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To simplify your life – and get better results in the process – requires focusing on the right areas.
To save money I could spend an hour or two hunting for coupons to save $50.
Or I could decide in seconds not to buy that a new pair of jeans.
I’m saving roughly the same amount of money in both examples. But in the latter my ROI is much higher due to the time savings.
I simplify my life by focusing on ‘big ticket’ areas of my life with the 80/20 principle clearly in mind.
Here are six areas I focus on.
1. Don’t Budget – Keep A Monthly Net Worth Statement
Early on in our marriage we started reading some of Dave Ramsey’s material.
I’m going off memory, but he wanted you to earmark envelopes based off various spending categories and fill them with cash. Then you made payments from those envelopes.
Ramsey is spot-on about focusing on changing spending habits.
But his envelop system didn’t work for us. It was too complicated and time consuming.
Anytime something has those two criteria it’s not destined for long term success.
I now keep a monthly net worth statement instead.
I track a number of major areas: savings, checking, retirement accounts and my homes conservative value.
Then I deduct all debt – including my mortgage. Each month that number should grow. That’s it.
This system saves me lots of time and also gives me everything a budget does because if there is an issue I can simply go back into our credit card history to check our spending.
2. Use One Credit Card (But Use It For Everything)
I’m constantly amazed at how many credit cards most people carry.
I use a minimalist wallet. So – even if I wanted to carry more than one credit card – it would be hard to do.
So I have one credit card.
I also have a debit card that I only use to pull out cash if needed. I never use it to make purchases.
If you’re carrying more than one credit card it’s a sign you’re spending too much and carrying too much debt.
Pick one credit card based off the criteria that are important to you. Cut up the rest and pay them off.
While my wife and I only have one credit card – we use it for all purchases.
The nice thing about doing this is that all your purchases are centralized and summarized by your credit card company each month.
You can also import them into a spreadsheet or personal finance program which simplifies my monthly net worth process.
3. Clothing: The Six Month Rule
Look in your closet. Do you have clothes in there you haven’t worn for six months (unless they are season specific like hunting or skiing)?
If you do segregate them.
If you still haven’t worn them in another six months give them to Goodwill.
Most of the outfits you wear each and every day are composed of only 20% of your wardrobe.
Now, resist the urge to fill that newfound space in your closet with new clothes.
4. Food: Cook Based Off Color and Texture.
I’ve been from one extreme to the other when it comes to diets.
Early on I weighed my food and tracked my calories. It was a great practice to get into because I now instinctively know how many calories I’m getting in meals.
If you haven’t ever counted calories and want to lose weight you should count calories for at least six months. It will be eye opening for you and pay long term dividends.
Nowadays I have a simple rule: all my meals are prepared based off color and texture.
This is natures trigger that you are getting nutrient dense, calorically light foods like vegetables, some fruits, leans meats and fish and various nuts.
This also helps you avoid the bad stuff because you end up steering clear of foods that lack color – which is the typical American fare like cheeseburgers and fries.
5. Relationships: Drop Energy Vampires
I’m an extremely patient guy and can get along with pretty much anybody.
But when I feel that I’m hanging around with someone who is draining me I simply stop spending time with them.
I don’t lose sleep over it and I don’t feel bad about it.
Maybe that makes me a hardass but it also makes me happier and keeps my energy levels higher.
The bottom line is you truly do become who you hang out with so you need to make that choice deliberately and with plenty of thought.
I don’t point the offenders actions out to them, have a ’sit down’ or ‘intervention’.
Why? Because trying to change the behavior of other people is more of a time suck than hanging out with them.
Focus on improving yourself instead.
If the person asks you why you aren’t hanging out as much then tell them.
6. Health: Work Out At Home
I’ve worked out at gyms before and here are the general things I noticed:
- Too many machines. They take many forms but all should be avoided. I would imagine there is a special place in hell for souls to spend eternity on elliptical machines.
- Most people waste too much time because they aren’t focused. They walk around BS’ing or watch other people.
- Too many mirrors. They’re distracting and take your focus off actually working out.
- January is intolerable. The gym is absolutely packed with people and new years resolutions.
I built my own home gym piece by piece over the years. From a time and money perspective it’s been a great ROI.
Here’s the must-have equipment I’d recommend:
Power Rack ($600-$1200 – not including shipping and handling): A power rack is essential if you’re looking to add muscle and don’t always have a spotter on exercises like bench or squats. The safety pins protect you and your floor.
We bought our rack from Rogue Fitness probably 10 years ago before Rogue was ‘cool’. I don’t think they make my particular model anymore but count on spending $800-$1200 to get an equivalent one from them. I can also do pull ups in my rack. We did purchase a dip bar extension. Not necessary but a nice option. Rogue’s stuff is high quality – but you tend to pay a bit more for the name.
Another option that I’ve heard good things about and can save you some money is the Bodycraft F430.
Free Weights ($300-ish): Stay with steel plates – they should look like these. You don’t need bumper plates (coated in rubber so you can drop them – but more expensive) unless you’re doing Olympic lifts – which I don’t recommend. I got a 300-pound set of free weights and a cheap bar from a sporting goods store 17 years ago. I’m still using both.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT buy ‘hex’ plates. As the name implies – they’re not round on the outside but have six sides. If you deadlift (and you should be) these can screw your back up because when you lower the weights to the ground they can ‘move’ to one of the six sides of the plate to lie flat on the ground. You’ll end up tweaking your back or neck from that movement.
I’ve looked into getting more 45-pound plates. I can buy good quality new ones at local stores for around 60-cents a pound.
Good Bar ($275). As your weights start hitting #300 you’ll want to consider getting a higher quality bar. That’s the point I’m at right now. My next purchase will be The Rogue Power Bar. Dollar-for-dollar I believe it’s the best quality bar you can buy.
Rubber mats ($50 per 4’x6′). My wife went to a ranch supply store and bought these. They’re 3/4″ thick horse mats. Heavy and hard to move. But once they are where you want them they’re way better than cheaper ‘gym’ mats we had used before.
Adjustable bench ($175). I’ve had this one for a few years now. It’s been a good bench. I bought an adjustable one because I will do incline bench from time to time. I also like how the bar underneath the bench curls up. This allows me to put the bench on supports to do Seal Rows.
There you go. You can equip yourself with a great home gym for $1200 to $2000. Over the years you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money and get good results if you’re serious.