Why We Love Our Minimalist Lifestyle

Last updated on January 11th, 2015

minimalist lifestyle

If you had asked me about living a simple, frugal-centric lifestyle on the day of our wedding, I may have laughed a little bit.

But sitting on the tail end of our first year of marriage, I feel richer than ever.

During our article, Expenses Exposed, we talked a little bit about our lifestyle and why we’re completely content living on $10,000 per year.

$10,000 doesn’t sound like much, but we love our lifestyle and don’t plan to succumb to lifestyle inflation any time soon. We’re happy to sit in our little mobile home, drinking organic coffee we got on sale, and taking our green ’96 Saturn around town to scour for deals.

Along with a fair portion of price matched meals and thrift store finds, our minimalist lifestyle is full of contentedness. I’ve written about contentedness before, but it’s such a good lesson, that I wanted to share it with you again today in the form of a story.

My favorite story about contentedness hangs on the wall at Jimmy John’s, and it’s titled, How Much is Enough?

How Much is Enough?

“An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The Take-Away

I would have loved to see the look on the fisherman’s face. Most likely he was dumbfounded and walked away shaking his head and thinking the well-educated man had no sense at all. I mean, in what world does it make sense to be consumed with work for 20 years in an attempt to make tons of money, only to return to the previous simplistic lifestyle that brings satisfaction and a sense of peace?

What the banker failed to understand is that the fisherman was already living a fulfilling life. He didn’t need a lifestyle upgrade, or a house upgrade, or a bigger car, or more fish on the line. He was perfectly content in his current situation. What a beautiful thing.

The key line of this story is when the fisherman said, “I have a full and busy life, senor.” 

I hope you are able to confidently say, with a heart overflowing with contentedness, that you have a full and busy life. Not one that is focused on working 16 hour days to buy a bunch of crap that you don’t need.

If you would, please take some time to share with us how much you love your lifestyle or why you think we’re nuts. Either way, we’d love to hear from you.

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  2. Wow! This was really powerful. I never heard this story before. Thanks for sharing. I’m new to your blog and look forward to learning more about your home. We’re trying to build a tiny home and a manufactured/mobile is starting to seem like the most affordable option!

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  5. I love the Mexican Fisherman story, it always reminds of what is really important. I love your lifestyle, so much that we have strongly considered moving into a tiny house to reduce our expenses so that we can spend less than you 🙂

    • Reply

      Haha! That would be awesome. If you can find more ways to cut spending, let us know.

  6. Reply

    I’ve heard that quote before, but I didn’t know the story behind it. Thank you for sharing it – it really does have a powerful message. From a very young age, people think (or maybe are taught?) to believe that you need to be a millionaire to be happy and that you need to work your butt off when you’re young so that you can enjoy life when you retire. But there’s no reason you can’t find that balance that let’s you save for the future AND enjoy life now.

  7. Reply

    Congrats on making it work on $10,000. That is a great accomplishment. I think most people could get by on much less and learn to be happy. We all succcumb to the need for this or that, when so many of those needs are made up in our own minds. I found this quote that really speaks to our general need to re-prioritize “Buy experiences, not things”

    • Reply

      Thank you! And you’re right. Most people would be happier with less things. The hard part is convincing them of that.

  8. Reply

    I don’t think you’re nuts at all! In fact, I wish we’d started living with less a LOT sooner. While only each couple can decide what they want out of life, I can say that we’ve never been happier. We make less than we would have if we’d kept working our 60 hour work weeks, but we would be at least 40 pounds heavier and probably quite miserable.

    I am slightly green with envy that you and Jacob figured it out so young. 😉 Just kidding – I think it’s great and that you should scream it from the rooftops!!!

    • Reply

      Tammy! So good to hear from you! I hope all is well with you and CJ. And thank you. 🙂 I’m so glad you guys got out of your situation when you did and you’re busy living the good life.

  9. Vanessa,

    I continue to follow you guys because your way of thinking is so addictive. I thank you for that! It is still so overwhelming to me that you are able to live such happy lives without getting trapped into a life of things that do not equal happiness anyway.

    The fisherman story really sums up so much of what true happiness and being content is all about. We work so hard all our lives chasing the dollar to one day realize it does not bring happiness in the end. The fisherman already has the life that the banker desires.

    In my opinion, being rich is a state of mind, not what you have in the bank or some type of status that you may hold.
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Reply

    I’ve heard that mexican fisher man story before, and its one of my favorites.

    You guys are so impressive….if only we could like on $10,000/year. We could have retired years ago!

    Sadly, I’m saddled right now with the big house, big mortgage, and 2 kids in day care. My day care bills are more than you guys spend in a year!

    Anyway, I look forward to keeping up with your blog so I can eventaully widdle my spending down to something more minimilsti.

    Would you mind sharing in a future post some ways to get my wife on board with your line of thinking???? That would be most helpful 🙂

    Long Term Brian

    • Reply

      Brian, you very well may get a post on how to get your spouse on board. coming soon!

  11. This story never fails to bring a smile to my face! I hope to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle – I’m tired of all my stuff! I’m sure I have more than enough to live.

    • Reply

      Ha! We think that all the time. We’re tired of so much stuff too. All it takes is to stop buying and start selling.

  12. Reply

    Very inspiring that you live on the least that you can! I think it is first so important to live within your means (which for many calls for a lifestyle reduction), but second to reduce your lifestyle as much as you can. So excited to follow your blog and thanks for sharing this story and yours!

  13. Reply

    Thanks for the morning laugh Vanessa. As a recovering MBA, I really enjoyed the story. It’s true. I am much happier without the stuff these days. I’m happy to see you have discovered this so young. I had to take a 15-year detour to get back to what I knew in my teens really mattered. Go figure.

    • Reply

      You know, 15 years is a while, but at least now you’ve got what really matters to you at the forefront of your mind! Better late than never, as they say. So glad to make you laugh!

  14. I think it’s awesome that you guys live on only $10k a year. We could never do that right now, but it’s mostly because we have huge student loan debt and right now we’re trying to maximize our income in order to throw as much as possible at the student loans! We dream about the day when our debt is gone and we feel like we can step back and earn less. Loved the story about the fisherman- what a wise man.

    • Reply

      The day your debt is gone is really a fantastic day! You’ll feel so much lighter. Keep up the hard work.

  15. Love this post, Vanessa. The fisherman story is great and I can only imagine what the fisherman was thinking. While I can’t pretend that $10k would work for me, I love that you and Jacob figured out what worked for you and live outrageously well on what seems like so little. I find so many people chase after things they think they need, only to discover later that they derive very little satisfaction for it. Whether you live a minimalist lifestyle or not – it’s important to know what YOU truly want, rather than continually chase after things people tell you need or should have.

    • MD
    • May 15, 2014

    Loved the story and post.

    • Brian
    • May 15, 2014

    I love how you can live of $10K* a year. You have found what makes you happy and that is great. For some people it make take them 20k a year for others they may feel it takes 100k a year. The trick is just finding out makes makes you happy and do it and you all have done just that!

    *I love this number and I also love how you are realistic with it and realize that part of why you can live on this amount is because you are both are still on your parents insurance


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