During the Christmas and New Year holiday period, there would be many retailers offering discounts, and on the surface it makes sense to buy something when it is discounted. However, there are many times when I go into the shop with the intention to buy something and end up buying something else as well because it is discounted. Discounts create a sense of urgency and exploit FOMO.
This is purely anecdotal, but based on my observation, those who tend to buy products on discount also tend to end up buying a lot, which makes sense because sales are used as a marketing tool to attract customers and boost sales.
Avoiding FOMO using deliberate ignorance
At the train station, there is a display that provides the times when certain trains would come. This display details which train comes at what time, when the next train comes, and which platform to go to. I have seen many people look at this display, notice that their train is coming in a few minutes, and then proceed to run to the platform because they feel stressed that they may miss their train. Even if they miss their train, the next one will likely come in ten minutes, so is it even that harmful if they miss the train? Clearly FOMO is impacting them and creating a sense of stress and anxiety.
After realising this phenomenon, my technique now when I go to the train station is to never look at the display. I’d rather not know when the next train is coming. I’ll go to the train and catch whichever train comes next. If I end up at the train station and miss a train that came a few minutes beforehand, because I never knew that train came, I don’t feel any worse off, and even if I am ten minutes late, it doesn’t really matter.
The same anti-FOMO concept can be applied to discounts and sales. Rather than shop around for the best discounts and sales, it is better to just ignore everything and only buy when you really need to buy.
Buy discount and stock up vs buy only when necessary
I have a friend who is obsessive about sales and discounts. He would collect petrol coupons and bulk buy goods when they are discounted. He has two children and needs to cook for them. Once when I went over to his house, he showed me his stash of vegetable oil. When vegetable oil was on sale, he bought an enormous amount and stockpiled it in the garage.
From experience, I know that when you have a huge amount of a certain product at home, you tend to use it up more. For example, if you see food on sale and buy it and leave it at home, the food is likely to be eaten very quickly. So stocking up on more will just make you consume more. It is like keeping cash in your wallet. The cash will just end up being spent because it is so easy to access. Money that is harder to access, e.g. because it is locked up in an illiquid asset such as your home or your retirement account, is harder to spend. The same concept applies to consumer goods. If you need to get dressed and go to the grocery store in order to buy something, it adds layers of friction, which means you are less likely to consume it. Food in the supermarket is less likely to be consumed than food in your refrigerator.
As such, rather than hunt for discounts on food, bulk buy them, and then leave them at home where you overeat them, I believe it is better to leave as little food as possible at home and just consume what you have. Once you run out, then you buy a small amount and do a quick search to see where it is cheapest.
In other words, frugality is about reducing quantity by suppressing desire rather than bulk buying in order to get a discount only to encourage overconsumption.
When you think about it, buying something on discount is a form of commitment. You are committed to consuming that product. For example, if you purchase ten bottles of vegetable oil, you have committed yourself to consuming all that vegetable oil before the expiry date. However, over time you may get sick of the vegetable oil. The problem with commitment is that you cannot reduce consumption once your desire wanes. If you purchased vegetable oil as you need it, if you suddenly get sick of vegetable oil, you can just stop buying it.
I pay $14 per month to subscribe to Netflix, which is somewhat hypocritical as I generally try to avoid any ongoing recurring expenses because I feel that you are less likely to put scrutiny on your expenses when it is ongoing and recurring. If something is on autopilot, it is human nature to forget it. This is why “paying yourself first” and automating investing is a powerful tool. For example, if $1000 is deducted from your pay automatically and invested, you will save without effort. However, this principle works in the opposite direction, that is, if you automated your spending, you are more likely to spend more than you would otherwise.
Even though I apply this principle to e.g. phone plans (preferring instead to buy phones outright and use prepaid arrangements) I have made the exception with Netflix. There are many movies and series on Netflix that I enjoy, and if you stay home and watch Netflix, I rationalize that I am not going out and wasting money, and so Netflix is financially prudent.
Of course, you can watch videos for free e.g. YouTube, but over time I have noticed that free products have a downside in that even though you are not paying for the product, you are paying via watching advertising, and because advertising produces little revenue, the creators of free content don’t have an incentive to produce good art, and so much of the free content on the internet is simply people using it as an outlet to unload negative emotions (read the comments of most YouTube videos and you’ll understand) and being exposed to this negativity cannot be good for it. It makes sense to spend a little bit of money to shield yourself from the depravity of humanity.
Over time I have found that there are is such a variety of content on Netflix. I usually dedicate Friday or Saturday nights for Netflix, and during these times I’d watch something serious such as Ozark or Black Mirror. However, when I am eating dinner, I prefer to watch something that is not so heavy, that doesn’t require much concentration. There are many trashy docuseries that provide this e.g.Drug Lordsor even Magic for Humans. However, often when I am browsing the internet, working at home, or even writing this right now, I want to listen to background music. The problem with using e.g. YouTube or Spotify is that these have ads, and having ads annoy you while you’re trying to relax is infuriating. This is why I have, of time, found various videos on Netflix that provide ad-free background music. Not only do these videos pay nice music but they also tend to have very beautiful visuals as well.
Note that many of these videos play not only music but e.g. the Slow TV videos may play long videos of train rides or firewood cutting. There are also many videos above that depict a fireplace in case you want to turn your television into a virtual fireplace without any of the mess and smoke.
Please also note that the list above applies to the Australian Netflix, and Netflix lists in other countries may vary.
What if I wanted to play specific music e.g. ambient music?
Even though I love to use Netflix as background music, there are some genres of music that I like e.g. dark ambient music and new age ambient music. These are not accessible via Netflix but they are available all over YouTube. In fact, just about all music is available on YouTube. The problem with YouTube, of course, is the advertising. However, there is an easy way to bypass this, which is to use Listen on Repeat.
Listen on Repeat allows you to set up playlists and fill them with your favourite YouTube music. Even though there is no audio advertising, there are many banner ads on the site, which clutters the sight greatly and slows it down, but at least it doesn’t ruin your music while you’re listening to it.
What if you are at work?
If I am at work and want to listen to music using my earphones, I prefer not to use Netflix, YouTube or Listen on Repeat because these sites are data intensive. Because these sites play not just music but also visuals, a considerable amount of data is used, and using a considerable amount of data at work for music may not be wise.
Thankfully there exists Public Domain Radio, which plays free public domain classical and jazz music. Because this music is old and in the public domain, there is no need to pay anyone royalties. Everything is ad-free and the site is very clean and minimalist. Beacuse it only play audio, there is little data used.
When I started working, I tracked my net worth religiously. I did it every month. I was living with my parents and saving 80% of my salary. I invested in shares, ETFs, etc, and now I am putting a little into crypto.
However, something that annoyed me was that everyone kept asking about my net worth and they would automatically compare me to this person or that person. Gradually I increased my savings rate to 100% of salary and lived off my investments, but now I don’t bother with checking my net worth. For some reason, everyone keeps trying to pry into my finances. So now I don’t keep track of my net worth. I simply spread all my pay into many different investments and don’t even look at it. I don’t keep track of the performance. I keep myself deliberately ignorant.
People keep asking me when I am going to buy a house, when I will marry, when I will have children, how much I’ve saved, why I am still living with my parents, when will I grow up and be a man, etc, and now I simply tell them that I am a minimalist so don’t want much. I don’t want to be burdened by debt or obligations or social customs. I also don’t keep track of anything so I don’t know my net worth.
The benefit of this is that all the consumerism is gone. People cannot compare anything to me and I too cannot compare myself to others simply because I don’t know how much I am worth. So long as the dividends come in, I just live off it. This I believe is what money is all about: living and having freedom. However, an obsession over net worth distracts people into thinking money is about comparing yourself with others to see who is better, who is “more of a man” or who “has his life together.”
After living like this for a while I found that it is more calming. I no longer compare myself to others and others cannot compare themselves to me. Because I am limited by how much I can spend because I can only spend investment income, I cannot splurge on anything. This keeps me from indulging in consumerism.
My main point is that net worth is important but not as important as passive income. Passive income can keep you alive but net worth doesn’t necessarily do so as your wealth may be locked up in illiquid assets. Furthermore, an obsession on net worth seems to make you obsessive with consumerism and materialism as you’re comparing yourself with others. At the end of the day what matters is freedom, and freedom comes from having no debt, no obligations, and passive income.
When I was younger, I rarely went out. I preferred to stay inside and indulge in cheap electronic entertainment. As I invested more and more and started to earn more dividends, I found myself in a position to go out every now and then, but I have realized that I actually hate going out. I would prefer to stay home and watch Netflix. It just so happens that netflixing is much cheaper than going out, and it is very enjoyable as well.
Netflix pours billions of dollars each year into content production, which means they are able to provide extremely good entertainment to its customers, and customers only need to pay $12 per month. It’s a good deal, in my opinion. It is far better than going out. When people at work show off to me that they went out to a restaurant to a vineyard, I am not afraid to just tell them that I am a hardcore netflixer.
I was talking to colleague earlier this week about how Netflix is an investment because you save up so much money on Netflix that you are able to pour massive sums of money into ETFs. What I hate about “going out” is that it has become such a status symbol. People brag about going out and socializing as if there is something so special about it when really all they are doing is moving themselves to a new location and spending significantly more for it.
When I started working full-time, I was saving about 80% of my salary whereas now I am saving 100% of my salary and living off dividends. I think what is most important is that you pick a savings rate and stick to it. Whether you eat out, pack your lunch, buy coffee, or whatever is irrelevant as long as you stick to your savings goal. Many people focus on small things such as skipping coffee and saving $4 per day, but I find that many of these people skipping coffee are blowing their money on holidays, cars, and so forth. Often skipping coffee is not a savings plan but a reaction to blowing your money elsewhere. Picking and choosing isolated examples of how you save money is meaningless. It’s the overall savings rate that matters.
I probably shouldn’t do this, but I told someone recently that I save 100% of my salary and live off dividends. One of the argument he used against this is that, if you save up a considerable amount of money, you deprive yourself while you save and there is a chance that before you retire, you may die, which means you never had the opportunity to enjoy spending the money that you saved.
This made me think about why I continue to live a minimalist lifestyle and live off dividends.
If you die with lots of money saved up, you could have enjoyed that money. However, for many people, freedom is so important that it’s not the spending of money that makes them happy but the holding of money. This applies to me as well. I love to hoard money not because of what I can buy with it but because of the freedom and autonomy it gives me.
If I had, say, $1 million then according to the 4% rule I can spend $40k per year forever. I never need to work ever again so long as I’m satisfied with a $40k per year lifestyle. There is no need to suck up to some boss, and I can do jobs on my own terms and live according to your own rules. I continue to work, but I do the work that I love. That is freedom, and I care about that more than some shiny Ferrari.
You enjoy your work when you’re not dependent on it
In my opinion, you enjoy working when you don’t care if you’re fired. If something at work bothers you, you simply ask your manager if you can be transferred elsewhere. If for some reason you are fired, just shrug and walk to a job agency or find a new job yourself. Because you live off your investments, it doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed. You don’t work to feed yourself because other people feed you.
However, if you’ve never saved up any money, if rather than living off dividends you have massive debt and spending obligations, you are then dependent on your job, and dependency is slavery.
Many people tell me that they love their job, so they don’t want to save up any money. They are happy to spend everything they earn.
When I started working, I noticed that many people had this attitude. They said they loved working and they envisaged themselves working for the rest of their lives. With this carefree attitude, they took on mortgages, got married, and had multiple children. They assumed that their salary would be there forever, so they behaved as if this were the case.
Then the organization I worked for announced that, due to the 2009 global financial crisis, there would be job cuts. A spill and fill was performed and about 40% of people lost their jobs, and many of the people who lost jobs had huge mortgage debts and multiple children.
I don’t know what happened to everyone who got fired. Many of them were old, which makes it less likely for them to find another job. Some were able to get other jobs, but they mainly just grabbed onto whatever they could find because they were desperate for some income to feed their children and pay for whatever obligations they had.
I remember when I started working. I was enthusiastic and passionate. I had just finished university and was entering the workforce for the first time. I thought I would work forever as well.
After the restructure, I realized then that even thought I started off loving my job, the downturn in the economy forced management to fire people, and the working environment became toxic as a result.
Things change, and you must be prepared for change.
Your circumstances today will not necessarily apply tomorrow. The only constant is change.
This is why having money saved up is important. If you have enough money saved up, you can live off your investments forever and never need to worry about working. This is why you must live off dividends.
It was after this painful incident that I realized that I needed to save up and invest. About six years later, I am still working at this organization, and the horrors of the past have been forgotten, and people are once again telling me that everything is fine, the economy is great, that I should get a mortgage, buy a sports car, etc.
But I know from experience that things can change quickly.
This is why you must save money. You must be prepared for change.
Where I live in Australia, most people are obsessive about property investment. There is an assumption that you must buy a house otherwise you will fail financially. As a millennial who doesn’t own a home, people always ask me when I will plan to buy a house or whether I have made any progress in saving up for a deposit on a house. People are either pressuring me to buy a house or to get married.
My response is that I will never ever buy a house. There is simply no need to buy a house when there are investments available that are far better. For example, BetaShares (a brilliant organization, in my opinion) has recently issued the BetaShares Global Banks ETF. This ETF tracks an index that invests in big multinational too-big-to-fail banks. The top 10 holdings are disclosed on the BetaShares website and is reproduced below:
Investing money in large too-big-to-fail banks, in my opinion, is a wise strategy. For years now, Australians have only had access to Australian banks on the ASX via ETFs such as QFN and MVB. Banks are an excellent investment because typically they pay very high dividends.
The more dividend income you have, the more freedom you have in your life. Dividend income is true passive income because you don’t have to do anything to earn it. Even if you own property and rent it out, you must still find tenants, fix broken showers, and unless you own the property outright you have to slave away at work in order to meet monthly mortgage repayments. Then you pay outrageous taxes such as stamp duty, and every year you must pay bills and council rates, as well as land tax. If you own the BetaShares global bank ETF, you pay virtually nothing other than a minuscule 0.47% management fee. You can literally sit back, relax, do nothing, and watch the dividends enter your bank account.
When you own property, you typically need to borrow money from a bank. If you’re borrowing money from a bank, you’re not generating dividends. Rather, you’re paying for someone else’s dividend income. If you borrow money from a bank, you make the bank rich, which effectively means you’re making bank shareholders rich.
What happens if there is a GFC 2 and bank shares collapse?
This is a fair argument. One could make a strong argument that the financial system is more precarious now than ever. However, even if we are nearing a massive recession (which I suspect we are), I don’t think that is a reason to not invest in bank stocks (or stocks in general) because we don’t know when the bubble will pop, and bubbles can perpetuate for decades or centuries.
When I see a bubble forming, I rush in to buy, adding fuel to the fire. That is not irrational.
Furthermore, if you own a property and the global economy collapses, how will owning a house help you? Property prices can go down just like stock prices can go down.
One of the benefits of owning bank stocks is that, even if these banks fail, many of them are too big to fail. They are so integrated into the economy that in the event of an economic crisis they can hold society as hostage and demand ransom (or bailout money) from the government. The government will typically give money to these banks, either from existing funds or from simply by printing new money to hand to the banks. Once banks receive bailout money, they can use it to repair their balance sheet, and stock prices should go back up again.
Below is a passage from the Financial Systems Inquiry report in Australia:
Global history records governments of all political persuasions using taxpayer funds to support distressed institutions. As undesirable as it may be to put taxpayer funds at risk to support financial institutions, in the midst of a crisis it is often the fastest and most certain option to stabilise the system and avoid widespread economic damage.
Investors can rationally surmise that the government is likely to rescue systemically important institutions if no other options exist, as their collapse would cause the most damage to the financial system and broader economy. This leads to a belief that some institutions are too-big-to-fail — that they receive an implicit government guarantee.
In a world characterized by wage slavery, big banks are basically the apparatuses of wage slavery. Whips and chains have been replaced with mortgages and credit cards, and banks are the institutions responsible for distributing these instruments of oppression to the masses in order to enslave them.
If the big banks are in trouble, the entire system of wage slavery is under threat, and for this reason I don’t think the government will allow the banks to collapse. They might make one bank fail just to make an example of them (e.g. Bear Stearns) but if you buy a broad-based index fund, you’ll be investing in the entire banking sector, so it’s not a problem.
How can you live without a house?
Of course you need to live somewhere. Shelter is a necessity. However, shelter is not expensive. I currently live with my parents and pay some of their bills. Other people can easily lower costs by sharing a house with others. They can rent (or even buy) a place and then rent out spare rooms. I recommend buying or renting a place far away from the city in order to get the cheapest price or rent possible and then simply use public transport to travel into the city if you need to work.
Living with others can be problematic because it can be difficult to get along with other people, but there are easy ways to fix this problem. Try to find people who are kind and who will not cause drama. Also try not to interact with people you live with too much. Personally I am always out of the house, either at work or at the local library. If I am at home I usually stay in my room. I have food cooked for me, but even if there is no food, I have a large supply of Australian Soylent (Aussielent Body) that I can drink should I need to eat. This ensures I never have to bother with cooking or cleaning, and arguments over who should clean the dishes are common when people share accommodation.
Personally, with food technology so advanced nowadays, cooking and cleaning are quaint, archaic and useless activities that must be eliminated from your life. People are always trying to tempt me into a life of slavery by telling me that I must get married because I need a woman to cook for me, but Soylent has now made the housewife’s cooking skills completely redundant.
You don’t have to buy a house. Live with your parents or find good housemates, and then keep interactions with them minimal to prevent drama.
Drug dealers have a saying: “Don’t get high off your own supply.” In other words, drugs dealers make money off their customers’ drug addiction, but if a drug dealer were to consume his own product, it will be to his detriment because the strength of his business depends on the weakness of his customers. The same applies to banking. Everyone in society is addicted to debt. The “drug dealers” who supply this debt to the masses are banks, and anyone smart enough can become a drug dealer by buying bank stocks or bank ETFs, but as a drug dealer you should not “get high off your own supply,” that is, you should be very cautious about going into debt.
The goal of my life is to produce passive income mainly from dividends. This ensures I can obtain income without working, which gives me freedom. I am not dependent on anyone. Even though I live with my mother, I rarely speak to her as I’m out of the house all the time, and even if she wants me out of the house, I can easily rent a small one-bedroom apartment paid for with dividend income. Most people move out of their parents’ home, buy a house, and drown in mortgage debt, which makes them slaves to their managers. Because I live off dividends, I am not dependent on my work. I don’t need a job. If I get fired or even if I dislike my work, I can simply find a different job that I enjoy or I may even fly off to Chiang Mai where US$1000 per month ensures you live like a king, and in Chiang Mai I can spend all my time in coworking spaces where I can work on whatever I want that I am passionate about regardless of whether it makes money or not since I don’t need income to live since I live off dividends. None of this would be possible if I had a massive mortgage over my head that forced me every month to pay a large chunk of my income to the bank so that other people can collect their dividend payments. I’d rather be on the receiving end of a dividend payment.
Typically when someone has a large mortgage over their head, they have more than a mortgage. A house has associated costs such as electricity and gas bills as well as taxes, and people who are desperate to buy a house in order to keep up with the Joneses are usually trying to show off in other ways as well, so they will likely have expensive furniture, massive kitchens, refrigerators, huge couches, and expensive TVs. People always put me down for being a minimalist. Some do it with more subtlety than others, but people always try to put me down for not owning a house or having expensive furniture or having a trophy wife or multiple children in elite private schools. I am usually very honest nowadays. I tell them I am trying to have more freedom in my life so I can do what I want, and I tell them I am trying to build up dividend income. This usually comes as a complete surprise to most people because most people have been conditioned by society to buy things and to go into debt. All the money they earn is eaten up either by debt or by lifestyle expenses whereas all the salary income I earn is invested. My savings rate is 100 percent, and I subsist off dividends of approx $30k per year. I do not live a hand-to-mouth existence. I am not fed with money obtained from my own labor. I am fed with money obtained by other people’s labor. My hands don’t feed me. Other people’s hands feed me.
Living off dividends and escaping slavery is not about showing off, in my opinion. I have no need to show off to people because I am quite detached from people. As such, other people’s opinions don’t matter because I am not close to them. Most people must care about what others think because they’re forced to be around them due to circumstances, and if they’re stuck with these people, they need to get along with them, which means these other people must have a good opinion of you.
But I don’t need to be around anyone. I am not dependent on anyone for anything. I am completely independent. I am not afraid of bullies. Bullies can bully me, but because I live off dividends, I can use dividend income to block them from my life. I don’t need to suck up to anyone because, unlike salary income, dividend income doesn’t impose upon you an obligation to keep someone happy. I am no one’s slave.
But from my position of freedom, I am a witness to all the manipulation, deceit, propaganda, slavery, and oppression in this world, and I personally cannot be willfully ignorant of it. I cannot close my eyes and pretend that atrocity does not exist in this world.
Doing something about it is the difference I can make. I can spread the word and help vulnerable beings escape from oppression. That is my purpose in life: to be free myself and to help others be free as well.
Can we change the world? No, but hell, we can all try.
There is nothing in life more important than freedom. Even if you don’t want freedom, being free will give you the freedom to not be free. Better to be free and have the choice of being a slave or not rather than be a slave and have no freedom to be free.
You must always have a way of getting out when things go wrong.
When most people try to save money, they look at small expenses such as coffee. According to David Bach’s “latte factor” concept, by skipping your daily coffee, you save about $4 per day, and this adds up to about $1000 per year.
My recommendation for those who want to save money on accommodation is to live with other people. Either buy a house and rent out spare bedrooms to others (e.g. via Airbnb) or rent with others. Another simple way to live with others is to live with your parents. By living with others, costs are spread out.
However, living with others is not easy. That being said, if someone wants to pay more money to live by himself, I have nothing against this because I know how bad it can be to live with other people. For example, today is a Sunday, and I live with my parents. Today I was at home in my bedroom on my computer. My mother was in the living room. She is screaming something to my grandmother, arguing about food. I could not concentrate at all.
My recommendation to those who live with others to save money is not necessarily to move out. Rather, the answer can be as simple as buying noise cancelling headphones or simply temporarily getting out of the house if your roommates, parents or spouse start making noise.
For example, I was so annoyed that my family were making too much noise that I had a shower, got dressed, grabbed my laptop, hopped into the car, and drove to the local library. I am typing this blog post right now in the local library.
Like I said, living by yourself is fine. It makes sense to have some privacy. However, living with others can save you a considerable amount of money. It can be annoying to live with others, but the annoyance can be mitigated e.g. with noise cancelling headphones or with a visit to the local library or park.
Driving out of the home when the family goes crazy, in my opinion, highlights a fundamental law that everyone must be aware of: always have an exit plan. No matter where you are, no matter what relationship you have with anyone, be it a professional relationship or an intimate relationship, you must always have a way of getting out when things go wrong.
Even better than a plan is an exit plan.
The Tech Lead
There is a YouTuber named “The Tech Lead” who is a millionaire who lives with his parents. While I definitely do not agree with his political views or his arrogance, he makes very good points about the benefits of living with parents in many of his videos, which I share below.