Financial Differentiators

Not having a job gives me a lot of time to think.  Sit and think.  Walk and think.  Cook and think….there’s just a lot more time in my day for thinking.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what makes me different financially from all the other humans in my social sphere.  What is it that makes me different?  What are my financial differentiators, and how can I further capitalize on them?

Answering this question adequately is harder than it sounds because I don’t have access to my neighbor’s financial statements.  However, 3 main differences definitely stand out from that of my friends and neighbors.


1. I Don’t Have Cool Stuff

OK, I’ll admit it – I’m not “cool”.  I’m the opposite of “cool”.  When it comes to acquiring cool stuff, I fail miserably.  Functional is more important to me than aesthetics.  I prefer to avoid that hedonic treadmill.  Most used things work fine for my lifestyle.  Over time I’ve learned to enjoy the imperfection.

A lot of people measure the worth of their lives by the awesomeness of their possessions.  The fancy house, the new car, the clothes, the big screen tv, nice furniture, and so on.  Sometimes they even acquire these items with debt!

My stuff isn’t “cool”, unless you consider old and well-worn “cool”.

Let’s start with where I keep my stuff — my home.  Does Mr. Tako live in that cool new downtown condo with great views of the city?  

Nope!  We live in a modest 3 bedroom home, in a cheap suburb.  The house is 30 years old.  There is nothing fancy about it.  We don’t even have an alarm system for our house, because we have nothing valuable to steal.

The TV
Remember the story about my TV? It was free like almost everything else I own.

The stuff inside my house is even less interesting.  Practically everything we own was either free or purchased used.  Most of it’s so old I probably would have trouble trying to sell it on Craigslist.  We buy almost nothing new.  

Here’s a few examples:

  • TV – Free.  Adopted when my last company closed the local office.
  • TV stand – $10. Handmade by myself.
  • Bed – Free.  A hand-me-down from my sister.
  • Shelves – We have various shelves around the house, nearly all were free (like our board game shelf).
  • Dining table – Free.  Given by a friend who was moving.
  • Baby’s Crib – Purchased off Craigslist.  I think it was $50.  We’ve used it for 2 kids now.
  • Dining chairs – Free.  Adopted from my last company, just like the TV.
  • Child’s dresser – Free.  Hand-me-down from grandparents.
  • Recliner – Gift.  I was told it cost $0.50 at a garage sale.
  • Rocking Chair – Free from a friend who was upgrading to nicer furniture.
  • Kid’s toys – We seem to have endless piles of toys in the house, and 90% of them were free.
  • Tools – Most of my tools were free, or purchased off craigslist.  I even wrote a post about my tools.
  • Clothes – We get most of our clothes from thrift-stores these days.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  None of my stuff is cool or new.  We take the cast-offs and unwanted items.  None of our furniture matches and almost everything has scratches, or stains….and I absolutely don’t care!  I’m not out to impress anyone.

In contrast, when I visit the home of a neighbor or friend, they always have the nice stuff.  Their furniture is a expensive “collection” from the department store.  They always seem to be wearing new clothes too (without holes)!  Rather than give their kids used toys, they buy new.  Anything with a scratch or blemish is simply replaced with new items.


2. Efficiency

When it comes to our regular monthly expenses, after the mortgage and childcare are taken care of, we spend around $700-$1000 per month.  At the heart of this low monthly spending is my desire to do everything more efficiently.

Efficiency means using our resources more effectively than the next person.  From the electricity we use, to the stores we shop at, there are literally hundreds of efficiency gains to be made around the home.

I’ll give you a great example — All of my neighbors have outdoor lights set on either photo-cells or motion sensors.  Every night of the year, the houses on my street will have the outside lights burning bright, all night.  Rain or shine.  

My house doesn’t.  While the rest of the neighborhood will have the lights burning bright year round, our house has the outdoor lights off.  Why bother wasting my precious resources lighting up an empty yard that no-one is using?

Some people might cite “security” as the reason for leaving the lights on.  Well, my home has never been broken into (yet).  I think that’s partly because we having nothing of value to steal.  Other neighbors (who keep the lights on), have had break-in’s…so I consider the “safety” theory pretty bogus.

Air Popping
Seriously, what would somebody steal from my house? My 21-year-old popcorn popper?

While this is only one example of efficiency, you can rest assured that I won’t be putting up Christmas lights outside my home when the holiday season rolls around.

I seek out efficiency everywhere in my life — Time efficiency, resource efficiency, and yes, even financial efficiency.


3. Entertainment & Social Life

While I don’t debate that having a social life is important, much of social activity is very expensive.  Like most expenses, social expenses can be avoided by those of us who put in a little effort.  

You won’t find me out at the bar on Friday night, or dining at fancy restaurants.

Yes, some people might say our social life isn’t very interesting, but when I look at our social calendar it always seems full.  We try not to overfill our life with too much activity.  One activity per day is generally enough to give us a full-life without too much stress.  

Our family tends to avoid expensive social activities — we do things a little different.  Instead of meeting up with friends at a restaurant, we have potluck style dinners, and play board games for entertainment.   Or, maybe we just meet-up at a local park for a picnic.

Public park
I would rather spend my time at a beautiful public park like this one, rather than a noisy restaurant or a stinky bar.

There are tons of things that people can do to be “social” without falling into traditional (and spendy) social conventions.  Cultural conventions are made to be broken (just like rules).  


Combining It All

All of these differentiators combined made for a really good savings rate over the years.  They provided us with financial independence, even though we didn’t make big salaries.  I’m pretty proud of that fact.

But don’t I worry that people will judge me because I’m different?  

They probably do judge me, but I don’t worry about it.  Long ago, I decided that my happiness would not be derived from the approval of others.

Humans fear the strange and different.  They crave social conformity and the comfort of “sameness”.  I can’t escape those facts.  

I’ve probably missed out on having a few friends over the years because I was a little different.  But you know what?  I don’t have a problem with it.  It’s not the number of friends that’s important, it’s the quality of friends that matters.

Generally speaking, the kind of people who would judge me I don’t wish to associate with anyway.  I would rather befriend the sort of people that are open to new ideas and new ways of living.  Someone I could learn something from!  The kind of people that don’t define social status by the things we own, the amount of money we earn, or how much we spend.

That’s the kind of person I would like to call a friend.


21 thoughts on “Financial Differentiators

  • August 16, 2016 at 6:47 PM

    Totally agree with you on all points here! I wrote a post that said the same thing about our house getting broken into. We have what we want & need – but it certainly isn’t what others would term “valuable”! And if someone tries to take my $35 windows smartphone – they will be sad too! Sounds like we’d definitely be friends!

  • August 16, 2016 at 7:09 PM

    I absolutely could have written this post (only not as well). I thought we might not have much in common. Now I find you ain’t any different than me!

  • August 16, 2016 at 9:03 PM

    Love it, Mr. Tako! That old popcorn maker brings back some fond childhood memories with my Mom. 🙂

    Way to forge your own path and not look back. You’ve done incredible for yourself in a short time and now enjoy the freedom that most only dream of.

    *You may want to put a lock on that popcorn maker!! 😉

    • August 16, 2016 at 9:08 PM

      Haha! We actually have a backup popcorn popper if something happens to the old one. We definitely prefer the old one though. It does a better job!

  • August 16, 2016 at 9:10 PM

    What do you mean we don’t have cool stuff, Mr. Tako?? Those shirts I got from a thrift shop, they are awesome! The puzzles, toys and furniture we got through freecycling, those are so so cool!! And all the handmade items you and I make for ourselves and our kids, oh, those are priceless!!

    Oh wait, right, people usually don’t think those are cool, huh. Oh well, I think those are even cooler since it has additional goodness to them, all the more because we obtained it in a thrifty or crafty way. 🙂 I think we have tons of cool, neat stuff in our house, but most people just don’t know it or understand it. And that’s a good thing. We’re different, and I’m proud of it! !(•̀ᴗ•́)و ̑̑

  • August 16, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    THAT POPCORN MAKER. My parents still use that one too as well as their wedding gifts from 30 years ago. I sold all my stuff that was bought new at a discount, but if I ever need to replace it I will definitely go for the close to free route.

  • August 16, 2016 at 11:59 PM

    Wow, and I thought we were frugal. Had tip to the Tako family! We still have much to learn 😉
    As the whole fire concept did not come into effect until about two years ago, we do still have various products/items in our house that (were) new and in some cases (very) expensive. That being said, at least those products were solid buys as they are still working or we are still enjoying them.

  • August 17, 2016 at 6:34 AM

    “Not having a job gives me a lot of time to think.”

    I’ve noticed this too.

    I just took a long walk this morning and forgot my headphones. I did more thinking in that hour that maybe several months while I was working.

    I think the three things you note above are very common among people with a decent net worth (especially if they are young and earned the money themselves). Those are the same qualities that helped me save enough to retire early and will likely work for almost anyone.

  • August 17, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    That’s great! I don’t care what other people think either. As long as my family is happy with me, I’m good. We don’t have a lot of cool stuff either. Well, our remodeled kitchen (2010) is nice. The kid has a lot of cool toys, though. He has a bunch of cool Legos, much nicer than what we played when we were kids.
    We like doing outdoor activities too. Mrs. RB40 likes going to theater and shows so she goes by herself sometime. Great comment from Mrs. Tako.

  • August 17, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    We have a 30 year old popcorn maker too! And we love throwing potluck parties. We get better food and booze than a bar. And if we host, the party comes to us.

    In our place old and worn is very cool 🙂

  • August 17, 2016 at 8:40 AM

    Those are definite differentiators and ones that definitely have an impact to your wallet! As I get old I care less about what others think and do things that align with my goals.

  • August 17, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    My husband has been wearing clothes and shoes with holes since we first started dating! And continues to do so today in all social settings. We also have his first set of furnitures, which are quite destroyed by our two little munchkins. Its completely useless to have nice things with two rambunctious boys around.

    I’ve grown to appreciate my husbands frugal ways.

  • August 17, 2016 at 3:00 PM

    You are my financial hero!

    We have a very similar life style as you. We hardly have anything cool in our house. I can’t remember last time I bought anything cool or a high tech gadget. But we are happy with what we have and is more than sufficient for our needs. Though at times, it does feel like we are behind the curve of consumerism and may stand out among friends for not having the latest greatest of things.

  • August 17, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    Awesome! Although, I still crave for fancy things once in a while, I’m working towards a simple life. Getting rid of things I don’t need and limiting myself of unnecessary luxuries. No need for a nice things to impress people. Instead of eating aged steak at fancy restaurants, I’m trying to age my own steak! Not sure how that will turn out 🙂

  • August 18, 2016 at 3:41 AM

    You can put me in the bucket of not turning my outside lights on either. Efficiency is a big key for me too, there can be so much done to better utilize the things we do and how we do them.

    Thanks for the post!

  • August 18, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post. We do many of the things you do too, but our kids are older than yours. I will be interested to see how you will navigate the interests and sports activities of your kids. Example – ice skating lessons and competitions for my daughter run around $3,000 per year, and a season of lacrosse for my son is going to be about $1,000 per year. I don’t begrudge the kids these experiences, but I do feel the pinch. Still, I would love to find inexpensive alternatives, but kids don’t seem to do pick up sports in our area (except basketball and skateboarding).
    Anyway, the boy is old enough to earn his own money, and LAX is motivating him to look for work to pay his way.
    Thanks again Mr Tako on a great post. Ap.

  • August 18, 2016 at 5:20 PM

    I love the last paragraph and #3 really resonates with me… Lately, I’ve missed out on a lot of social gatherings because my coworkers spend a lot of money going out after working hard for 4 years in college. I can feel so much judgement coming out of them (some indirect and some absolutely direct). I feel bad at times and I don’t know if I’m making the right choice by staying away from spending so much money but only time will tell whether I’m happy with my choices or not.

  • August 19, 2016 at 8:28 AM

    Hey sounds fun to me! The whole “consumer” gimmick is overplayed anyways. I like having old stuff, it hurts less when they break 🙂

    Great lifestyle, I wish more thought like you.

  • August 30, 2016 at 7:30 PM

    Hand-me-down kitchen wares are my favorite. I have bought (inexpensive) new items and they just aren’t as good as the items from my grandma’s kitchen that are still functioning as intended. I’d much rather have time with my friends on mis-matched furniture than a really nice sofa. Sofa’s just support your tuckus. My tuckus is not that fancy.

  • September 9, 2016 at 10:18 PM

    I am not as hard core as you but I definitely agree that buying less is the top way to save more. I have saved a bundle in clothing for my 3 kids simply by letting my friends know I’d be grateful for their hand-me-downs. Kids grow so fast their clothes are usually still in good shape when they are done with them 🙂


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