The gift of subtraction

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Whenever we’re faced with a challenge that must be overcome or an opportunity to take advantage of something cool, our instincts kick in telling us…what can we do?  Is there an app we can download or a website we can look at real quick?.  Can we ask Alexa or Siri ?  Should we reach out to such and such to help us think this through?  Let’s add it to the to-do list on the shared drive so that we can revisit this thought later.

We’re “get it done” kind of people so our natural instinct is to immediately jump into action.  This is all fine if it helps to accomplish things we’ve set out to do.  But we’ve learned that an even better way of getting things done is by having less and having less to do. Simple concept, but not an easy one.

So many people [us included] treat their overwhelm with addition. We habitually add things to our lives like products, services, features, subscriptions, calendars, houses, cars, lists, bells, whistles, phones, apps and responsibilities INSTEAD of simply saying…nah.

This revelation really sunk in years ago as we visited the Grand Canyon. It earned it’s right as a “Wonder of the World” based on the views alone, but after we listened to how it was created with no human intervention, we just stood there in awe of it’s scale.

There’s something about standing still over a cliff in complete silence that makes you realize what really matters [not falling], how little you really need to be happy [granola and water to be exact] and how small we all are in the Grand scheme of things.  Pun intended.

Less is more PNG
Mr and Mrs. rich & REGULAR somewhere over the Grand Canyon, AZ in 2013

The same is true with our money.  As odd as it may sound, one of the key reasons we’ve been able to save as much as we have, increase our net worth by $95K during the first 6 months of 2018, stay on pace to achieve financial independence despite Mr. r&R quitting his job,  and buying a new house is because we’ve learned to appreciate the gift of subtraction.  Quite simply…

we have more by having less Click To Tweet

We choose those words carefully because, yes, we certainly want and desire more in some areas, just not in all.  That concept is at the core of being “rich & REGULAR” because we encourage each other to spend on the things that really matter to us, to ignore the things that don’t and to stay REGULAR along the way.

While we understand the concepts of frugality and minimalism, we just don’t believe those strategies will meet our family’s needs over time.  Eventually, we would grow weary of the monotony and the deprivation would likely lead to a destructive relapse.

Instead, we chose a path where we maintain a long-term investment outlook making daily trade-offs between things we could enjoy immediately and things we could enjoy for years to come. This way, whenever we got a pay raise, promotion, paid off a debt that free’d up cash or tripped and stumbled into a $hit ton of money, we resist the temptation of upgrading everything along the way in exchange for the ultimate prize—the option to retire early.

For example, we posted the picture below a few weeks ago on our Instagram account and received some really inspiring feedback and comments.  The pic is of the parking spot outside our old home and is one of many examples of our tradeoffs.  Sure,  we could’ve upgraded our home and parked our cars in a shiny new garage a long time ago but we made the decision to live small for the first 3 years of our marriage and so far that decision [and many more] has proven to pay off remarkably.

IG parking lot

Did it suck on hot days?  Yes.  Does it suck even more on cold and rainy days carrying a baby?  Absolutely.  But the long-term benefit of turning our old primary residence into a debt-free rental was worth it to us.

The gift of subtraction is one that keeps giving Click To Tweet

That’s just one example though.  Below is a list of other “subtractions” and things we’ve, delayed or traded-off over the years.

Home

  • We grind coffee beans and brew our coffee almost every morning.  Rarely will you catch us in a Starbucks unless we have a gift card
  •  We still don’t have cable.  We opt for Netflix, Amazon Prime TV and Hulu with no commercials. We also get HBO [through Hulu].  If you’re on the fence with cutting the cord well…you shouldn’t be.

Give Hulu a try courtesy of r&R: https://richandregular.com/randrHulu

  • We JUST took advantage of a great offer for AT&T Fiber last week.  For years, we opted for their high speed DSL service and it worked fine but decided to upgrade. So far, so good.
  • Mr. r&R cooks 80% of Baby r&Rs food.  He also cooks most of the meals we eat at home including lunches that can be re-heated and brought to work easily.  Most of Baby r&Rs food is the same as what we eat, just cut differently, seasoned lighter and cut into smaller pieces.  This makes our lives easier and our baby healthier.  Check our Instagram highlights for an example of this.
  • We buy store-brand products often but not exclusively.  Notably pantry products and dry goods like cereal, paper, plastics, nuts, beans etc.
  • We lean heavily towards a plant-based diet for health reasons but still enjoy meats and seafood regularly.  Fruits, vegetables and grains are also less expensive than meats and seafood.
  • Our old home’s kitchen was completely done by IKEA.  Our new home’s closet system and a few other pieces are also done by IKEA.

Cars:

  • Mr. r&R drives a Honda Accord with just over 160K miles.  The rear seat ceiling fabric was flopping so he broke out the gorilla glue and “fixed” it.  It looks turrible.
  • Mrs. r&R drives a Lexus 250 with over 150,000 miles.  Mr. r&R can’t sit in the front without his knees being smooshed against the glovebox and baby r&R has to be cradled to be placed in the backseat just to avoid being decapitated upon entry. It’s “cozy” to say the least.

Credit Cards:

  • We put the vast majority of our spending on one joint credit card to optimize the cash back value and use the points to pay for most of Baby r&Rs stuff.  It’s paid in full every month.  EV-ERY MON-TH

Personal:

  • Mrs. r&R does her hair mostly on her own instead of going to a salon.  Mr. r&R gets a haircut every 3-4 weeks…maybe
  •  Mrs. r&R uses a capsule wardrobe.  This enables her to cost-effectively mix up her styles and reduce decision making in the mornings
  • Mr. r&R only buys his clothes from a handful of stores and typically uses a coupon for at least 25% – 50% off.  Most of his clothes fits a general color scheme (blue) so it coordinates seamlessly
  • We’ve spent less than $100 on toys and books for our son in his first year.  Everything else was a gift from friends or family.  Instead, we opt to go to playgrounds and parks where he obsesses over pinestraw, sticks and car-watching.

Some of these are huge cost savings, some are small cost savings and others are time-savers.  The point is, together they are a set of deliberate choices that represent the subtraction of stuff we don’t value today.  This frees up capacity and money which enables us to have a surplus of the things we do value—time.

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5 comments

  1. Such a beautiful meditation for today. So much struggle to deal with scarcity when abundance is before us. Competition to fill an imagined void inside can sometimes be filled by really looking into the void!

  2. Great article! I was interested in knowing if you all do an allowance for yourselves individually?

    My wife and I use Simple for banking. We put all of the normal income and expenses into our shared account, then we have an allowance each month that goes to our individual accounts (generally $150 ea/month). I know it sounds like a lot… and it is, but this is what helped to get my wife on board. Most of my money goes back into the blog in some way. 🙂

    Keep up the awesome content!

    • Hey! Thanks for the comment.
      Yes, we have an allowance of sorts and its roughly the same as yours. We were less concerned about it being evenly split [since we have different wants and needs] and more concerned with whether or not we could afford to meet those wants/needs as a whole and still accomplish our goals. Also like you, we’re well aware of how much it costs to keep this r&R puppy running and hoping to recoup those costs soon.
      Thanks again and best of luck to you

      • Yep I totally understand. The even split was not a huge concern except for the fact that the blog is my passion project until it makes money.

        So EVERYTHING for it comes from my allowance until I have a business. I wanted it that way though, keeps me accountable.

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