Suppose you are dissatisfied with your life, let’s say the feeling of consumerism is getting you down, is completely “disconnecting from the grid” the most rational response? Swinging from one extreme to another is a bad way to live your life. To simplify your life, you don’t have to oversimplify the issues at play.
Instead of following the latest fads, or running from the latest fears, here are 10 tips to help you live on the grid.
1. Understand credit, don't fear it - Credit can smooth the bumps on the road of life, but it’s a tool that must be handled carefully. Don’t let your card balances get over 50% of your credit limit. To build credit, open credit card accounts and then keep them. When you are getting started, don’t worry about paying it off every month, but always pay more than the minimum. Never be late with payments. Make a plan to pay off balances in the short term.
A car loan will pave the way to you securing a home loan. The credit issue is hard, because there is a lot of hogwash out there, some of which may even sound convincing. No, our credit system is not a “house of cards” ready to collapse. Such conspiracy theories are the result of fear, enabled by ignorance.
2. Save and invest - Index funds are the way to do it. Make your index fund portfolio diverse: Get indexes in real-estate (REIT funds), bonds, and mostly securities (i.e. stocks-- small cap, mid cap, large cap; domestic, international, developing markets). The best company for it is Vanguard.
Try a Vanguard IRA (if your work doesn’t have 401k or 403b) and max out your contributions each year. To hedge your bets, have both Roth and Traditional accounts. The easiest fund to get is Vanguard’s Target Retirement Funds, which diversifies for you.
3. Think Win-Win - Generally, no all-powerful group is conspiring to get you. Participating in economic activity is usually a win-win scenario. Just because some banks are getting money doesn’t mean that you are losing. That said, there are some pretty bad products (financial products, services, or goods) out there that should be avoided.
4. Buy only the soft-bristled toothbrushes - A hard bristled brush will wear away your gum line. There is absolutely no medical reason for 66% of the brushes for sale (medium and hard) to exist. This is actually quite a general lesson: As a consumer, you need to know that some products just shouldn’t be purchased.
5. Think global - Think win-win on a global scale. Jobs are not zero sum (e.g. “moving overseas”) and you should expand your circle of interest to the whole globe. The earth is your community! Welcome home!
6. Eat global - There is some misinformation about the environmental harm of shipping food long distances: growing food locally can cause more stress to the environment for foods that can be grown easier elsewhere. In terms of carbon, the most is emitted when you drive to the store, not when it gets shipped rather efficiently with boats and trains. There are so many great fruits, vegetables and beans (coffee and chocolate, anyone?) that to reject them is to reject some of the greatest pleasures of life.
7. Enjoy food without arbitrary rules - Such misinformation has been spread by the “locovore” and “slow foods” movement, which seem to be nothing more than a PR-friendly version of anti-globalization. Michael Pollan introduced this absurd rule to not eat “anything with more than five ingredients.” Darn, there goes my Rudi’s organic seven grain bread, with 4 grams of protein per slice, 8% RDA of iron, and zero cholesterol. Why? Because seven is bigger than five! Instead of arbitrary rules, choose logic.
8. Drive the speed limit - Not only will you increase your gas mileage (noticeably!), you’ll also avoid those tickets. Whenever I drive by a speed trap I don’t panic, I smile.
9. Start a happiness project.
10. Take charge of your health and find second opinions - Toothbrush issues aside, there is so much we don’t know right now about health. For prevention, it helps to practice common sense.
But what about when you get sick? Seek medical advice, and if it’s something acute, go to the emergency room or call 911 without delay. But what about non-acute problems? It’s not up to any doctor to solve it for you. A doctor cannot make you healthy, only you can. If your chronic rhinitis can’t be resolved by a general practitioner, go see a specialist (like an allergist, or an ear-nose-throat doctor). Unfortunately, such doctors might not have seen a case just like yours before. They might have seen the symptom, but from a different cause. They might recommend prescriptions, but drugs, even though massively manufactured, are still mysterious. MDs are just stabbing in the dark sometimes, but they can sure sound authoritative while doing so. Some doctors are quacks, some doctors are lazy, and when that is the case, you need to find other doctors instead.
So, what about that case the MDs can’t solve? Try non-MDs. Acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments have been shown to be beneficial in a variety of non-acute medical situations. When you see an acupuncturist or a chiropractor, you might actually get to talk to someone who is concerned about your health. You can go deep into your medical history, and you might see some patterns emerging. They might have even seen your case before, cause and symptom, and know how to effectively treat the cause. But, again, they aren’t treating it, you are. Read up about all of your conditions, and try any of the low-risk solutions first. For some, the road to health involves surgery and powerful prescriptions. For others, it just means finding a bottle to squirt saline water.