Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting a Life

Getting a Life is a companion piece to the better known Your Money or Your Life, a pioneering book of the "voluntary simplicity" movement. Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller, a married couple who successfully worked through the nine-step program outlined in Your Money or Your Life, here recount their own experience with the process and discuss the real life experiences of numerous others who have used that book to simplify their own lives.

Not too many years before writing Getting a Life, Blix and Heitmiller were living the good yuppie life to which most Americans still aspire. They were homeowners who drove late-model cars and owned a boat. They took expensive vacations every year. But they had come to realize that "standard of living" and "quality of life" were two different things, and they were searching for alternatives when they discovered Your Money or Your Life (written by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin) and found in it the inspiration they needed to take charge of their lives.

They decided that they were on a treadmill to nowhere if they continued to chase "the good life" by constantly upgrading all of the toys that surrounded them. The desire to always drive late model cars, to have the latest high-tech electronic gadgets and to vacation in the current hot spots was costing them more than money. Blix and Heitmiller came to the realization that they were trading all of their life energy for "stuff" that they didn't even have the time to enjoy anymore. And they wanted to do something about it.

They decided what was important to them and what was not and, in the process, they realized that they could live on a fraction of the income they were earning by simply cutting out all the frills that they really didn't need or enjoy anyway. Both were able eventually to quit their jobs in corporate America and to substitute part-time work as self-employed writers to supplement the interest earned on their savings. Opting out of the rat race allows them the time to do volunteer work and to spend enough time with friends and family to really get to know them. For Blix and Heitmiller, "less is more" is not just cliché. It's their way of life, and they are happier now than ever before.

Getting a Life is a good starting point for anyone looking for a way out of the fast lane. It offers a concise summary of the nine-steps originally offered in Your Money or Your Life and it provides the encouragement of real life success stories of people who have made those principles work for themselves. The book does tend to get a little repetitive at times and the personal stories all begin to sound too much alike, but the message is a good one.

Rated at: 3.0

8 comments:

  1. Sounds nice. I think a part of me looks at the description and thinks, yeah, the concept is kind of obvious, so I'm not sure how much more good a book on the topic would do me. But I certainly like the concept.

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  2. It's easy for people with high incomes and big investments who own their own homes to drop out of the rat race, but for the rest of us it's a bit more complicated! Still, inspiring people to spend less on stuff they don't need is a good thing.

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  3. I've read both of these books now, Heather, and I think they're onto something. It's encouraged me to simplify where I can but I don't think we'll ever be able to really downsize because of my books and my music collection. I have hundreds of the old vinyl albums in addition to the books. Now that I have the time to spend on my hobbies, the collections are growing faster than ever. Scary, that.

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  4. Sylvia, they actually closed their home and rented for a few years, saving money on taxes, maintenance, repairs, etc. but have now bought a small condo. They live in the Seattle area.

    When they wrote the book they were managing to break even on $30,000 of income per year. I haven't tried to find out what they are up to today, however.

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  5. Exactly. They had equity, and "flipped" it as well. There's nothing especially miraculous about making lots of money for a while and then semi-retiring on it. It's just less foolish than continuing to work like a dog to pay for a luxurious lifestyle.

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  6. That's true, Sylvia. Their plan at the time of the book was to work as little as possible for pay, to do a lot of volunteer work, and to live off the interest they could earn from treasury bills. I'm not sure how long it lasted. I probably should do a bit of research to see what they are doing today.

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  7. It's true that hobbies are the one big problem area for me & my husband. However, we get such joy from things like cooking and reading that I'm loath to simplify too much there.

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  8. I think, Heather, that simplifying can become as much of an obsession as overspending. We have to be careful not to waste the one life that we have to live. I've simplified my life all that I intend to do for now and I'm sure that some would look at me like I'm crazy by claiming that I'm done. :-)

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