy lately, limiting my options. Nope, not talking about stock options. I’m pursuing a simpler lifestyle built around fewer possessions and more time to enjoy what I already have.
The idea is simple, stop spending time and money accumulating, storing, and caring for stuff. Give it away, starting with the small stuff, knickknacks, unused toys and clothing. Later move on to larger items, eventually cars and houses. With each box of things we get rid of, each closet we empty out, there’s a sense of lightness. With each thing we wear out, then don’t replace, there is a feeling of freedom.
The closer you move to this limited lifestyle, the more things improve. If you limit your wardrobe, you’ll spend less time picking out what to wear every day, less time in the store replacing cheap sweaters and shoes. If you limit your diet to exclude crap foods and monster menu items, the payoffs include your finances and your health. Those “vintage” clothes will fit better.
Even the best restaurants serve crap food. If they don’t get you with the heavy-handed ingredients, they will get you with the portions. I do miss my weekly visits to the local BBQ joint with 100 different sauces. Now, when I stop in, maybe every few months, it’s more of an event, something I look forward to. My gut has not missed the weekly three meat platter at all.
Limiting options does not just apply to clothing, diet, or the number of cars you own. It’s something you can apply to any part of your life with benefits. I’ve learned to master investing by knowing less about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and more about simplified lean index investing.
I’ve gone on a high quality, low information diet by using tools like Feedly and Flipboard to follow the best and most trusted writers I can find. Anytime I add a new source I see if there is one I can prune.
In 2015 I embarked on a quest to master photography. The idea is simple, mastery is something I could experience using this free time I found through simplifying my life. Replacing commuting and working to accumulate with an experience that will pay longer term benefits.
I’ve embarked on a multi year quest to publish 10,000 photographs from 1000 places in 100 different cities. Starting as an amature, with a 10 year plan to finish as a master. A good part of this journey involves travel. So, the question becomes how does limiting options become a benefit when it comes to travel?
Not long ago I decided to completely change the way I travel, replacing hotels, cabs, and rental cars with AirBNB rentals and Uber. Outside of significant cost savings, often over 50%, I get the added benefit of experiencing different parts of cities and meeting new people. By limiting options (hotels, rental cars) I’ve saved significant $ and made my travel experience more interesting. As a bonus, many of these places are nicer than hotels.
I’m now applying this thinking to airline tickets as well. The next city I fly to will involve a direct flight for under $200. I did a Kayak explore search for the month of February then put those dates into the Airfare Matrix 60 day calendar search. I used a number, $200, which significantly limits my options and the result is a trip to one of the more photogenic cities in the country, New Orleans. There’s only two flights available at this price so no need to worry about which airline or flight time to choose. They are both direct.
Many travelers utilize credit card and airline points points for upgrades or first-class seats. When it comes to using points for travel our family is able to do US and international trips every year by limiting our options to economy class airfare and tapping into our frequent flyer points machine. When you think about what percentage of your vacation time is actually spent on the plane are the flight upgrades really worth it?
Why not choose, choose, choose
Some might say with so many choices and the fantastic access to information (and now weekly Black Friday sales, cheap stuff everywhere) we have, why limit your choices at all? The answer? Next to living to accumulate, the paradox of choice is one of the biggest time sucks I know of. There are so many things to try, so many things to click on (see click tangents) we reach a point of diminishing returns very quickly. Time spent outweighs any psychological benefit of owning or choosing shiny new things.
But what about essentials, look at Whole Foods ain’t it cool? All that tasty, healthy stuff. Not really. All that awesomeness leads to more spending, more time.
Still want lots of choices? Still want to spend time shopping? Just look for fewer choices. Instead of a Super Target or WalMart, try limiting your choice to a smaller market like Trader Joe’s where you can just focus on the food and not be distracted by the latest sale on sweatpants and patio furniture. You’ll be in and out of there quicker, save some time and money. You’ll be experiencing the freedom of limiting your options.