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How I live and how I work (alexwarren.co.uk)
63 points by alex-warren on June 27, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments

...and another one simply living single, with no outside responsibilities and lucky to be healthy, claiming this lifestyle as somehow superior (others complain!) but not realizing that there is nothing special about it.

nobody dependent on you? no kids, no employees, no sick parents?

you not dependent on anyone? no accidents, no clients not paying, no disease or disablement? living in a safe, rich, area of the world?

oh how awesome you are.

He's not looking down on anyone or comparing himself with people who are disabled, he's looking at people who have the same responsibilites as him, but rather go for short term gratification than for creating their own freedom.

Growing up doesn't mean getting a job and saving money, but getting out there all by yourself and doing awesome shit. I wrote about that more in detail http://appreneur-diaries.com/its-time-to-grow-up-fuck-no

This idea of "growing up" and following that prescription is also embodied in the misuse of the word 'maturity'. The word is used as a weapon to keep people from doing anything but 'what you're supposed to do'... anything else is 'childish'.

This most upsets me when I hear people apply it to themselves. They are being fun, thoughtful, creative and then say something like 'I wish I was being more mature...' NO! Don't! 'Mature' in that context means 'like everyone else who's been scared into compliance'

> "but rather go for short term gratification than for creating their own freedom."

How come starting a family is a "short" term gratification?

That's not what he's comparing himself to, he's not comparing himself to people with sick parents, disabilities or a family to take care of. He's comparing himself to young and educated indulging the life of well-earning bachelors buying shit they don't need.

If one has started a family and doesn't have one's own successful business yet, it's very likely to be forever stuck in the "job-limbo", because one does have responsibilities. Family is the most important thing.

Speaking for myself, I just couldn't start a family without having my own successful startup before, because otherwise I could never give myself and my children the freedom that I consider to be necessary to make a life worth living.

>"That's not what he's comparing himself to, he's not comparing himself to people with sick parents, disabilities or a family to take care of. He's comparing himself to young and educated indulging the life of well-earning bachelors buying shit they don't need."

I am not sure about that, he explicitly said that he is not interested in starting a family.

From the article: "I could have saved a bit less, and developed a taste for expensive shirts or exotic foreign holidays. Or I could have started a family. But I’m not interested in any of those things"

Good luck homy.

I can testify that unless you get off on sleep deprivation and clearing up other people's bodily waste there's little short term gratification in a family.

I've often seen the choice of having kids or getting married being used as a 'quick fix'. Usually for a failing relationship, insecurities or poor financial choices (benefits++). It's not always, but it can be.

Anyone having children to patch up a dodgy relationship is an idiot.

"Things aren't great between us are they?"

"No, what should we do?"

"I know let's try something that will leave us exhausted, financially worse off and with no time to ourselves, that will DEFINITELY help."

OMG intercourse and parental approval all in one???

So, lets cut the BS here. He's never compared himself to those people. It is obvious, he's talking to the vast majority of other people in "safe,rich areas", who also don't have sick parents, disabilities, etc.

And who also have no reason to start families until they are settled in. That's a choice, had you not heard? And if you choose to do it early in life then, again, it's a choice, so, hope it was the right one for you. If not, plenty of time to not become a cog.

He's not the only one, he's not a hero, and he's not claiming to be. But there are a lot of people out there telling us the joys and genius of the 2.4 kids and the job at Google with fancy cars and vacations. We need more people talking about the joys of charting your own path. Less people need to feel like they are 'wrong' for not following the comfortable route, and more voices are needed.

Seriously. Wtf with all these threatened responses, projections of the realizations of their sad silly lives.

Oh yeah, oops, I totally just did that.

I believe that there is something special about not needing to spend large amounts of money on fleeting entertainment.

It's something that none of my peers have managed; they all still spend their income on drinking, cigarettes, tattoos, holidays and so forth. I don't particularly look down on them for it as they're obviously happy in their world doing it. I just think there's more enjoyment to be had outside of a 9-to-5 job and alcohol.

Just because everyone else jumps off a bridge, doesn't make you special for not following. Unless the bridge is on fire, then you probably are a bit special. ;)

Truth be told a lot of your peers feel the same way. They're confused as to why they need to go out and drink themselves stupid every night/weekend but it's what people do and they wanna be close to other people.

I don't particularly look down on them for it as they're obviously happy in their world doing it.

You quite clearly do:

I believe that there is something special about not needing to spend large amounts of money on fleeting entertainment.

I was attempting to say that it isn't something I would like to do myself, or something that I even understand, however I can respect that it is their decision to do so. I'm not gay and I can't imagine myself being gay, but I can stand on the sideline and say that it is perfectly acceptable that other people are.


"I don't particularly look down on regular humans."

"I believe that there is something special about Superman, who can travel faster than a speeding bullet and is a man of steel."

It seems clear to me that you can find someone who's different from a group special, without looking down on the group.

Fucking bravo. A sane, respectful response. :)

To be fair, many of the things you mention are self inflicted. Fair enough some people have it tough through no fault of their own, some though make choices that set them up for the lifestyle they complain about.

Many? Besides kids and employees, which ones?

Often disease, disability and accidents are caused through poor lifestyle choices. Sometimes lots of little things add up and it's hard to see the true cause. I've not driven for 4 years so I'd say that's put me at a significantly less risk of car related accidents than someone that does.

You example is easily understood, but I think it is an error to think that if you have an healthy and cautious lifestyle, you won't be affected by any disability. There are many environmental factors that are outside of your control like being exposed to some nefarious substance while you were in the womb, with long term effects. And many debilitating diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson or MS don't have a very clear cause.

You're a little too harsh on the OP, and I'm a saying this as a (now) single guy in his early 30s who is kind of financially supporting his ageing parents. I still think his closing remark stands:

> You just need to spend less money on shit that you don’t need.

that line being the definition of frugality

Is it ? I would say it's just common sense.

Frugrality would be spending basically no money on things you don't need.

So the sentences "spending basically no money on things you don't need." and "spend less money on shit that you don’t need." mean different things?

Well, as a single male with zero responsibilities and enough money to live like this guy I will say that luck plays a small role in this lifestyle. We are all dealt hands in this life and its the choices you make that end up determining your hand. I understand the poster because those of us that live this type of life walk around thinking that those with heavy responsibilities wish they were us. Never walked past a young couple with a kid or two in the grocery store and thought to myself, 'oh wow now thats living!'; not hating, I prefer people live the life that is suited for them.

It's all relative. Take a bunch of people of a similar background as Alex, education, opportunities. Then choosing the lifestyle he has is pretty rare. And if you can cope with the tradeoffs, it is awesome - especially the long term payoffs of freedom.

Somewhat surprised at all the revulsion to this post. I live pretty similarly to this fellow, but it isn't the least bit boring.

When I finally saw the right bicycle, I spent about $450 on it, then rode 100 miles on it. It was a life-changing adventure.

When I finally saw the right sailboat, I spent about $2700 on it (less than many/most HN'ers paychecks), then sailed 100 miles on it with the wife. It was a life-changing adventure.

It isn't up to me to say which way of living is best. But I'd lay odds that I'm going to be pretty well satisfied with the one I've chosen, when my last day comes.

Incidentally, Alex doesn't appear to be 'hoarding' cash, he just seems to have saved up a couple months' glide path, something everyone is supposed to do, but according to the recent CNN article, almost nobody does. When interest rates go back up, this seems likely to change.

I think I'm in more or less the same, uh, boat. I made a very good living for about 15 years more because I was learning a lot from those I was working with than because I was climbing the ladder. A few months ago, my adventure changed. I'm bootstrapping now, and have a reasonable amount of runway. Even still I will occasionally have a night out, and I can afford business investments that make sense.

Currently reading Seth Godin's Icarus Deception, and to put it in his terms, I think the idea of having a job and spending >80% of your income on a rolling basis really plays into the industrial machine that wants to keep us as good little cogs.

Financial advisers suggest that everyone 'should' save up 6-9 months of expenses in an emergency fund in case of job loss, etc. I don't know what percent of people actually do this, though.

You deserve a hug.

excellent point... if you want to live like a flower. Some of us prefer going to places, trying new things, meeting new people, having a family and hobbies. And all those things cost money.

When I'm old I'd rather say I'm broke because I lived my life to the fullest than I lived conservatively so I can afford to be a stressless elder with savings

(hopefully I wont be downvoted because I beg to differ)

I think it's a matter of comfort. Some people can live life flying by the seat of their pants. In my opinion, those types of people are comfortable with moving fast, breaking and fixing things, and trying new adventures. They can look back at their lives and tell their grand kids how they'd lived to the fullest. But, on the other side of the spectrum. We have people who feel comfortable living very conservative lives way beneath their means. I think it provides them a sense of security and empowerment. They may come from backgrounds where they never had much growing up that could've contributed to that behavior, maybe. I'm sure my denfintion of a wholeheartedly lived life would be different from yours and a lot of other people. I don't necessary think your definition or anyone else is wrong. I just know at the end of the day we come from different backgrounds. Our desires from life have been shaped by different lives lived in different times or places. If it's comfortable for you to do and you're still happy about life afterwards with no regrets, I see no problem calling it "living life to fullest".

Not spending money does not equal living a very conservative life at all.

I spend $1000 per month and live luxuriously in an emerging market. I save up $5000 per month and do more free fun stuff than most people I know. I am self-employed and move to a new country every few months. My daily life is an adventure in itself. Some of the best 'entertainment' you can experience in life does not have to cost a lot.

It's not about living beneath your means, it's about choosing your own path in life, instead of following society's pressure in getting a 9-to-5 and spending all your income on stuff that won't make you happy in the long run.

Not spending money = a conservative life wasn't what I meant by my statement. I was just pointing out that we do have people in the world who prefer to live their lives very conservatively and beneath their means financially. I wasn't saying one thing equals another.

> When I'm old I'd rather say I'm broke because I lived my life to the fullest

That's probably where people differ - how they understand what "living life to the fullest" means.

To the OP, it means spending less on what he does not need and working on the things he likes. To others, it's travel, meeting other people.

There's no shame spending your money the way you want. Just don't live beyond your means. Know your (financial) limits.

Interesting. Maybe different people have different priorities?

The OP saved up to live working on things he loved.

I mostly save up to travel and try new things.

Some people save up to buy a shiny new red sports car.

When you are old, you are going to decide if you have lived life to the fullest.

Money totally buys full life, wow, you're right.

"I live differently to everybody else I know."

Then I expected a great story about an alternative lifestyle.

This just sounds boring as hell. To me this story sounded like "I live in a basement, almost never come out or buy things for myself, but I got time on my hand, so I'm living the life right here". It doesn't sound that good to me to be honest.

On the other hand, a story I liked to read was Mr. Money Moustache about how he managed to retire on the age of 30 with a NORMAL lifestyle.

Jesus fucking fuck fuck. Fucking what?? Just an example that if you swear, things are never boring. Fuck.

I'm seeing a trend in the comments here and would just like to add my experience. It is quite similar to the author in that I worked fulltime for a year plus 3 months contracting for the same company.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had good health, no family obligations, and low student loan debt (payed off in within a few months of graduating). With that in mind, I can honestly say that there was a ton of pressure to spend money to "better my life". I would get strange looks and comments from friends and family because I drove a '93 Del Sol, and lived in the same apartment after graduating. The only big purchase I made recently was upgrading to a used car that is only 10 years old.

In the end I saved a lot of money. Enough to move back to California, in the Bay Area. I have been living off of savings for 7 months and honestly have about 7 more (conservative numbers). I live comfortably here and I get to work on my own projects on my own time until I make money or run out, in which case I will go find more contract work.

My point is that I decided early what I wanted to do and planned accordingly. I know that I'm in a very unique category with little responsibility. I have much respect for those who can't quite do what I do because of other obligations. This makes me happy and I wouldn't have it any other way. No need to feel sorry for me and think I'm not living life to the fullest, because in my mind I am.

Spending on cars is one of those things that I can't comprehend personally, because for me a car is just a means of transportation. My requirements for a car are that it's not too unsafe, has OK mpg, and doesn't break down too often. That's why I got a 98 Honda Accord, works perfectly.

I understand that people can be into nice and expensive cars , but that's gotta be one of the most expensive hobbies out there.

> When I started working, I didn’t start spending.

I'm exactly the same. I see so many people living paycheck to paycheck, and for me there is nothing more depressing.

I've only been working for around a year and a half and I already have the economic freedom to be unemployed for a year.

Also, I don't really feel like I live frugally. I go out as much as I want to, I go on holidays, I buy a few luxuries that I really want. I really don't understand how people manage to spend so much

My first couple of years on a full time job I spent all the money i earned, barely making it from paycheck to paycheck (almost always carrying a few hundred dollars in debt), saving nothing, and it was freaking awesome. No room mate, lived in the middle of town, buy any thing I wanted, go out to any place I wanted. I could afford to fly to the States for a week (or even a long weekend) and stay in a nice hotel on a whim just because someone said, "hey come on over we're having a party".

Honestly it was some of the best times of my life, and I'm really glad a I took the chance when I had the chance. Looking back I can only say thank god these sorts of blog posts weren't popular when I was 20 or those years might have been much more dull.

I really don't understand how people manage to spend so much

Maybe they just earn less than you?

Could be, but I have coworkers that make about the same amount of money as me, yet they're not able to save money. They spend it mostly on clothes, restaurants and bars. Some of them don't even have kids yet they manage to consume their whole paycheck within the month.

There's a lot of shit that adds up. Booze is a serious killer. Cigarettes are goddamn expensive. Clothes pile up in cost...

This is a little condescending. I live frugally but have spent the money I've saved on a house for my family to live in. I've contracted the last year to be able to afford to travel around the world next month.

"You can enjoy your life right now. You just need to spend less money on shit that you don’t need."

True, I don't need a house or to go travelling but my life would be poorer had I not invested in that shit.

You want condescending? 'cause his blog post wasn't. Look, like if you're fucking happy right now, great! But if you have a reaction to his post that makes you feel attacked, belittled, then there very well might be a good reason for that. And boy, it ain't nothin' on the author.

I know a few people who, if not live exactly like this, certainly think like it.

Walling yourself off from all dependencies (physical, financial, emotional) in order to grow your brain and Just Write Code might seem like a smart thing to do, and the purism of it will appeal to some. If the OP genuinely obtains no enjoyment at all from anything else, then that's fine - that's what it sounds like.

But it's the pay-off that stings, the 'shit you don't need' attitude, which is ultimately judging everyone else as inferior for not making the same choice, or having the (immensely privileged?) ability to 'make your work your life'. I love and value my family & my friends, and spending money to spend time with them enriches my life.

Not everyone wants to be an island.


I moan about work sometimes but I like work - I like the social interaction, social interaction needs people, people are sometimes dicks, dicks are something I moan about BUT overall I'm happier because I work despite occasional downsides.

I completely agree with the OP. Let's be honest - you don't NEED a 100 k car right after graduation, even if you're earning a 100 k a year(I've seen this happen).

What he's trying to say is that there's a huge difference between NEED and WANT that people often mis-perceive.

If you only buy shit you NEED, you can save up, then quit your job and do things that you WANT to do, without having to worry about job security, next paycheck et cetera.

But people feel entitled. They DESERVE the car, they NEED the house. The economy would die if everyone was frugal lol

What if that car is a real chick-magnet though?

Do you really want a chick that is attracted to your car instead of being attracted to you?

Maybe if you're dropping 100k on a car to get girls, you don't care what they really think of you as long as they act a certain way. And maybe that's just fine. Just a consideration.

You've got to start somewhere. My mom admits that the first thing she noticed about my dad was his cool car, and they've been happily married for over 35 years.

I'm trying to put my finger on why people (including myself) find this piece a little (unintentionally I suspect) disrespectful and I think it's that there's something in the tone, and specifically in this phrase:

"You can enjoy your life right now. You just need to spend less money on shit that you don’t need."

That suggests that those who follow a more conventional route are in some way stumbling along dissatisfied with life and trying to fill the gaping void with gaudy trinkets and baubles only to find that it's not working.

Maybe it's just me but I enjoy the holidays, I enjoy working every day with smart people, I enjoy my family, I enjoy the security of owning my own home and so on.

There's definitely something in what he's doing - prioritising what's important to him and making that his goal rather than what might be more conventionally expect of him - but, there's something in the tone that, for me at least, doesn't make this point as well as it might.

If everyone lived like the OP would the economy still work? Maybe the economy would shift.

I only buy second hand cars because I hate paying too much depreciation but someone, somewhere is buying the new ones, which I can then take advantage of.

I try and live as frugally as possible but my idea of frugality is probably way different to everyone elses, as is his.

Then everybody would have their own startup. Awesome. :)

I found that most people I know spend their money according to their paycheck. If you don't save money as soon as your paycheck comes in, it'll be gone by the end of the month. No matter hwo much you make.

However, when you've come to the point of finding someone you love and want to spend the rest of your life with, living the frugal student life isn't going to cut it. You'll want to move to a bigger place, have kids (trust me, they're expensive!), need a bigger car, etcetera. For us, this was a conscious choice. We choose to spend money on our house, our kids, holidays, hobbies. We do save quite a lot, but I think there is a nice middle ground between spending next to nothing and living from paycheck to paycheck.

I go one better than this: I have my monthly salary paid directly into my savings account, then I "pay" myself weekly into a current account the amount of money I actually live off. Your savings can accrue surprisingly fast like this.

I'm liking that idea. Anything that's not spent builds up nicely in the savings account. It's normal to save a set amount each month and whatever is left you just leave sitting in your current account. But that turns it on it's head, leaving any surplus in the savings account. And paying yourself a budget every week helps you manage the money.

Nice! How does that work, though? Do you set budgets for things like food, rent/mortgage, insurances? How do you avoid overspending?

Bingo. I lived a similar situation (minus the post-education debt - yay Canada!)

My lifestyle today isn't much different than what it was when I was a student other than the addition of a mortgage I can easily afford.

I'm happy. I travel. I live. I just don't show off, nor do I get things for the sake of having them. By surrounding yourself with family and good friends, you can find happiness in so many other things than the material.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, when I spend to live I won't spend on things, but I will on experience. I'll happily forgo the latest iGadget and a car that matches my socio-economic status and opt for an experience that will enrich my life in some way.

There seems to be a lot of chat about nothing in these comments...Let me put it simply for everyone: "The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things."

That is the core message and there is a lot of truth behind it...

I also practically live as I did when I was a student. The main difference is I have a mobile phone a Spotify subscription. Living like this is easy, convincing your gf to isn't...

Someone gave me this financial advice once: "Keep your lifestyle 3 to 5 years behind your growing income."

I followed it and have had a similar experience. Since my first job, I went and got an MBA, paid off the student loan, bought a house and at 31, I still have enough savings to last me 3-4 years at my family's current lifestyle.

Frugality is powerful.

"bought" a house or taken a loan?

Bought. I didn't need a loan.

Well you're a creator and being in the hamster wheel of having a job just doesn't logically make sense to you.

You seek freedom to create thing with nothing except from your own neurons.

That's why you'll be a millionaire very soon, but you won't buy things from it, you'll just keep hacking. A true entrepreneur. :)

What, hoarding profits is the right thing to do?

If everyone acted like that there wouldn't be an economy.

Once you made your first million, you become an Angel investor of course, hacking the startup ecosysstem. :)

But you don't spend on cars or shit like that's just baggage. For every new item you own, you have to think of it, you have to worry about insurance, maintenance, cleaning cringe

That's why you buy a car; to put the baggage in the trunk.

Also, dead bodies.

The removal of all responsibility from my life would leave me dissatisfied. For me a rich life involves interconnectedness with other people - families, kids, friends, colleagues. That interconnectedness gives rise to responsibility. And that's the way I like it.

"You can enjoy your life right now. You just need to spend less money on shit that you don’t need."

But it's the shit I don't need that ads to the enjoyment of my life.

In the short run, but for every dollar you spend, you give a bit more of your own freedom away.

That's an entirely reasonable trade-off. Freedom may be the destination but there's no reason that the journey has to suck.

It's funny how many people are still offended by others discovering entrepreneurship. even on hackernews. Anybody an idea why?

Because most of the people in the startup community are uninspired wannabe dreamers filled with shallow ambitions of the social acceptance they know, deep down, they don't particularly deserve of their own personal merit. It's our club and you're not cool enough.

That's what I'm thinking, anyway.

This was surprisingly uninspiring.

Go take speed.

so... how does he work?

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