The Money – Lifestyle Tradeoff

This latest post is tangentially related to two recent posts on minimalism, Destination Minimalism and Minimalism By Circumstances? In Destination Minimalism, I indicated that minimalism for me could be summarized as identifying the items that are important to us [me and my wife] and discarding those that don’t make the cut. Doing so simplifies our life and makes it easier to focus on the things that bring us pleasure.

In Minimalism By Circumstances? I observed that while for some, a turn to minimalism is a conscious decision, for others the turn is likely born out of necessity, such as a low household income; or living in an area with a high cost of living and limited opportunities for a significant increase to income.

A friend recently remarked again – he has probably made the remark five or six times over the last few years – that he would love to get a job that was more characterized by rote activities, less responsibility and less stress. While I’m certain it is not his intent to be derisive of baristas or those in similar occupations, he is enamored by the thought of working in a more laid back environment, one he perceives to be less stressful. He usually says something like, “I would love a job where I punch in, make the espresso, and punch out at the end of the shift.”

Coffee Bar

He likes the idea that once you leave work for the day, you generally don’t have to give another thought to the job. There is no mobile phone from work, pinging with alerts at all hours of the night; there isn’t the constant political maneuvering and machinations, nor the work (email, phone calls, etc.) that takes place after-work hours.

Of course my response is always something along the line, “there is nothing stopping you from making that change. Of course, however, it will mean less income.”

“And therein,” as the bard would tell us, “lies the rub.”

To be certain, I make no judgments about those who choose to strive for more, in all its forms, whether that be income, goods, services or some combination; or those who adopt a lifestyle of less which might mean working less, changing jobs or adopting frugal and/or minimalist practices to some degree. However, whichever way you go, there is always a tradeoff; there is always a struggle to find a balance that works.

Have you found your balance? Which way are you moving along that continuum? Are you a younger person, perhaps, who desires a little more income so that you can increase your savings/investment rate and maybe increase the money available for discretionary spending? Are you middle-aged and have decided you have more than you need, are intrigued by the minimalist approach, and would give consideration to a career change even if it means less money?

NOTE: I am aware that the quote is a misquotation from Hamlet’s soliloquy about suicide, where it is stated …

“To die, to sleep. To sleep perchance to dream: Ay, there’s the rub. For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.”

However, I’m a fan of the way Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) misquotes the line in Inside Man.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I feel that I am lucky with the job I am right now. The company I work for really stresses work-life balance that it recommends people taking breaks to go out to do something else on the clock (e.g. volunteer events and workout at the gym). At my work, I clock in 8-9 hours a day and that’s about it. I don’t go over a minute over my time and my supervisor respects that. When I need to attend to my family’s need (i.e. medical emergencies) all I need is text and that’s good enough.

    The job that I have right is what I call stress-free job.

    • Your environment sounds similar to mine. I also like the fact that I enjoy a lot of autonomy; I don’t have someone breathing down my back questioning my activities throughout the day.

  2. My 27 year-old thinking is that I’m willing to sacrifice now for the chance of being able to cut back later. I want to increase my income as much as possible so that I can pay down debt and make some investments early on. Burnout is a real risk and I imagine one day I will want to cut back.

    • It sounds as if you are very aware of how you want it all to play out and that is key. Having an idea of when and how to make adjustments will serve you well. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  3. Over the last couple years I’ve come to the realization that I need more free time far more than I need additional W-2 income. As such I’ve turned down promotions in order to have a better life/work balance. Now I’ve left my day job altogether, and am starting a lifestyle business. We could live fine on 35% of my old income, provided the business covered some of the expenses and granted me the free time I expect it will. Up front it will be a lot of work, but I’m hopful that a year from now we’ll be enjoying that lifestyle tradeoff! Have a great weekend James

    • No doubt that you will find the balance you desire as you have addressed the most salient factor … having a plan. Desire isn’t enough. ” … I’ve come to the realization that I need more free time far more than I need additional W-2 income.” I know exactly what you mean. With our savings/investment plan largely on autopilot, the focus is more about making the best use of our time, which becomes a more significant commodity the older you get. Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend.

  4. Funny, I was thinking about writing a very similar post when I replied to you a little bit ago. To tell people they can accomplish more when I stopped trying years ago. At one point I thought about going for a PHD in Physics, I’m happy I didn’t. Later I thought about getting a Masters in Electrical Engineering, that thought too has died. I realized going that high in education ends in spending a lot of money and time to eventually only make a little more money than you would otherwise while taking on a lot more stress. I’m even at the point where I know I could increase my income and benefits a lot by just by putting my resume out there. But I like my family oriented small company with lower stress, flexible time and more control of my work. If it wasn’t for managing my money I’m sure I would jump at any chance for more money at the cost of higher stress.
    *I might have to watch that movie now.

    • That picture of a coffee shop looked a bit dark and bleak. Did the government start regulating coffee distribution? That comedian predicted this, it’s the Department of Caffeinated Beverage Distribution and Individual portable pastry snack consumption.

    • Finding the right balance is one of the topics we – the friends and I that discuss money/finances in detail – come back to on a fairly regular basis. My takeaway following numerous conversations and after gaining firm control of my finances over the years is that the balance point will be different for everyone; however, the key for all is to educate yourself and be in control of your money, which gives you choices. According to The Notorious B.I.G. Mo’ Money means Mo’ Problems. However, my experience has been that Mo’ Money means Mo’ Options and makes it easier to find the right balance.

    • After earning my MBA I briefly gave thought to pursuing a DBA – Doctorate in Business Administration. However, I didn’t really see the point in putting forth the requisite effort at that point in my career (I was about 43 at the time) as I couldn’t see spending the money for education that was really not going to advance my knowledge or help advance me in my career. A few years ago I got 80% through a MSE – Master of Software Engineering – program but decided against finishing the last two courses because the grant money ran out and I wasn’t willing to spend my own money; and moreover, I had doubts to how much it would help in my career. While it is good to always be reaching for a goal, to push for some objective that challenges you, there is also value in simply taking the time to slow down/stop, look around you, and enjoy the moment.

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