How I’m living a millionaire’s lifestyle and how you can too

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The breeze is running through your hair. It smells so sweet and fresh. The sound of the sea waves parting under the boat is regular and calming. The sun is setting over the mountains and the sky is tinged in a deep pink and orange. You take a deep breath and there is just one thought running through your mind “Ah, this is the life“.

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That was my weekend. (Photo credit: me☺).

A few weeks before that I was watching the sunset from the top of a mountain in Shikoku, Japan, and who knows where I’ll be at the same time next weekend – an ancient town, a modern city, talking to locals, eating ramen or a thousand other things that the world has to offer.

But I’m no millionaire. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t have a regular job and I don’t own a stick of furniture to my name. I’m living off a few tutoring gigs, a small scholarship and the generosity of the Japanese people.

So how can I afford to do all of these amazing things?

The answer is simple. It can be summarized as:

You don’t want to be a millionaire.

Sound ludicrous? “Of course I want to be a millionaire! What kinda crazy person doesn’t?!” It’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

I’ll repeat it because it’s very very important that you know this. Deep down, you don’t want to be a millionaire.

That’s because you want what you can do with a million bucks, not the cash itself.

There is a crucial difference. I’m going to be bold and just assume that if you’re reading this then you care more about experiences vs. stuff - you care more about living life, not working it, and you would rather do/go/see wonderful and amazing places or things with/to/for other people,  instead of owning material objects.

If you don’t, and you care more about accumulating expensive things you don’t need, stop reading now, pop over to minimalism 101 and if you’re still here then you can read on.

One day, (when I’m a millionaire) I’ll…

People literally spend their time, money, health, relationships, effort and lives burning themselves out trying to make a million dollars or something close to it, without realizing that the goal isn’t an arbitrary amount of cash.

It’s not much of a generalization to say that there are too many people stressing themselves out trying to do too much, just so that they can earn enough money to buy lot’s of stuff… but even worse than that, they doing it to save up for ‘one day’.

I’m all for saving up and being prepared for the future, but this meaning of ‘one day’ isn’t good enough for me. It implies that I slave over a job I don’t like right now, just so that I don’t have to do it later. It implies that I have to wait about sixty five precious years be able to do the kind of stuff I had really wanted to do all along.

These people don’t realize they want a lot of money precisely for the reason so that they can quit there jobs, fly to a beach and relax in the sunshine.

What they’re really saying to themselves is “If I had a million bucks, I would….” and so they work all there lives to get that million and they forget that they could just do whatever comes at the end of that sentence for a fraction of the cost. Common answers are:

  • quit my (soul-sucking) job
  • take lessons in… [insert dream hobby/skill]
  • sip cocktails on a beach
  • go on a cruise/mountain climbing etc.
  • go to x city (London, Tokyo etc.)
  • go backpacking

or even:

  • have everything I ever wanted

For me? Done. Done. Done.

Okay, so this plan won’t work if you’re goal is to roll around in a million one dollar bills, but for most reasonable or more importantly extraordinary goals, a couple thousand is more than enough. And this is not to say that everyone hates their job, just there are many people putting it first whilst forgetting what it is they’re working for in the first place.

Finally, I’m not saying we shouldn’t save up for when we’re too old to be able to work – just that we don’t know if we’ll even make it that far, so we should be prepared if we do, but live life whilst we know we have the chance.

Minimal Student’s guide to conquering the world

Making the realization that you don’t want the money, you want what you can do with it is the first step, next you just have to take the initiative. Let’s compare the costs of a few of the costs that we pay for just practically staying still:

  • a car, plus tax, insurance, gas for a year = from $2000+
  • rent of an apartment/shared house in a medium-big city = av $350 x 12 months
  • two seasons of av. Christmas presents expenditure =$500+
  • an smart-phone contract =$299 + av. $30 x 12 month contract (normally 24)
  • bi-monthly shopping trips expenditure per year = $120 x 6
  • gym membership = $20 x 12

Total cost per year = approx $8000+

(of course prices are approximate and vary from country to country and based on currency)

versus: skipping having a car/phone/gym contract, keeping only a small apartment (or storing stuff at parent’s house), and being forgiven for not buying a few presents – the cost to fly from America to London, then around Europe (Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.) for about 10 days:

  • approximate flight total* = $2000
  • hostel/hotel = av. $20-30 per night x 10 (free if staying with friends)
  • food = av. $15-25 per day x 10
  • other/travel/misc costs = $10-$25

Total cost of around  = approx $2500

*Not calculated but flights between European cities can be dirt cheap if booked last minute since airlines will take almost anything you can give them for left-over seats just before take-off, which can be as low as $25!

And that was calculated for an extensive (albeit quick) tour of Europe all the way from another continent!

I know this isn’t exactly a scientific analysis but you get the idea. Travel is much cheaper than most people expect and definitely cheaper than people are afraid of. If people just got rid of even one or two of the things from the above list, they would be putting themselves in the position to have a memory-creating adventure of a lifetime.

People who are paralyzed by ‘money troubles’ are using it as an excuse. If your dream is to travel around the world, you can do that for less than the cost of a year’s rent in a medium-big city.

If you look in the right places, plane fares are only a couple hundred at most to fly from one part of the world to the opposite side, but most people pay that in gas and insurance for their cars (in one year). Go on, I dare you right now to google flight prices from wherever you are right now to wherever in the world you want to go. Boat cruises and over-night buses are even cheaper.

As for accommodation, I’ve stayed in places ranging from semi-luxury hotels, to bed and breakfasts to an overnight Karaoke bar (in fact, in the latter was probably the most fun I’ve ever had). The trick is to save money by staying in ‘nice’ places in a cheaper city and then very cheap places in expensive cities. If you’re worried about ‘having a good night’s stay’, in my experience I’ve found that this trick balances it out because if you pay more in not-so-posh places you’ll get something adequate instead of gross and if you pay cheap in popular cities you’ll get something adequate, not overpriced.

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It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have

If your excuse is that you ‘don’t have enough time’ well, that should be a good indication that should cut down a few commitments. Re-prioritize, say ‘no’ to a few hours of work or other extra responsibilities and put yourself first, at least for a few weeks. If your time is in that much demand that you can hardly break away, well, that’s more proof that you deserve a break.

And if you’re not really interested in travelling, there’s plenty of other options too. Go out and do something nice for yourself or with your friends or do something different, and memorable.

If helping people in need is what you want to do, you don’t have to be a millionaire for that either. You can change lives with just a few dollars or even just giving away some of your time. Figure out what you want and get creative!

I’m sorry if you were looking for a ‘get rich quick’ how-to post, but this isn’t an invitation to spend like a millionaire, it’s an invitation to live like one – which ultimately means to do all of the things you’ve only dreamed of doing. Of course, you might not get to stay in five star hotels or rent a penthouse suite, but you have to be open to compromises which are always better in the end than making excuses not to go at all.

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So basically, this is what you will need:

  • guts  - it takes bravery to admit that you don’t really need a million bucks, or a massive flat-screen TV with cable subscription, or a fancy sports car, or massive house.Let other people do all the earning and waiting until they’re grey and old, waiting for life to happen to them, while you start enjoying your life right now.
  • a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just spend 20 minutes doing a quick Google search of costs/prices of the things you want to do. Is it as bad as you thought it would be? If not, keep working on your plan, cut a few bits here and there, but even if it costs a lot, it’s worth not abandoning the idea if you can save enough to do it within 2-3 years, almost anything is better than waiting 40 years!
  • to reduce your current life overhead costs.

What you don’t need:

  • ‘one day’ disease
  • to be wasting money on dream-unrelated stuff
  • a million bucks

Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions now:

  1. What would you do if you had a million dollars?
  2. Is there a way I can do it for less?

If the answer to question 2 is ‘Yes!’ or even a ‘maybe!’ then you’ve got a chance.

What’s stopping you? You only live once, go out and live your millionaire lifestyle now!

What is will your millionaire lifestyle be like? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter

 

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  • Abby

    Flight prices in Canada can be a killer, though… any recommendations for particular flight booking websites? A few hundred gets you from Halifax to Toronto here, haha.

  • http://twitter.com/the_risingtide Matt

    Jessica, I really loved this post. Studying abroad has brought a lot of the same realizations to light as once you travel for cheap once you realize how silly it is to let other stuff hold you back. Keep up the good posts.

    @Abby: I can’t speak to Canada personally but try sites like momondo.com which are a step removed from sites like Expedia, which search the airlines directly. Momondo (and sites like it) search sites like Expedia and Travelocity and the hundreds of others out there on the internet saving you a lot of time and scoring good deals.

    I recently studied abroad in Germany and got a Chicago > Zurich > Düsseldorf flight for about $500 on Swiss Air. Looking up the same flight on Swiss air’s website was around $3,000.

    • http://minimalstudent.com Jessica

      Hey Matt!

      Thanks for your comment! And thanks for the tip too, I’ll definitely check it out :)

  • Heather

    I needed to read this post today! Thank you–it was illuminating. I did some traveling in my college years, then “settled down” not long after and have always regretted not doing more before it became more complicated. I could have hopped off and travelled all over Asia after my semester in Beijing, but felt I needed to get back and finish my degree quickly. What was I thinking? And…what’s stopping me now? My children are older, I have (a little) more money to spare, and instead of investing all in paying down the mortgage and an illusion of future security (although that is important too), my lifetime dream of MORE TRAVEL is calling to be lived..and, as you point out, is not really out of reach. So thank you again for that reminder…priorities!

    • http://minimalstudent.com Jessica

      Dear Heather,

      I’m so happy to know that this post helped someone even if it’s just a little bit. I wish you the best of luck, let me know how it goes!

  • http://www.jurino.com Jurino

    I love this post! It reminds me of the parable of the businessman and the guy laying on the beach:

    The business man asks: “Why are you laying here doing nothing, go out, work and make a lot of money!”
    The guy asks him why… “So you can buy a fishing rod to catch fish”
    Why? “so you can buy a fishing boat and catch more fish and make more money”
    Why? “So you can make more money and buy a whole fleet.”
    Why? “So you can pay people to fish for you on your fleet, so you can lay on the beach all day!”

    “And what is it I’m doing right now, sir?”

    We sometimes have to be reminded it’s the millionaire’s life (choices, really) that we want, not the million bucks temselves!

    Best wishes from the Netherlands :)

    • http://minimalstudent.com Jessica

      Hey Jurino!

      I absolutely love that parable, I guess that message was exactly what I was going for… we go to all the trouble to own ‘a fleet of ships’ but we forget that we’re doing it exactly so that we don’t have to own a fleet of ships… if you know what I mean! Thanks for your comment!

  • Diogo

    I just have the same thoughts. I see everyday a lot of people dying for work, doing everything to earn money, and forgetting to live… and that’s ridiculous.
    We have a lot in common, that’s why I feel so good reading your posts.
    I love your blog and your tips. You are awesome.
    Keep up the great work :)

  • Tram J. Dinhvu

    ;-) a friend sent me your site. Glad i found you here…keep the spirit and the enthusiasm alive. I am much, much like you but my obsession now is Alaska. LOL.

  • Katy

    So true. I knew a couple who lived down the road. They were very frugal, and lived what must have been quite miserable lives in order to save up for that million/one day/retirement. Then man had a stroke, and the woman died only a couple years off retirement, and the money got spent on care then split between various relatives (no kids)

    Tragic, but really teaches the value of living for today and not for later.

  • Siddartha67

    nice! THanx for the insight!! i think i will…

  • Ash

    Amazingly simply article that really cuts to the core of procrastinating on our dreams. Thanks for the read :)

    • http://www.minimalstudent.com/ Jessica Dang | Minimal Student

      Thanks for the comment Ash!

  • Pingback: some interesting blogs i have come across « idontneedallthat

  • Ajit

    Beautiful thoughts. Beautiful because they resonate with my own, though I have not bothered to put it down.

    • http://www.minimalstudent.com/ Jessica Dang | Minimal Student

      Thank you Ajit, perhaps you should try! You can learn a lot trying to put things down :)

  • http://teenageminimalist.blogspot.in/ Sarah

    Right there with ya. Being a millionaire is completely overrated(as is money). If nothing else, you have to deal with the enormous amount of stress. Not to mention everything else you mentioned. Whew. Happy to be mostly broke. :)

  • Cristin

    I have a penpal in France ! Thank you so much for this info!!

  • Sara

    I found your blog only yesterday and this post beautifully resonates with me at the moment. I’ve recently started to embrace this ‘philosophy’ of not waiting until everything else in my life is perfect or I feel totally sure that I have enough money all the time. (I’ve never actually dreamed of being a millionaire, although I’m not sure why..) Sometimes I have more money, at others less – as a whole I’d say less than many. I’ve been feeling sort of guilty for doing stuff that I like with the money I have, since it seems counterintuitive not to save for a rainy day etc. But usually it is not :)

    Thank you!

  • Agnieszka

    Thank you so much for this post. So glad that I found your blog.
    Best regards from London!

  • KG

    I tried to explain this in similar terms to a friend of mine who kept saying he wanted to go to Texas to visit his family and granddaughter he had never met. He thought it was just my “crazy way of thinking”. Well, he passed away this past January and never made it to meet his granddaughter. As my dad taught me and told me before he passed away, live your life, experience your life, do not work yourself to death for others, and you can’t take money or possession with you, but you can sure remember the times you had hiking in the Smokey Mountains with and Aunt who could out walk you or snorkeling in Hawaii, etc.

  • po

    great