Category Archives: Cost of Living

Technology and living the simple life

Technology and the simple life.  No matter how I put those words together in a sentence it just doesn’t sound right.  Obviously I employed technology to prepare this blog post, to take the photograph, to distribute it across the internet and project it onto the screen of readers everywhere.  My entire professional career to date had been working for a technology company, and being a member of Gen Y, I grew up with computers and gadgets and toys with lots of flashy lights.   I should just naturally embrace technology without question, right?  – But if I’m to properly adopt the simple life, shouldn’t I be divorcing myself of this high tech world and adopting a more low tech existence?

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This is a question that has been a focus for me over the last week.  In my job I’d been provided with a laptop loaded with all the software I needed to get my job done, a mobile phone with a plan that was covered by my employer and the ability to use both for an appropriate level of personal use.   I didn’t have any choice in the matter, it was just a tool you use to get work done, in much the same way a builder uses a hammer. So now that I need to hand back my two major pieces of technology on my way out the door, do I need to replace them? Really?

This is probably a question that everyone will answer differently.  Sure, my life won’t suddenly come to an end if I don’t replace my mobile phone and computer.  But everyone has different levels of appreciation towards how such things add value to their lives.

I found some words that were inline with my own personal thoughts in the text of this paragraph, taken from the Simplicity Collective website:

It should be noted that voluntary simplicity does not, however, mean living in poverty, becoming an ascetic monk, or indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not involve regressing to a primitive state or becoming a self-righteous puritan. And it is not some escapist fad reserved for saints, hippies, or eccentric outsiders. Rather, advocates of simplicity suggest that by examining afresh our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, ‘the simple life’ of voluntary simplicity is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much consumption is truly ‘enough.
Source: http://simplicitycollective.com/start-here/what-is-voluntary-simplicity-2

So what did I do?  – Well, I replaced them, but I did it my way…

I bought a low-cost, unlocked phone outright, and when it comes to subscribing to a mobile provider, I’m going for pre-paid, month-to-month and low cost.  I won’t receive any unsolicited offers to renew a 24 month contract and retire a perfectly good handset for a new one.  If a cheaper pre-paid offer surfaces with another provider, I can switch without feeling trapped.  If I ever decided to opt out completely I can, without being threatened with termination fees.  If the phone is to ever become lost or damaged, I don’t need to consider pricey insurance options or be concerned with hefty replacement costs – it wasn’t too expensive in the first place.

In terms of a computer, I claimed a second hand desktop for free, a few years old, that was “broken” and came with the Operating System and MS Office on CDs.  I’m pretty good at fixing computers, so after a bit of diagnosis and a new power supply and hard drive, it’s back up and running in all it’s former glory and should do me well for a few years more.

The nature of technology is that it is so quickly outdated (as much for fashionable reasons than practical reasons) and discarded like yesterdays newspaper.  Technology also doesn’t have a good reputation for being kind to the environment in terms of manufacture and disposal.   I think the best I can do to honour the impact it causes as part of it’s overall life-cycle is look after it to drive the most out of it, repair it where I can, and ensure it is recycled at the end of it’s functional life.   

And that, is doing technology in my own simple way.

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Tracking the cost of living

Part of the deal in taking a year off work to take care of our newborn daughter, is accepting a reduced level of income.   I’m fortunate in that my employer will pay me parental leave, as I’m the nominated primary carer, and combined with long service leave, a bit of annual leave and some government benefits, I’m actually able to receive some sort of regular income (albeit reduced) for nearly the entire 12 months.

I’m very thankful to be in such a position, but I’m not taking it for granted.  Actually, I feel a heightened responsibility towards reducing costs, waste and becoming more efficient.

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I thought we was doing pretty well for ourselves, but then a reader – Toby – put me onto a guy called Mr Money Mustache a few months ago.  His claim is that if you live a middle class existence your current lifestyle is “an exploding volcano of wastefulness”, and by changing your attitudes to a few things you can easily save 50%, or more of your income.    I’ve really enjoyed his no-nonsense perspective on finances and he’s inspired me to save even more.

Rhonda over at the Down to Earth blog recently wrote a series on reducing debt and gaining control of your finances.  I’ve followed through on her suggestion to track all spending via the “Track My Spend” app provided by the Australian Government.  I’ve always been pretty good at preparing a budget, but the next step of tracking actual expenses and performing a “true up” against the plan has never really happened.   It will be a month tomorrow since I started plugging in all our spending, so I’m looking forward to going over the numbers – I think the data will yield a few surprises.

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