Welcome to my blog, Consume Less Life.
First, some background information about myself.
I have an accountancy background with an interest in graphic design and personal finance.
Only after I started working, I put in more effort into managing my personal finances. I was less responsible with my money during my army and university days as compared to after I started working. Saving up most of my salary, I was hoping I could take full advantage of the next financial market crash. The majority of my expenses are spent on necessities and investments. Wanting to take a long break from employment, I left my job in late 2019.
Covid hit in early 2020. The Singapore Government then released a series of budget measures to help the businesses and people to help soften the blow from this unprecedented pandemic.
In mid-2020, I applied for a course on marketing under the SGUnited Skills programme.
Why did I start this blog?
I had an idea to start this blog when I was attending one of the first modules of the course. During the lesson, they were going through how to utilize consumer psychology to increase sales. I thought that it was unethical that they are using such tactics to influence purchase decisions. I fundamentally believe that you should purchase an item based on your needs (or occasionally wants). We should not be influenced by external factors like social media or marketing tactics into making the purchase. The current economic landscape is fueled by excessive consumerism. To maximize profits, companies are making people spend excessively. Buying things that they do not need to fulfill their materialistic desires.
I came across FrugalInSingapore.com during my research phase and I think we have a common message on consuming less and leading a minimalistic life that we would like to share with our readers. The author decided to take a break after 5 and a half years in June 2019. She was getting tired and disappointed in the overall hyper-consumerism environment in the blogosphere. It is a coincidence that I also gave myself five years to see how far Consume Less Life can go and see if it is viable.
Trying to maintain a blog that doesn’t succumb to the general environment of not “selling out” is not easy. It is a pity that she is taking a long hiatus as there is a lot of valuable insights and resources on the website. As long as she feels comfortable with sharing more on frugal living, I hope she comes back and continues sharing.
I believe this point can emphasize how hard is it for my blog to be viable and to stay true to the message of consuming less and monetize my content at the same time. One of the longer-term goals would be for me to also make a living from this blog.
What Is Covered in Consume Less Life
In this blog, I will cover various topics with the main theme of consuming less.
Imagine a spectrum ranging from zero to excessive consumption, I believe the majority of us will be somewhere in between. I hope I can help push some of you more to the left, consuming less, wasting less, saving more.
I am not advocating to bring consumption levels to zero or extremely low levels but to get everyone to consume less. It is more sustainable and achievable for most to consume less than what they are used to. When we can get more people to consume less, the quantum of the overall effect cannot be ignored.
Consumption is inevitable but I hope that we can try to control our impulses and attempt to be a more rational consumer.
What Is A Rational Consumer?
A rational consumer attempts to maximize the utility of all their purchases and or actions based on their limited income. However, how much utility a purchase or action provides is subjective and also easily influenced. A perfectly rational consumer probably doesn’t exist as humans have emotions, biases, and insufficient brain processing power that influence our purchasing decisions.
You might think, what power and influence does one small individual consumer have? Also, big corporations create the majority of the waste in this world.
The Journey To Becoming Mainstream
As an individual, we might be able to influence the people like our family, friends, colleagues or even strangers around us. If they can influence the people around them, we will be able to start having a bigger community of people that will have eco-friendly practices. This will create demand for products and practices (e.g. eco-friendly packaging and/or products, less waste, produced by eco-friendly companies, etc) that reflect our values.
Once we have this small community, corporations will come in to produce products and also act more eco-friendly to attract our dollars. Once these corporations and products become semi-mainstream, having easier access to such products will increase the demand for such products. I believe that if eco-friendly products are easily accessible and more affordable, more people will opt for them.
Government regulations should also come in to impose laws regarding climate-affecting matters like waste and emissions.
Assuming the price, accessibility, and functions of the products are close, consumers will choose the eco-friendly one. We need to signal that there is a demand for such products and corporations with more sustainable practices to exist and then the market will do its job.
With economies of scale and less wasteful production methods, corporations will be able to lower the price of eco-friendly products. The accessibility of such items will also go up once we have more demand for them. The functionality of the product should also not be compromised as we should enjoy the same or close functionality as compared to the less eco-friendly product.
One thing that we will definitely sacrifice is convenience. We are being spoiled when we can just grab what we want and dispose of what is left or what we do not want. Nowadays, consumers prioritize convenience as their priority is making more disposable income to feed their increasing wants and needs. When we have such demands for convenience, this leads to corporations create such items to meet our lousy consumer habits.
Living a Minimalist Life
I am sure a lot of us are not as fortunate to do what we really enjoy for a living. Do we really need a certain lifestyle to be happy?
Do we really need the latest electronic gadgets or a semi-annual holiday or a big wedding inviting people you don’t even care about? Are all our purchases really warranted or are we conforming to the so-called societal norms? Once you realize you can bring down your expenditure from buying less unessential stuff, you can save up more from your income. We can bring our “retirement” forward by 5 – 10 years or save up an amount of money so that you have a buffer to do what you really want. You will also realize that we can actually be happier living a minimalist lifestyle. Live for yourself, not others. Isn’t being happy the end game?
Why did I put “retirement” in quotes? I believe a lot of us are doing things we don’t like for money to buy things we do not really want. If we are lucky enough to be in the situation to do so, we should try to reduce our dependency on our income from our jobs and spend some time doing more stuff outside work hours. If you can find things that you like and make it your side hustle, it will make your life more fulfilling and take your first step away from your grueling job and start looking for your Ikigai.
What is Ikigai
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. It is a simple concept to grasp but really difficult to achieve. There are several interpretations of what Ikigai represents but I will share what is my takeaway. Basically, we can achieve Ikigai when we can combine the following,
- Gigs you can be paid for
- What you are good at
- Interests you love
- What the world needs
I understand that not everyone has the resources and the circumstances to look for something outside their full-time job. If we are fortunate with life circumstances, we should attempt to achieve full Ikigai or partial Ikigai (3 out of the 4 tenets) by performing a job that we love and that we are good at.
I think that all of us would not like to lie on our deathbed and regret not doing anything worthwhile in our short lives and just going through the motion of life mindlessly.
Steps on How to Find Your Ikigai
1. Minimize Unessential Spending
Not only does this help in freeing up disposable income, but you will also be able to be more environmentally friendly and live more minimalistically.
2. Wealth Building and Diversifying Income Sources
We will need to be better at planning our personal finances. I am not an expert but there are many free resources and books out there that you can refer to. Personally, I frequent Seedly, A Singaporean Stock Investor, InvestmentMoats, and Financial Horse.
While you are trying to make your passion work or just doing something you enjoy, you must have a buffer from previous savings from employment and other sources of income that can cover some living expenses. By diversifying your income sources, you will be less reliant on your job and you will be able to be more confident in taking the leap of faith to move towards Ikigai or partial Ikigai. I have done online surveys to clinical trials to selling t-shirts to get more sources of income. I will cover this another time.
3. Explore Your Interests
You can take steps into gaining more insight into your interests. Enrolling in classes or joining interest groups can let you gain more exposure to that certain field. For example, if you are interested in graphic design, you can enroll in online classes from Udemy or Coursera, or even start mini projects and share them on Reddit.
For people like me who don’t really have an interest, keep an open mind and get exposed to as many fields as you can. If you are lucky, you will find something you enjoy and start working towards Ikigai or partial Ikigai.
This and step 2 will be tough as it would eat into your free time outside your full-time job.
Source: @NXHLVS | Twitter
Spending a couple of hours a week outside work hours can be tiring but fulfilling at the same time. You must pursue something you enjoy at this point. else you will just be moving from one shitty thing to another shitty thing.
What I did was I set up a fixed time every weekend to work on something I enjoy. Of course, there are times where I just sleep through the weekend. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel lazy or have something on that prevents you from doing this. Just work on it next time as it is a marathon and not a race. A bit of effort every time will accumulate into something big next time. Don’t give up!
Let Happiness Guide You
I believe the end game of life is to be happy and healthy. All guides to “success”, including ikigai, are just models that one can follow. In my opinion, the pursuit of success is pointless if you are not happy with what you are doing. If I am happy and can survive, that is good enough for me.
It is time to reevaluate our consumption habits. We should not give in to the default excessive consumerism that our current society is built on. If enough of us change our consumption habits and vote with our wallets, we will be able to influence corporations to move towards more eco-friendly and less wasteful practices.
Reducing unnecessary and excessive consumption has several benefits and the list is not exhaustive.
- Saving money – quality items, overall save money, don’t buy things you don’t need, just need lesser space for your apartment
- Environmentally friendly – less land pollution, less waste of non-renewable raw materials, slowdown/reverse climate change,
- Minimalist life – happier, focus on things that matter, lifestyle creep
- Helping others – pass on items that are no longer needed, free up resources
Join me on the mission to make the world a better place for current and future generations.