Can You Get By on Two Convertibles?


Two ultimate driving machines kissing each other (photo courtesy of two macho men)

Not long after living in the United States, I noticed that this country is a nation of consumption. Many people like to shop and they are encouraged to buy more. Companies want people to keep buying, so they invent new products and invest in heavy marketing. The new products may all look great and fancy, but do you really need them? Or do you just want to buy the new look, or to look cooler?

Money cannot satisfy endless wants

Your neighbors have new cars every other year. Your brother travels to Europe, Australia, China, or Africa for vacations every year. Your friends all have a smart phone, iPod, or Kindle. Your best friend’s husband just gave her a new diamond ring for her birthday. You wish you could have the same or better items or vacations. Why?

Money cannot buy happiness. Trying to buy happiness for yourself or your loved ones is an endless and impossible mission. Instead of getting a second job, a third job for more income to spend, you need to listen to your need. Do you have to live in a one bedroom apartment instead of renting a room when you’re in debt (it might cut your rent in half)? Do you really have to dine out three nights a week? Is a sports car in addition to the car you’ve owned necessary? Do you really want a luxurious lifestyle so much that you cannot quit the job that you hate?

I have a friend who is frugal, works hard and makes a decent income. He started saving money since he was a teen and graduated from college with no debt. He was sure he could retire by 50 and I have no doubt about it. However, he married a spender. He thought he could make ends meet by having second jobs at night and on weekends. After twenty years, he couldn’t afford the endless spending anymore and asked for a divorce. The sad part was that their house value had doubled since they had purchased it, but they had to borrow money to put cash on the table to pay off their loans when they sold it. They borrowed too much money. Now he’s older than 50 and he’s still working.

Living within my means

My dad liked to tell us a Chinese saying: Switching from a frugal lifestyle to luxury is easy, but the other way around is difficult. Therefore, I choose to live according to my needs, even when my income grew at least ten times what I had out of college in Taiwan. I still wear 20 year old clothes because they are comfortable, well made, and not designed fashionably. However, living within my means does not mean eating cat food. I intend to have organic food as often as I can, and I like dining out at good restaurants once in a while.

I don’t have Kindle/Nook or iPhone/iPod/iTune. Not that I’m against them, but because I simply don’t need them. I have a pre-paid STI-Mobile cell phone for emergency and pay $3 per month and additional 8.9 cents per minute. In addition, I always have my cell phone turned off because I dislike being interrupted anytime anywhere. One of the reasons that I turned down a managerial promotion was that it would come with a Black Berry and 24/7 on call. Freedom is much more important than a prestigious title for me.

Life is about choice

Although spending is a way to stimulate the economy, the $6,500 average national credit card debt per U.S. resident indicates a spending habit without consciousness. The irrational and impulsive buying habits are driven by quickly satisfying desires. Is it really urgent that I have to buy the new gadget now? Can I wait for a couple years till the price comes down, or till I save enough to afford it? When I couldn’t decide whether to buy something, I gave myself an hour to think about it. If I still felt the need to own it, then I’d buy it. I rarely did.

A friend’s parents had 14 children and the youngest was born in 1961. They only had one source of income and 10 of their children are graduated from college. They lived frugally, retired nicely, built three houses in their lifetime, and left money for all children. The mother counted every single penny and carefully budgeted everything. My friend never went to a restaurant until he was in college. However, they encouraged children going to college by providing them with free board and food. They taught them not only value but also priority in life.

What is your priority?

Leave a comment


  1. As a minimalist, I especially appreciate this post!

    I recently blogged, “Of Mice, Men, Packrats, and Squirrels” that contains some mind-blowing statistics. If you’re interested, here’s a convenient link:

    • I’m a minimalist too. That the self storage industry is the fastest growing new industry in the United States is a sad news. Buying extra stuff and then paying for storage is unreasonable.

  2. Wonderful post! I’m of a similar mindset 🙂


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