One of the keys to obtaining financial independence is finding ways to live your life for significantly less than usual. When the average Joe (or Jane) spends $10 on something, a financially independent person (or ‘soon-to-be’) can score the same thing for much less. Via this skill, people on the path to financial independence can save 50% or more of their income.
Sometimes a lot more…
I have a confession to make: I don’t give a crap what people think about me. Image has never been something I cared about. When it comes to my home, I never try to make it look awesome. Rather than creating a beautiful home to set a false image of prosperity, I focus on our financial independence: Getting what we needed for a lot less than usual.
For the longest time this meant we had a sub-standard TV in the Tako household. Our sub-standard TV was thick, had low resolution, terrible black levels, and washed out colors. I wasn’t about to put money into getting a better one.
Don’t get me wrong – modern electronics are a fantastic thing. Compared to when I was a kid, TV’s are gigantic now. We grew up with a boxy 16-inch TV screen and thought it was great! Now, it seems retailers hardly sell anything less than 50 inches. I believe this phenomenon is primarily just a display of wealth rather than a true improvement in people’s lives. Is the world happier today with big TVs than 30 years ago, with small TVs? Highly unlikely.
Closing the Office
A few months ago, my previous employer announced they would shut-down the office on the west-coast. The task of closing the office, fell onto my shoulders. I did my work diligently, but I figured they would lay-off some or all of the west-coast employees.
As I worked with the east-coast to make the shutdown happen, I came to realize the company just didn’t care about the equipment in the west-coast office. They had already fully depreciated most of the equipment (it had little accounting value), and they had no use for it on the east-coast. Most of the office equipment would go to the recyclers – who take it away for free.
Making Opportunity Happen
Smelling an opportunity, I emailed a corporate vice-president to see if the employees could have the equipment instead. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, right? Surprisingly, she said “Yes” for most of the equipment. Score! We cleaned that place out! Employees made off with office chairs, a refrigerator, shelves, laser printers, even desks – all for free. I got my tentacles on some conference room chairs, and a conference room monitor (mounted to the wall).
Normally employees would use the monitor for video conferencing and presentations. That happened maybe once a month, so everything in the conference room was practically new. It turns out, the monitor bolted to the wall was actually a 46-inch 1080p LED TV. Not just a monitor! Here’s my lucky score after I delivered it home:
Did you notice there’s no stand? Yeah, I noticed that too. It only had a metal mounting plate used to bolt it to the wall. I wasn’t going to leave the TV on the floor, so a solution was needed. We wanted a TV stand, but I wasn’t going to spend $73 for a universal tv stand.
Building a Stand
Being a fairly handy guy, I figured I could build one pretty quickly. A trip to Home Depot (and $10) scored me some nuts, bolts, a couple steel brackets, and furniture quality wood. A few hours later, I had this whipped up:
As you can see in the photo, I kept the metal mounting bracket from the wall and built my stand around it.
The End Result
OK so it didn’t end up being completely free. I had to spend money on the gas to transport it, and $10 for the stand. For someone who’s not a carpenter, I think it turned out OK:
Today a TV like this retails for about $550. Sure, it’s probably not the best TV out there, but what do I care?! It was free and WAY better than what we had before! I also had the opportunity to grab 6 conference room chairs worth $180 each that we now use as dining chairs:
That’s a total retail value of $1630. I now have a fancy TV and fancy dining chairs – for free. That same money invested over 10 years at 8% would be worth $3,519. Not a bad day’s work for one email.
Finding ways to improve your life for little-to-no cost can really pay off. Do this over and over again, and the results will be incredible!
Change brings opportunity. –Nido Qubein