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Life Lessons

Hamster Wheel

The world is going to hell. The United States is going to hell. The government is going to raise our taxes, take away medicare, and push out the retirement age.

Here’s my advice for how to get off the hamster wheel sooner and enjoy your life more.

Please leave a comment if you have anything else you’d like to add.

  1. Start saving early. Compound interest in your best friend.
  2. Don’t live beyond your means. There’s always a less expensive way to have as much fun and save money.
  3. Don’t live in fear of the next layoff. Be your own boss.
  4. Become so extraordinary at what you do that you never have to look for a job for more than 2 weeks.
  5. Diversify your income streams. A lot of small transactions are better than one big score.
  6. Don’t rent.
  7. Don’t work in a startup if you need a reliable income.
  8. Don’t live with someone who’s in graduate school.
  9. If what you do doesn’t make you happy, do something else. Being miserable isn’t worth it, even if it pays more.
  10. Live today and work later. If you wait too long you to “retire,” you won’t be physically or cognitively fit to do what you want to do when you finally have the time.
  11. Don’t watch TV. It’s a complete waste of time. Play outside.
  12. Eat more vegetables and fruit.
  13. Get rid of everything you don’t use at least once every six months. Storing or hoarding stuff reduces the size of your nest egg and accrued interest. Don’t buy it until you need it.
  14. Shop around for the best deal.
  15. Walk or bike, don’t drive.
  16. Create a budget.
  17. Haggle for the things you need. If you have a little extra time, you can have more negotiating power than you realize.
  18. Avoid paying for things you can barter for. If you have a little extra time, you can often pay for a product or service by providing a service in exchange.
  19. Stop buying people presents or giving them gift cards. Instead send them a card. They’ll understand.
  20. Buy slightly used stuff.
  21. Make the stuff you need.
  22. Don’t eat out or eat out a lot less.
  23. Surround yourself with other people.
  24. Learn to swim.
  25. Be active. You’ll live longer and be healthier.
  26. Share your knowledge freely.
  27. Nurture other people.
  28. Don’t gossip about other people.
  29. Be charitable.
  30. Turn down your thermostat.
  31. Don’t heat the whole house when you only sit in one room at a time.
  32. Eat dinner together every night.
  33. Learn to listen.
  34. Brew your own beer.
  35. Don’t let your employer make you do something that you object to morally because you are afraid of displeasing them.
  36. Speak out about injustice.
  37. Do not use violence to settle disputes.
  38. Do not steal.
  39. Let go of the things you cannot change.
  40. Pick your battles.
  41. Share your feelings.
  42. Speak for those who cannot speak.
  43. Resolve your differences with your parents while they are still alive.
  44. Wear your winter hiking clothes inside your house in winter.
  45. Learn how to pitch a tarp.
  46. Learn some good knots for pitching a tarp.
  47. Use your turn signals.
  48. Stop for pedestrians.
  49. Brake for moose. It could save your life.
  50. Carry a lighter backpack.


  1. 51. Come up with 50 more things to personally add to this list. Positivity dispels both apathy and despair.

  2. Funny little story about despair. When I had a job job, I used to buy instant lottery tickets at the supermarket every week. Since quitting my job job and becoming my own boss, I've stopped buying those tickets. I have much less despair. Almost none, in fact.

  3. Because of seeing my Mom and Dad as a living (negative)fulfillment of #10 I long to do #3…so I can do #10….I could go on…

  4. A grand list. I have a similar one taped above my desk. It starts with "The things you own end up owning you."…

  5. After writing this I went back and looked at the eight-fold path. Interesting overlap. Dead on about stuff. Makes it hard to move too.

  6. Philip great list. So what do you do that you've become your own boss? It's something I've been dreaming about for years, unfortunately the debt load will not allow me to quit my current cube job.

  7. Ah well, I've turned Pro as an outdoor blogger and educator. I also saved for a long time and have some cushion to fall back on until my new vocation becomes self supporting. I should probably add "stay out of debt" to my list.

  8. Great list, I'm all for it! Been travelling for the last 2 years. People ask how do I do it? I don't spend my money on stupid stuff! It's a lot easier than people think, just have to have the guts to go for it. Life right NOW is the gift!

  9. You are right there, Brian. I realize that not everyone can do it, but if you have the option, it is a great joy, regardless if your parents think it's a bad, bad idea. They were actually the first to come around when they saw that I could do it and that I was much much happier.

  10. Ha! My parents have not come around to it at all.

  11. Bruce aka Old Man of

    Christ said to me , "walk with me and you will want for nothing." This is good, sound advice and can lead to many of the things you list.

  12. 1. Live!
    2. If an advice conflicts with #1, don't follow it.

    There's a bunch of things there that I don't agree with. I might regret it later, or it might because of differencies between our homecountries and point of views… But anyway, remember live. It's important.

  13. Brian – actually, my parents never supported any of my major life decisions when I made them but they eventually came around.

  14. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

    Especially a borrower.

    It's just senseless to spend all that money on interest.

  15. Get yourself out of debt! Never charge more on a credit card than you can pay the next billing date. Otherwise the exorbitant interest rate will kill you.

    Be careful about relying on tax-deferred savings (IRA, 401(k), etc.). When it comes time to cash them in, you'll be paying full tax, possibly at a higher rate. Plus the more taxable income you have after retirement, the more income tax you'll have to pay on your Social Security (something nobody ever mentioned in all those "preparing for retirement" classes I took). If you want to take out a big chunk to pay off your house or travel or buy a car, you may be paying tax on 80% of your Social Security payment. Have at least half your savings in after-tax investments. The Roth IRA is great if they don't do away with it! With just plain savings, you don't have to wait until a certain age to access them without penalty.

  16. Bruce aka Old Man of

    David, I am not on facebook…

  17. new old backpckr

    What a great list Philip! Here are a few more:

    1. Laugh. Look for the humor in most situations (it is there and you will find it and you will feel so much better!)

    2. Find your people. This is worth every ounce of effort you make.

    3. Tend to your human, face-to-face relationships. Minimize screen time.

    4. Sing even if you can’t carry a tune.

    5. Write!

    6. Read. Join a library and support it. Don’t buy a book unless you can’t live without it.

    7. Make stuff. Free yourself from consumer mind. Get your inventor juices flowing and make things. It is SO MUCH FUN!!

    8. Grow things. This is something I worry about. As a culture we have “forgotten” how to grow things.

    9. Compost. Get some red wigglers and make the best compost in the world. Even if you don’t have all that much to feed them. Get your neighbors involved and stop buying dirt wrapped in plastic and artificial fertilizers. Watch live soil in the making.

    10. Play Bananagrams, Scrabble, Quiddler, Wimp-out, cards with another human-being and minimize solitary computer games.

    11. Write lists like this!

  18. Fantastic additions! – I think I have to expand my list.

  19. Don't let anyone else tell you how to live your life.

  20. 1. Solvitur ambulando- "It is solved by walking"

  21. Great list, very thorough I cannot think of anything missing.

    I agree that humor and laughing is necessary in life!

    Thanks for posting!


  22. Look out for people less fortunate than you. Do them a little good along the way. Be subtle, without forcing your own beliefs / religion on them. You will be rewarded, maybe more tan you might think.

  23. Go to church, it's good for you. Remember, seven days without the Son makes one weak.

  24. Here's one that I often have to remember:

    Don't take yourself so seriously

  25. Excellent list, as well as comments from newoldbackpackr and your own about the Eight-Fold Path. Only one big quibble — about renting. All most everyone I know in the CA-NV-AZ area who bought their homes are upside down and severely trapped in a system of paying into mortgages without creating any equity. So instead of making a financial decision that keeps on giving, that decision to buy instead of rent could be the one act in their lives that keeps on taking for many years to come.

  26. Haven't seen this one yet – "Don't play the stock market. It is simply legalized gambling"

  27. BRTWalker – Didn't you mean to say that seven days without the Son makes one *week.*

    Couldn't resist!

  28. N. Print this list and do something about the things in it.

  29. #6. Don’t rent. I would add “& dont buy a single family home”. Buy a multi-family home and let the other units pay your mortgage. Take some home repair classes so you dont have to pay big carpentry, electrical and plumbing bills.

  30. I LOVE this post Phillip. It was complete
    freedom when I sold everything I owned. i wake up in the morning excited. Of course I would have liked to have been younger but thankful I have released the ball and

  31. GREAT ADVICE on #35. Don’t let your employer make you do something that you object to morally because you are afraid of displeasing them.

    2 years ago, I worked for a big bank, let’s pretend it’s called “Willis Forget Bank” the Director, VP, and CIO pressured all the managers to maintain two separate accounting “books” I’m a paranoid guy, so I asked a couple of professional auditor friends, they confirmed that the request of the bosses to keep two sets of books is fraud, and would get me in legal trouble if/when the scam gets exposed.

    I took another job that paid more with another dysfunctional company, but it was legal.

  32. Ironic experience on #36 Speak out about injustice.
    A wimpy lady on my team was getting constantly bullied by the boss’ favorite employee. She was an easy target and never stood up for herself. New year’s resolution was that I was going to confront the office bully EVERY TIME he picked on her, so he stopped bothering her, and she got promoted. The irony is that within 2 months, she became the new office bully, drunk with power, and she started being abusive to the 10 people on the team, including me. WOW. what a transformation from a coward to a tyrant. Lesson learned for me, it’s not always “bad guys vs good guys” sometimes it’s “current bad guys vs future bad guys”

  33. Great list. Another one I find helpful is to wait 3 -6 months before making a significant purchase. More often than not the need or want wanes or often something just falls in your lap!

  34. Marcella (Marcy) Rousseau

    #33 Learn to listen. it’s my favorite one and not always easy to do.

    51. learn to sew
    52. shop at Goodwill
    53. volunteer at a food bank
    54. get a library card
    55. learn to cut your hair
    56. borrow books/DVD’s on how to cut hair from the library
    57. borrow books/DVD’s on plumbing, electrical stuff, cooking, baking, insomnia, painting, etc. if they don’t have it, ask them to get it for you.
    58. don’t send a card, they’re too expensive! Write a letter instead.
    59. Keep a journal
    60. unplug everything after you’re finished using it. Plugged in, it still drains electricity even when you’re not using it. So unplug!

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