For most of us in a first-world country, it’s almost natural in an unsettling way for us to accumulate crap. Not only do we have junk we don’t need (although we think we do when we buy it), we also spend money needlessly on things we think will simplify our lives.
The problem is that most of the time we buy something – be it a product or a service – with the intent of it making life easier or better, it has the opposite effect.
A perfect example are computers. How many times have you wanted to throw yours out the window because you wasted a bunch of time trying to figure out how to do something on it that you could have done effortlessly without the darn thing?
And I’m not blaming computers – hell, I’ve been in the IT industry for over 17 years and made a good living because of technology, but it doesn’t mean I still can’t hate ’em.
For now, computers are still a necessary evil for me and most of us out there, but there are some other things I’m looking at giving the boot. I’m now on a mission to trim the fat out of my life. I’m attempting to question a lot of the stuff we have and the services we use to eliminate the waste.
This process will hopefully have these results:
- Life should actually become simpler – more time for family and friends and the fun I want to have in life
- We’ll save money on needless stuff – most of this crap is just a waste of money
- If down the line we take the dive and move to Panama, we’ll have less to have to worry about moving or missing at that time
Let’s talk about a few of the changes I’m already working on…
Cancelling Unnecessary Services
Sirius XM Radio
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big Howard Stern fan (you either love him or hate him!). However, I’ve been focusing a lot of my time in the car on listening mostly to educational and financial podcasts. Because I have a Chevy, Sirius XM feels that my car uses XM and Howard is on Sirius (even though they’re the same stupid company!) so they charge me for the All Access package to be able to listen to him. Yes, it’s completely stupid, but what can you do?
So every year, I have to spend a half hour to an hour of my time calling around cancellation time to get the renewal at a decent price. Normally it costs $240/year + taxes and fees, but I usually get them down to around $140 (including the taxes and fees). Sounds like a much better deal, but that’s still money that I could put elsewhere.
Well, I finally pulled the trigger and cancelled my subscription a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what I’ve learned – radio stations where I live still suck. I mean they really suck. But I’m mostly listening to podcasts anyway and I have a few flash drives with a bunch of my music on them to swap out, so that should be just fine.
Google Drive Storage / Photos
This is a big one for me. I’ve been purchasing drive space from Google for a handful of years now. And Google is extremely fair on this. I pay only $1.99 each month for 100 GB of online storage… hard to complain about the price.
But the cost isn’t the problem for me. The big problem is what I use it for – storing a copy of my photos and videos so I can share them with family and friends. I’m an extremely organized guy and I spend a lot of my time organizing photos into albums, sophisticatedly tagging each of them so they’re easily searchable (e.g. show me all the photos of my daughter on vacation in Florida with a beach ball in the picture), post-processing photo corrections for lighting and other problems, renaming them all, etc.
I have a lot of ways to simplify this entire process (I actually published a book on how to do all this and other work in that arena), but it still takes a lot of time. And that’s time that could be better spent with my family.
So I’m actually working on changing my entire system as we speak. I’m now switching to Google’s free “High quality” setting for photos which is free, but at the cost of some slight compression on your photos. I use a true offsite backup (CrashPlan, which I highly recommend!) so I’m not worried about losing the originals. And that also means I can cancel my monthly service with Google. Like I said it’s only $2/month, but hey, 2 bucks is 2 bucks!
I’m no longer going to spend my time tagging or renaming all my photos, but I will continue to throw them into appropriate folders to keep them sorted. I’m also not going to post-process most of the photos either since camera phones have gotten so much better at taking pictures anyway.
Believe it or not, this will save me a good number of hours out of almost every week… SWEET!!
Eliminating Unnecessary Products
I started using an electric toothbrush I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. One the things I liked about it was that it tells you if you’re brushing too hard. Who’d a thunk that technology could be that impressive??
Boy, that probably helps to simplify brushing, right?
Um, not really – not any easier or harder really. But now the battery in the toothbrush is getting old. In fact, it can’t get through a few days without needing to be recharged. And guess what? As with a lot of electronics, you can’t just replace the battery.
Here’s where I usually over-complicate my life. I started digging into getting a new toothbrush – it’s like a hundred bucks for a replacement… not good for someone trying to trim the fat. Then I started digging into replacing the battery. I found some videos on how to do this… I could get a new battery for around $20, dismantle the toothbrush, do some soldering, blah, blah, blah. I was going to go down that path and then finally had that flash of “what the hell am I doing?”
I still have a bunch of knock-off brush heads. So I decided that I’m just going to use them up and then pitch the brush when those are gone and go back to a regular toothbrush.
With something as simple as brushing teeth, an electric toothbrush is just an unnecessary complication.
I’m going to give some credit to Mr. Tako… his “Why I Don’t Drink” post gave me some motivation. I drink too much… probably not in the opinion of most people, but in my mind I do. I usually have a single beer on a few of the weekdays and maybe 2-3 beers on a Friday and Saturday nights.
Unfortunately, in our society, that’s probably less than the norm. However, it’s still too much in my opinion.
I’ll be honest, I really do love an ice-cold beer and I don’t know if I’ll ever give it up completely, but I’m going to work on cutting back.
The big added benefit to this is that beer’s a decent penny and over the course of a year, it adds up. Cutting back should free up a little more money.
The even bigger benefit is that beer is not a vegetable or fruit and, from what I’ve heard, is not that good for you. Let’s hear it for being a little healthier!
Crap Around the House
I don’t have anything specific on this one in mind, but I’m planning on spending some time going through each room in the house aiming to clean up and eliminate. My wife and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we have a 6-year old daughter. Put those things together and you have a house with too much crap in it that is barely, if ever, used.
Time to simplify!
Stuff we rarely use is about to find itself in one of three piles:
- Next year’s garage sale
I hate junk and hopefully this will eliminate a lot of it!
Another Elimination to Help Simplify Life
Like a lot of us, I watch too much TV. And I’ll be the first to admit, there have been a lot of fantastic TV shows out there – Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, Blackish… essentially shows that start with the letter “B”! Then there are shows like The Walking Dead – even though it doesn’t start with a “B”, it’s still fantastic!
Even though TV can be very entertaining, it’s also very time-consuming. Think of all the other things you could be doing if you weren’t watching the boob tube every evening!!
I don’t know that I can cut out TV completely, but I do want to bring it back a bit. So how do I phase it out?
My plan is simple… I’m not adding any new TV shows.
So I’m still watching TV, but as “our shows” get cancelled, that’s one less show I’ll have on the list to watch. I’ve already passed on a bunch of new shows that have come out over the past year even though they looked really good. As the years pass, I should have less and less TV I’ll feel obligated to watch. Might not be a perfect system, but it works for me and should make the cutoff a little less painful.
I’m going to keep finding things to eliminate – it’s a pretty refreshing feeling to let this stuff go and it should save me money in the long run. If you’re in a boat similar to mine, taking the time to simplify and trim the fat can pay dividends in the long run. Less stress, more time, and more money… can’t complain about that!
Have you simplified anything in your life or are you planning to?
Thanks for reading!!
16 thoughts on “The Quest to Trim the Fat and Simplify Life”
Thanks for the mention Jim!
I think this is a fantastic plan for simplifying life. Cutting back on TV had a huge effect on my life…and removed a huge amount of advertising put in front of me on a regular basis. I think it really helped me cut costs!
I noticed that some of the shows you mentioned are on cable channels. Sounds like you have cable TV. Wouldn’t that be an opportunity to save money and also meet your goal of cutting back on TV?
No problem on the mention – great blogs always get recognition over here! 🙂
Good catch on the shows possibly being on cable. We do have the bare-bones basic package of cable (I think we get 30 channels) just because it’s through Time Warner and they also do our Internet. Because of the deal I was able to score (and repeat every year), it would actually cost more for us to have just Internet through them. If I can ever find another provider for just Internet to beat what I have now, we’ll be bailing and going right to an antenna with no hesitation.
Recently I have been going through our things/services and trying to optimize as well. I have been selling a lot of big stuff on Craigslist and donating small thing that are not worth the time to sell. I like your idea on downloading podcasts for free, $140 a year is a nice savings. Even better is dropping the hassle of bargaining for your subscription each year.
Sounds like you’re definitely on track with getting rid of the clutter!
There are definitely a lot of great podcasts out there that are worth listening to… and free is better than $140 plus a headache every year. 🙂
I’ve been thinking the same thing lately, Jim. It might be time to try and trim some fat. I think the areas of interest for me will be beer and alcohol as well as crap around the house. I’m not that different from you, having a drink a few nights a week and weekend. I think my goal will be to cut it during the work week.
With regard to crap around the house, there’s just plenty of things we don’t use frequently enough to justify us still owning it. I think we have the potential to make quite a few runs to goodwill.
Last year I decided to give up alcohol for 90 days as just a spur-of-the-moment thing and it went pretty well (I survived!), but I did miss that periodic ice-cold one every now and again. I think you bring up a good goal of cutting it out during the work week. That would probably be a good starting point for me as well.
Good luck on your mission to get rid of crap around the house!
I’m trying hard and have been selling gadgets, DVDs, books that I haven’t used in ages, but on the other side of the battle, my wife keeps buying toys for the kids. Soon I’ll run out of things to throw away, but we still have more than we used to. Clearly a field where my wife and I are not aligned 🙁
It’s not that funny, but picturing you throwing something away and then turning around to see something new in it’s place kind of gives me a chuckle. But I think a lot of families are in your same boat – not sure what the answer is because it’s hard to get couples with different financial ideals to find a common meeting ground. Good luck!
At least in your case it’s your wife. In mine replace wife with grand parents, so it’s three people doing it. Ultimately with the wife’s agreement we do a quarterly toy purge. Goodwill has its share of slightly used toys from our household.
A quarterly purge is fantastic… it’s definitely a first-world problem we have that we’re able to get rid of that much stuff on a regular basis. Nice job!
Good stuff Jim. I think your life will be quite a bit better once you eliminate these things. I use Google photo too and it’s great. I don’t organize it, though. I just share photos when there is a nice one. It’s a huge clutter, but whatever…
I recently stop drinking beer too. It was a tough decision for me because I love a nice cold local IPA. I didn’t even drink that much, maybe 2 beers a week top. My triglyceride level is too high, though. That’s what happens when you get older. 🙁
That huge clutter is the part I’ll probably struggle with, but with the time is saves me, it’ll be well worth it!
Nice job on stopping drinking beer! I hope I can get there as well. I think we’re about the same age and I definitely recognize some of the fun that comes with getting older! 🙂
I agree with trimming the fat. I hate spending money on unnecessary stuff but every month it seems that there’s something that I end up needing.. (Socks, weight balance, jumper for my car, etc). Trimming the fat takes a little bit of time for it to actually be smoothed out and I’m prepared to patiently wait it out.
I would like to trim my alcohol intake, I view alcohol as spending money on things that is ruining me, health-wise. I have a few drinks here and there throughout the week but I don’t know how my liver will act in my later years if I consistently do this over the long haul. Time will tell!
I’m with you on the “time will tell” – makes the cutting back or quitting seem a lot more appealing! 🙂
I know I need to give up TV. I like watching sports too much specifically playoff baseball and college football. Both of these unfortunately are on ESPN and other cable channels making it difficult to watch the games that I want. On top of that an Antenna doesn’t work at my house due to the location so I am stuck with cable unless I forgo TV completely which I haven’t decided to do at this point.
Sports make it tough to cut the cord. You might already be familiar with it, but if not, check out Sling TV. You can get ESPN plus around 25 other channels for $20 per month. I know a lot of sports fans who are using this (plus other things) to be able to get rid of cable. It might not fill all your needs, but that’s the biggest cable competitor out there that includes ESPN.