Updated on 01.20.07

Maybe I’m Feeding The Trolls, But It’s Worth Discussing Anyway: The Fundamental Values of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm

Recently, the following comment was automatically deleted by my spam filter; I only happened to see it as I was looking through my spam logs while trying to identify a problem. At first, I thought this comment was merely trolling at its worst, but then I realized that there is actually a point here, one worth at least a mention:

What a very “bad” article. Yes its the worst article i ve come across. This article wud teach u to be a miser and concentrate on havin a low life.It will limit ur imagination n infact make u suffer more. What u thk tht savin titbits cud save u a fortune is actually makin u thk reserved and wud gradually rust u up. Life is a challenge. Spoil urself. Use what u love but find out ways to afford it not curb it. Keep askin urself how wud u afford it? this wud make ur brain thk better for better ideas, get the rust off and make u hunt for money. by gettin ideas u wud not be limited to 4500 a year but become what u want. jus use ur brain not this stupidity. Dont save it coz u ll gradually lose it. Spend it so u keep urself on the move n find ways to recover ur costs,also trainin urself and refinin urself instead of rustin by bein a miser.

Ignoring the atrocious grammar and spelling (which is why the spam filter probably deleted it in the first place) is an idea that many people hold dear when it comes to looking at a frugal lifestyle. In essence, many people see choosing simple living as a choice that restricts your growth. Basically, by doing this, you’re accepting the lot that life is giving you and simply pouring effort into maximizing what little you have instead of worrying about earning more money.

While that assumption may be true for some, it’s flat-out wrong for most people who make such a choice. I’m actively trying to maximize my income all of the time and I’m doing pretty well for myself. If I wanted to, I could travel to Europe with my family every year. I could walk into Best Buy and drop a thousand or two on the latest gadgets. But I don’t.

So why live frugal if I have enough money to do all sorts of neat stuff? Those “neat things” are nice, but they don’t align with my goals in life. My life is centered around three things: my marriage, my son, and my creative endeavors (like writing this blog and cooking). Everything else I do in life are anchored around these things. I don’t work myself to the bone so I can have plenty of time to focus on my child and I have some psychic space to work on my creative endeavors.

What about after the child leaves the nest? I very much want to be able to retire and spend the rest of my life having picnics in the park with my wife. I don’t want to work until I’m seventy; I’d love to retire on my fifty fifth birthday. I want to be completely retired and in good enough health that I can coach my grandson’s tee ball league. I want to have twenty or thirty years of health where I don’t have to worry about waking up for work in the morning. I want to sit up one morning, look at my wife, and decide that we’ll go see the fall colors on the whim of the moment. The fall colors in Vermont, that is.

So I’ve made a choice to spend significantly less than I bring in each year, a certain percentage that I’m still working out (I know I’m spending less than 70% of my income, but the exact percentage isn’t set in stone). That means I don’t drive a Lexus and I don’t own a McMansion, and it also means that I clip coupons and conserve electricity, but it doesn’t mean that I live like a hermit and that I’ve given up on personal and professional growth, either.

All it means is that I realized that my life goals aren’t material in nature. Money and things are not what I want out of life. It took me twenty eight years to realize that the emptiness I felt inside of myself was because I spent so much of my time chasing money and watching it blow away in the wind on things I didn’t really want. The day I realized this fundamental truth is the day I felt my life truly begin – those first twenty eight years were merely a prologue to teach me some lessons that I needed to learn.

The way I choose to live my life is a reflection of my core values. The day I sat down and made that choice was the day The Simple Dollar was born in spirit, if not in fact. Everything I write about here is merely an extension of these values, an attempt to understand myself and where I fit in the modern consumerist world.

And there’s really nothing else left to say.

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  1. Daniel says:

    Sehr true! The troll comment misses the very fundamental thread of your blog–that happiness is NOT contingent upon external “stuff.”

  2. Shane says:

    Completely agree! Just recently I discovered the joys of not buying every little trinket I saw just for that fleet few minutes of happiness.

  3. Tag says:

    Well said. I like spending time with my wife. We have our first kid on the way. I want to be able to have “real” time for both of them, not just “quality” time. It all comes down to what value you place on different things. Like you, my family is at the top of the list. Keep up the good work.


  4. efipo.com says:

    Hey Trent, I received the same EXACT comment on an article. So I think it is spam. Just to let you know.

  5. mary says:

    I recently started reading your blog and love the info and the ideas behind being frugal and am trying to put some of the ideas to work for me in my life but I have to offer another perspective on your comments above. Retiring early with time to do things with your family and grandchildren is a great goal but that does not always happen
    (my father retired at 55 and had his life set up well financially for him and my mom to enjoy their retirement years but he was dead at 58 of an incurable cancer) I think he would have said to enjoy some of the fruits of your labor earlier in life and not always plan for that future that may not be…..my mom is now set up well because of their financial decisions but she still wishes that they did not put off so many things “until retirement”.

  6. Nice post. There are definitely more important and meaningful things in life than material posessions. I also find that I enjoy the things I do spend money on a lot more if I think long and hard before buying them.

  7. Rosie says:

    You’re living off of approx. 30% of your income? That is truly inspiring. I’ve been spending 95% (saving 5% automatically toward retirement — not enough), and some weeks have a hard time juggling to get to the next paycheck. No other savings. High debts. Poor credit rating. I’d stumbled on one of your posts about a week ago, subscribed, and have been reading every word daily.

    Troll is wrong. It’s not about restrictions. It’s about freedom — freedom from debt; freedom from worry; freedom from bill collectors; freedom from high interest rates and “I can help you” loan hucksters who will relieve short-term financial inconvenience with with real long-term financial pain. It’s time to declare my personal financial freedom. Time for my own revolution. It’s about freedom.

  8. kendrick says:

    The grammar/spelling lead me to believe that it was written by a 15-year old who hasn’t had to work or pay a bill in his life.

    I’m not sure which article he’s replying to, but what he misses is that there’s a huge difference between simple living and being a miser.

  9. See, here’s a difference in values: one of the things I’m willing to sacrifice for is great, adventurous travel. I’m willing to skip meals out and contribute less to my retirement accounts than I could so that I can save money for travel. To me, travel isn’t a “neat thing”—it’s a vital life goal. To me, electronics and cars and early retirement are “neat things.” (Why retire early if I can do something I love for a living?)

    To me, what matters is whether you’re making possible for yourself the things that you want. I want to travel. I don’t care all that much about retiring young to a big house, but I don’t want to die without seeing the streets of Marrakesh. If you want to retire young and spend time coaching Little League, skip the travel and save for a beautiful home with room for grandkids. Know what I mean?

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