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.”


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.

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