Do the Opposite #42 - Meet the Frugalwoods, How to Negotiate, A Millionaire is Made Ten Bucks at a Time

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Welcome to the 42nd edition of the DTO newsletter, where we explore the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything! Please accept my apologies for the obligatory nerdy joke :)

Meet the Frugalwoods!

This is a book I found somewhat by accident, but I am so happy I did! Elizabeth and her husband, Nate, have been living a frugal life in the city, and that allowed them to save a large percentage of their income and to buy a homestead in rural Vermont while still in their thirties. The book is a roller-coaster of emotions as we are reliving the experiences of the young couple from the time they've finished university, through bad and low-pay first jobs, to unfulfilling office jobs and excitement of hiking on the weekends, to having children and moving to a town of about 400 people.

Along the way they'd purchased and renovated a house in Cambridge which they now rent out, as well as had accumulated a sizable 'Stash of money (using MMM terminology :) Now they work because they enjoy it, not because they have to: Liz is running the Frugalwoods blog, and Nate is working part time as a software engineer. The book is amazing for multiple reasons: for the personal story which makes you feel like you are living with the Frugalwoods through all the challenges and triumphs; for the plethora of practical lessons in frugality; for the personal finance, ecology, anti-consumption and other important points Liz touches upon.

I am going to write about my Top 5 Books in 2019 in one of the next newsletters, and this one has a high chance of getting into that list. For the curious, check out the "2019 Books" highlight on my Instagram.


1) "The Practice of Using December for Retreat, Reflection & Letting Go" by Leo Babauta
Leo shares some wisdom with us as usual! December indeed should be the time where we wind down, and ALLOW ourselves to shift to a slower gear. I am definitely prone to over-plan the downtime, thinking that come holidays and vacation I will be able to catch up on everything I've been procrastinating or didn't have a chance to get to in the previous months. I have to consciously make small decisions to let go of these thoughts and plans, otherwise it's so easy to get overwhelmed (and I do). Leo is here to save the day and help us make December a calm month when we take some time to establish our priorities for the next year and to self-direct ourselves to a course more aligned with our values and dreams.

2) "How to Negotiate Anything – From People Who Have Done It" by Lindsay Tigar
This is another topic I am very interested in - negotiation. It combines two meta themes of DTO: embracing discomfort and improving your finances. Often, the benefit of negotiation is not monetary though: for example if you negotiate to work remotely for 2 days of the week, the benefit you get are: decreasing stress and increasing happiness, which we can bring under the "lifestyle" benefits.

What's important to remember is that if you decide to negotiate something, like a job offer or a reduction in monthly payments for your mobile service provider, and go through with it, then even if you "fail" go get what you wanted, you have already grown beyond your previous limits.

You can imagine all your possible actions as a circle around you. As you do more of the uncomfortable stuff, that circle is growing (in other words, your comfort zone). As it grows, you are "unlocking" more potential actions and possibilities that have been closed to you previously, because you would've been too uncomfortable to consider them.

3) "A Millionaire is Made Ten Bucks at a Time" by Mr. Money Mustache
This is a great little article from the MMM archives that shows how greatly our financial well-being is affected by small decisions we make every day. It definitely teaches us to respect the money, even in small denominations. If you remember - from "Your Money or Your Life": money is your "life energy", because you trade your time on this Earth for it. Thus, if you are learning to respect the little dollar, in reality, you are learning to respect your own time and effort.


1) "How These Penny-Pinchers Retired in Their 30s" | PBS NewsHour
You've been reading the recent DTO letters and you know that I've become a little obsessed with an idea of financial independence and early retirement. From the outside it definitely seems murky, weird and a little too intense subject.

This video, I think is a great way to quickly introduce yourself to these ideas and decide whether it's something you're interested in or not. I urge you to take the time to learn more about this as any financial decisions you are making, be it daily, monthly or one-time, are going to influence your future in a major way. The earlier you course correct (or calibrate your course further if you are doing well in this aspect of your life already), the easier it will be to plan for a bright financial future. It's like a snowball running down the hill. Once you set it off (with some solid financial habits), it will run down the hill on its own.

2) "How to Inspect a Used Car for Purchase" | ChrisFix
I gotta say - I know pretty much nothing about cars. We are, however, considering buying our first car next year, so I am trying to educate myself on certain practical topics, like "How to choose a solid used car" and this video was amazing in terms of how much useful information Chris has packed into it.

One thing every personal finance expert urges us to do is never to buy a new car and never to buy a car with credit (meaning you don't have the cash to buy a car so you resort to getting a loan on it and pay monthly payments.) All the experts I've read usually focus on different things and sometimes contradict each other, but all of them agree on this.

A car depreciates about 30-50% in the first couple of years. Don't be the person who takes the 'depreciation hit' just for the sake of driving a new car for a bit. Buy used, and then the resell value will still hold up nicely when you decide to sell the car and upgrade to a new one.

Tweet that resonated with me:

Bonus: this amazing thread on careers, employment and bosses. Worth a read!



"To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking."
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life"

"We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair when they come up and face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life"

"The first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. … The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader."
― Derek Sivers


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Keep doing the opposite,
Alex Kallaway