Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » An ultralight life?


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Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Simplifying Truisms... on 02/01/2012 15:20:57 MST Print View

Quoting Steve Barber's post above:

"Nick says:
"One thing I have learned is that "if Momma ain't happy, no one is gonna be happy." And a wise man will soon realize this, or be out searching for a new wife AND paying alimony to boot."

Very true! And another my wife actually says about me and hiking, "If it's truly good for him, it's good for me.""


In my household, when I am happy, EVERYBODY'S happy! :)

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
An ultralight life? on 02/01/2012 15:34:52 MST Print View

With owning a home, you have cost of home repair (sometimes major!), definitely subject to inflation. Even more important, if you don't have the skills to do minor repairs (my situation), that cost can become major. Also, as mentioned, property taxes and insurance are going to go up, up, even now with the value of the home decreasing. In other words, owning your home definitely does not protect you from inflation.

It is great when you get the home paid off (only 14 months more for me!). But for the first couple of years after my mortgage-burning party, I'll have to sink most of what I'm now paying for mortgage principal into repairs that I've been postponing for several years.

The big incentive for home ownership vs. renting (dating back to my childhood) was that the market value of your home would increase fast enough to give you better return than any other investment. Of course even back then, this feature wasn't much help until you sold the home or wanted to borrow more money. Needless to say, this advice is no longer true! In fact, a lot of folks these days have homes whose market value won't cover the outstanding mortgage!

Of course if you're in an area where there is considerable demand for rental housing, you may not have much luck renting, either. That was the case when I moved to Portland, OR in 1989. My dog and teenage daughter (the only one left at home) pretty much knocked me out of the rental housing market. I was basically forced to buy!

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/01/2012 15:37:13 MST.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: An ultralight life? on 02/01/2012 15:38:13 MST Print View

I will never have a mortgage again. I'd gladly go back to renting. So much easier to move.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Going for it on 02/01/2012 15:44:35 MST Print View

I wish you all well on your paths towards happiness. My path towards a happier life ended up here, living in Sweden. It was not an accident.

I am currently going to grad school for free, as I now a Swedish citizen as well as a US citizen. I also get a small grant once a month to help pay bills from the state. When my wife and I had two kids, not only is the hospital care free, we also got 480 days of paid parental leave for each child (at 80% pay) for each of us to use. Due to saving so much money not having to pay for grad school and not loosing so much money by having kids, my wife and I were able to put our savings towards buying a nice little house.

My wife and I were hardcore punks in our youth, and in many ways we still are. We never got any credit cards, don't care about fancy clothing (or fancy anything, really), and enjoy the simple things in life. We still go and get burgers and fries together and call it a date, and we have a good time doing it. We drive a used POS station wagon and we love it. We go out into the woods and pick loads of mushrooms and berries (I also fish) not just because it's fun, but it's free food man! Tonight for dessert after dinner we ate a pie my wife and son made with berries from our garden we froze for the winter. We got a used TV free from my in-laws, and the laptop I am typing now is over 3 years old. All of our furniture is either IKEA (and a good portion of the IKEA stuff we got in the deals section discounted), 2nd hand, or hand-me-downs. We are poor cheapskates and proud of it, and live a happy and productive life.

Which is why I don't feel guilty in the least when I throw down for some nice backpacking gear when I want it. Plus it's not like it's that expensive anyhow, at least for me, but I am a user of gear I buy, not a collector. Just yesterday I got my Neoair Xlite and it's awesome. It's my biggest hobby, some might call it a passion, I don't really care what you call it, I just know I never get sick of it and want to go out and hike around he woods and sleep there as much as possible. I mean... what the F else do I spend money on? I've got clothing I have been wearing (and still wear) for over a decade, still jam out to our awesome LP collection, and we bought a used Nintendo Game Cube 3 years ago for next to nothing that we had many hours of fun with (mostly Soul Caliber 2).

I say if you are going to go for the minimalist thing, go for it, and go for it all the way. You can be happy and reject all the BS stuff that is just a burden which does not really make you happy, but gives the illusion of happiness (or in the case of a sports car, illusions of another more amusing sort). Figure out what it is that you really like to do and do it. Cutting out the other BS ought to allow for it, unless your thing is, I dunno, collecting sports cars. Go for it and don't look back. Some of my friends called me crazy when I told them I was moving to Sweden, a few said it was not even possible. Here I am 6 years later with a house, two kids, new friends, and halfway done with my master's degree. The only debt I have is our mortgage on the house, which is very reasonable, and we'll eventually pay it off. After we pay it off, we will be debt free for the rest of our lives.

Good luck to you, and to anyone else reading this that is sick and tired of all the BS. You don't need fancy everything, and you can still live simple and happy with just a few luxuries, like say, backpacking gear ;)

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: An ultralight life? on 02/01/2012 15:45:55 MST Print View

Rent or buy.... both have advantages and disadvantages, like almost every other possession or decision we have to make in life.

Like more stuff or less stuff.

Having stuff has advantages and disadvantages. Too much stuff probably ends up with the disadvantages outweighing the advantages. Not having enough can have the same effect. Threads like this help us take a step back and reassess where we are and if we should adjust one way or the other.

Good stuff! (no pun intended) :)

Edited by dallas on 02/01/2012 20:52:05 MST.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Going for it on 02/01/2012 15:49:58 MST Print View

That is a beautiful story Cesar. Sounds pretty perfect. Enjoy! +1 on ditching the BS.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Going for it on 02/01/2012 16:04:18 MST Print View

Cesar, Thanks for your story. You express yourself well and it makes me think the options we all have.

In some ways we live lightly on the land/ecomony: the very efficient house I built, no TV, few electronics, no snowmachines, ATCs, power boats (very unusual choices in my area), no truck (but a killer rack on the Corolla), no guns.

And yet there are ways we splurge and indulge ourselves. Especially with travel (which is NOT low-carbon footprint) - my 11-year-old has been to 50 states, 2 territories and 15 countries. Lots of books around the house and while I really love the concept of libraries and we use them a lot, I wish their books had RF/ID tags in them so they were easier to find.

Before kids, we did a lot of outdoor travel - hiking, BPing and kayaking mostly. Now the kids are getting big enough that we can move beyond cabin trips, car camping, and fair-weather backpacking. That's much of what brought me to BPL - I knew that new gear and techniques could leverage my 50-year-old body and 20-year-old skills to do more comfortable and fun trips as a family.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Owning a home on 02/01/2012 21:41:32 MST Print View

I'll say this for home ownership - it has never been about the money for me. I grew up with a Dad who passed up many chances to buy affordable homes that my Mother would have given nearly everything to be in. My Dad was restless and every couple of years would uproot us and move, often with only weeks notice. I HATED it. He was self employed so would randomly pick a new area to move to and then set shop back up. He was able to do this by never buying a home. Kept himself free.

Having a home that is MINE is huge to me - and to anyone who grew up similar to me might just understand that feeling.

What I love most is it is ours to do what we want. I have my blueberry plantation, my front yard is all lavender, my herbal garden.

I am fortunate that my husband is handy and has the tools - we have remodeled much of our home.

Sure, renting has advantages but at the same time? Just how much beige can one take? Beige walls, beige carpet. Cookie cutter homes and apartments. It is never truly a "home". The first time I picked out a new door I realized just how much it meant to me! I actually enjoy our "dates" to Home Depot :-P

Learn to do repairs. Learn to do maintenance. Find a good repairman who does general work. Prevent big bills by keeping up. When all else fails we trade help with friends (you help me, we help you).

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Homes on 02/02/2012 07:51:06 MST Print View

Owning a home can be nice. We bought ours, a small but stately older home on some very private land, for what we thought was a very affordable price. However, now the house is the biggest obstacle standing between us and financial freedom. When the economy tanked, Michigan was hit very hard and still hasn't recovered. Our house depreciated by probably 25%. We'd love to move closer to family, but would have to come up with money to do significant repairs both inside and out, and then, even if we were able to sell it, it would be at a big loss.

I would consider buying again but it would be cheaper and smaller, with less to maintain. First I'd rent (again as cheaply as possible) to quickly built capital and to make sure I was in a place I wanted to stay for some time.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 07:54:26 MST Print View

"Learn to do repairs. Learn to do maintenance. Find a good repairman who does general work. Prevent big bills by keeping up. When all else fails we trade help with friends (you help me, we help you)."

Obviously, to each his or her own. I know how to do repairs and maintenance. I remodeled three rooms in my house - down to the studs and then built back up - by myself. It's just not how I want to spend my time in the future.

As to how much beige one can take, plenty of rentals will let you paint, as long as you turn it back to beige when you move. And a significant number of stand alone homes out there are cookie cutter as well - I live in such a neighborhood, as do many, many other people. There are three 'house plans' in my neighborhood, so every third house is just like yours (except for color, yard, etc).

It means a lot to you, so obviously it's important for you to have your own home. I think it's great that you do. Owning a home means nothing to me, though, so renting just isn't a problem at all. And I'd rather spend my time on other things than home maintenance and yard upkeep - but I'm not a gardener and never will be.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
My plan...similar to your plan on 02/02/2012 08:23:09 MST Print View

Ike - You and I are on the same page. I think when you love what you do for a living the conversation is much different. When you don't necessarily love your career (maybe not hate it but don't find fulfillment with it) you start thinking why? I spend all my time working at something I don't love to afford crap I don't need. I think you are taking the right steps thinking along the lines of the Dave Ramsey paydown methods. It seems like you make good money and are able to knock stuff like this out. I think the main thing I am hearing from you (and applies to me) is make sure your wife is on board. Their situation may differ based on their level of enjoyment or dislike of their work. Sounds like your wife might enjoy a simpler life for her jewelry thing. My wife does not work right now, when she finishes her degree she will LOVE what she is doing so it is a little harder for her to understand my discontent.

As far as owning versus renting I think the pro/cons are obvious as far as renting means no maintenance and ability to pick up and move easily. Homes mean 'home' and roots and that can be a big thing to someone. The issue to me with renting is you will never be done, you will always be one month's rent from being booted. Owning a house, having it paid off provides a level of security especially if it is a low maintenance home in the country where yard maintenance is not required. As long as you pay the taxes on it there is nobody to kick you out. Also owning a home in the country means opportunity for food production (garden, chickens, rabbits, goats maybe) which can further insulate you from needing high income.

In my case I have a young child so I have to be in a good school district. My version of this is going to be eventually to sell my larger home (2,800 sf) 15 miles from work (in the 'country' but really in a neighborhood) and buy a smaller (1800 - 2000 sf), low maintenance home on a postage stamp size lot (very little yard maintenance), in a neighborhood where my son will have plenty of kids to play with, a mile from schools and my office (save gas/travel time). I will spend about $100,000 less on what I am talking about which will almost cut my mortgage in half. In the mean time my wife will finish graduate school and start earning some money. Our income will be in overdrive while our expenses will be cut by 30% or more. My goal is to pump our savings up to about 40-50% of earnings, pay off her school debt and house in short order and by the time I am 40 (9 years) have no debt, tons of savings, and a lot more choices by age 40 than my peers with big houses, new vehicles, boats, etc. I want to focus our expendable income on having positive life/family experiences, activities, travel, etc versus houses, cars, boats, etc. I want to maximize our lives with our money versus maximizing possessions. I don't want to sacrifice my life for my family (really just a big lie, mostly people do this for their own prestige though possessions) I want to live my life to the fullest with my family, not stuck in an office away from them.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 08:30:12 MST Print View

"As to how much beige one can take, plenty of rentals will let you paint, as long as you turn it back to beige when you move. And a significant number of stand alone homes out there are cookie cutter as well - I live in such a neighborhood, as do many, many other people. There are three 'house plans' in my neighborhood, so every third house is just like yours (except for color, yard, etc)."


Yup. Cookie cutter homes and beige have little to do with renting.
I rent the most adorable little house/ cabin. All of it was done with love; the bench seat in the mud room is made from a piece of redwood burl , given 62 years ago as a wedding gift. It is a little jewel of a home and sure, I would love to own it, but we have made it our "home".
These absolutes are just killing me.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 08:51:01 MST Print View

....and I made my yard, my curtains, extended the roof on the back porch and now I am trying to separate the back of the cabin from the wilderness a bit with some trellises and vines . I have never felt more at home in a place as I do here, and I appreciate it every day.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 11:21:16 MST Print View

Kat sounds like you are the type of renter every landlord wants but can't find.

This house I live in now is the first one I have bought. I have rented apartments and houses both bland and some with a touch of flare in the past. One thing you notice when you buy a house versus renting is you wake up on Saturday thinking...'hmm what do I want to do today? go fishing? hiking? run some errands? or just relax?' When you own a house you wake up on Saturdays often thinking to yourself 'hmmm should I go to Home Depot or Lowes today and blow a wad of cash on X,Y, or Z?'

But I do think owning a modest home and paying it off, if you can deal with the maintenance and lack of mobility, is the best way to reach a minimal/low income required lifestyle. With rent that is a constantly monthly nut that has to be paid which means either constant income or enough money in the bank to throw off interest to pay the rent. At least in the context of freeing yourself up to do something different/irregular/etc.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
Barefoot Running University on 02/02/2012 11:52:09 MST Print View

Here are two of that guys articles...

http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/2012/01/29/changing-your-life-step-one-get-lighter/

http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/2012/01/30/changing-your-life-step-two-build-a-platform/

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 12:13:34 MST Print View

Owning doesn't mean one spends their time tied down - for example I ripped out all the labor intensive plants/lawn our house came with and replaced them with money saving crops that produce. Now I do little besides water once in awhile/prune. As for home repairs/remodeling that needn't eat up time - unless one wants it to! I don't wake up most weekends thinking about repairs. When not preggo, we go hiking :-P

As for renting to avoid repairs? Only if you have a GOOD landlord!!!! Welcome to the world of cheap owners - who buy used appliances, do horrid jobs on repairing the heat, pay for the lowest bid on getting a new well drilled (yep, I have lived in TWO houses where wells went dry!!), having a septic system fail and the landlord paid the cheapest place to come and my yard reeked of a stagnant outhouse for months. Getting less than 30 days notice your landlord lost their jobs and need to move into the house - that one was fun.

There is something to be said for being able to buy nice appliances, pick good repairmen and get stuff done without having to threaten legal action (in the case of the second well going dry we had to threaten it after having no water for a week!)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Owning a home vs the Ultralight Life on 02/02/2012 12:31:27 MST Print View

As I stated earlier, home ownership is a personal decision and is not for everyone.

What one wants out of home ownership is up to the individual. For some folks it is ego and a competition with friends and neighbors. For others it is a constant battle of keeping things up and spending time and money doing it. It is all about how you approach it.

You can make you house the center piece of your existence, or make it much less. I chose much less. I have been remodeling my house for going on 12 years. I could hire a contractor, do all of the work non-stop to "git er done," or finish it when convenient. So my priority is to camp, hike, then house. The master bath has been gutted since 2000. I'll get to it soon or maybe later. All but the master bedroom has cement floors, I'll get to that soon or maybe later. The roof started leaking a couple years ago, and I have patched it. I'll replace it soon or maybe later... probably soon, the boss wants that done now and the rest done soon :(

But I don't stress about it. I like nice landscaping, but that requires weekly maintenance in a climate without snow... well worth $110 per month for a gardener... that $110 a month frees up every weekend for things I would rather do.

I bought the house new in 1978 and some things are starting to need replacement or repair. Still using the original HVAC unit, although I had to replace the AC condensing unit about 25 years ago. As long as I can find needed replacement parts, I'll just continue repairing it.

To me the important thing to me is that it is MINE; well I actually rent it from the county, given that I am forced to pay property taxes every year. And some people could care less about the "mine."

So just do what works for you. There is a lot to be said about renting... may pluses; just as there are with home ownership. What works for one person, doesn't work for another. And when you own a home, it is much more difficult to pick up and move, especially in this economy.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
Re: Re: Owning a home on 02/02/2012 12:40:45 MST Print View

"Owning doesn't mean one spends their time tied down - for example I ripped out all the labor intensive plants/lawn our house came with and replaced them with money saving crops that produce. Now I do little besides water once in awhile/prune. As for home repairs/remodeling that needn't eat up time - unless one wants it to! I don't wake up most weekends thinking about repairs. When not preggo, we go hiking :-P"

Sarah - this brings up point of discussion, owning in or out of a neighborhood. If you are in a neighborhood you likely can't plant crops, maybe a little in a backyard but at a minimum the front yard will have to be maintained to the standards of the neighborhood. If you live in the country on a piece of land you could be buying a lot of labor intensive work of a different kind. Sounds like you have found a balance that works for you, that is important.

I disagree though that home repairs "needn't eat up time - unless one wants it to" though. All of those same things that happened to you in your rentals happen when you own too. Appliances break down, heat and ac systems break (usually not a do it yourself reapair, wells go dry, septic systems fail and all of these repairs and more have to be done, you can't just decide to leave the septic system on the frits for example. It all costs time and money and money costs more time. When you rent at least the financial responsibility falls on someone else.

The simplest, possibly cheapest, is to live in a decent apartment owned/run by a reputable landlord. In my experience commercial operations like this (exempting the worst/bottom of the barrel) are run pretty professionally, have decently responsive maintenance staffs, and take things like the heat going out pretty seriously. In my experience if you select based on good recommendations and reviews you can live without the majority of these problems. Bad thing is they usually try to raise the rent every year when your lease expires and you are typically in a bland/beige type apartment but if you want low cost, ability to pick up and move, no maintenance...this is about as good as it gets.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Great thread on 02/02/2012 12:45:13 MST Print View

I enjoyed this thread because like many of you, I've made good and bad decisions, and a ton of compromises.

The rent vs. own house thing is interesting.

I was a solid renter, which made sense when home prices were very high and rents much more affordable. This makes sense as a long-term strategy if you invest the difference between the monthly mortgage/insurance/taxes/maintenance costs and the less expensive rent payment. There are economists who have argue rather persuasively that this is the better financial decision(and again, huge caveat) long term. When you look at historic performance of real estate vs. stock market, the latter has been the better performer over time, plus most investment strategies provide far better liquidity and greater access to cash than does real estate, which isn't easily converted into capital. In recent years, real estate has taken such a huge hit that rents are actually much higher now when compared to some home costs, because people who lost houses still have to live somewhere, and there are only so many rentals to go around.

All that said, there is piece of mind to owning your own little piece of property, and as I heard one economist put it, "Don't think of your home as an investment, think of it as a place you live and enjoy a quality of life." Certainly you can enjoy a great quality of life in a rental, in a tent, or in a trailer. But for some people security of ownership is important to them - yes, it might be an illusion, but isn't all security an illusion?

I got married at age 39 for the first time a couple of years ago to a woman who has a little house and it is very important to her. Me? I actually was fine renting and being able to move whenever I want. But for her, it's something tangible, something secure, an oasis. I never though of my apartment as anything but a sort of messy place that holds too much hiking gear, but as my wife is very important to me, I am willing to make the house a priority. It's all good. And we should be able to pay off this thing in under five years.

Dirk

JASON CUZZETTO
(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "An ultralight life?" on 02/02/2012 13:00:39 MST Print View

You have all said so much really well I just want to add this.

We paid off our cars last year. The two broke down with in a week of eachother last month and are major fixes. I already car pooled and my wife has wanted to get the 4 kids and her self on bikes and in carpools for a while. It has payed off over the last month!

All of the sudden we can't make the $200 - 300 trip to the grocery (bi-weekly) and the weekly extra trip ($150+). We aren't eating out as much, and we are buying only what we can carry home in a pack or by hand. I don't have hard figures yet but I am saving about $250 a week on food and dinning out and the food has been so much better than it was before. Food is fresher and snacks are fresher too. This is amazing to me!!! I am saving nearly a $1000 a month. Yes we were overeating.

We are also renters. So instead of buying a house in a Silicon valley market that is just plain out of my range, we bought into a place called R-Ranch up in Napa. We own a share of the property, it is a community, you can stay there over 200 days a year. There are horses and over 1000 acres. It is more my wife's thing. But the place is a lot of fun. We are looking at a few more of these now for when the kids move out. You can buy the shares for less than a grand, pay dues yearly of $1200 or less and have fun, cool, relaxing outdoor places to go.

We originally got it as a vacation place because most vacations for 6 are out of our price range other than the backpacking and camping I love. My wife is a teacher. She lost 40 pounds last summer alone and an additional 10 since September. There are options out there for alternate places to live that won't break the bank!

Take care.