The The Money Diaries series at Wealthsimple continues to offer periodic interviews with an interesting mix of people sharing about their financial lives. I’d never heard of Carson Mell, but I appreciated how he cared most about doing what he wanted with his time as a young adult, and how he lived cheaply in order to invest in himself. (His most well-known project is probably Silicon Valley on HBO.)

The power on knowing the cost of your minimum viable lifestyle. My advice to a young ambitious person would be to figure out exactly how little you can live on. Mell’s monthly expenses were on the order of $1,150 a month:

[…] after a few months, I’d saved up some money and I made a decision: I’d quit my job and live as simple and frugal a lifestyle as I could, so that I could invest my time and energy in my own work. I had my own small apartment and paid $700 a month for it. I found that beyond rent, I could get by on 15 bucks a day. A nearby taco place had a $2.75 special for huevos rancheros — I ate there every single day. While I prided myself on throwing myself into my art instead of filling my days working mundane jobs, I learned quickly that meant becoming a cheap bastard.

Once you establish at level at which “I know I can survive on $XXX”, that can create a certain type of self-confidence. For example, I once knew that having $20,000 meant that I could cover my expenses for a year, and thus once I amassed that amount, I could take all the risks with my TIME that I wanted for a year. I could start a new business, learn a new trade, change the direction of my life.

Maybe cheap eats is key too? Beside my apartment, there was a restaurant that sold two eggs any way, hash browns, and toast for $1.99. I lived in the same rundown apartment and ate those over-easy eggs when I made under $20,000 a year, and when I made over $60,000 a year.

I decided that the thing to do was to keep investing in myself — living simply, being a cheap bastard, and putting my time and effort into my work.

Finding the motivation. Some people equate spending thoughtfully with being caring a lot about money (bad). However, it can really extend from caring a lot about how you spend your limited time on Earth (good).

As for myself, I no longer have the headache of hewing to a budget of 15 bucks a day. These days, I don’t mind paying to park in a parking structure, or leaving my car at the valet if it looks like finding a free space will be a pain in the butt. Anything that saves you time is worth spending money on, because your time is an invaluable resource. But I’m extremely mindful of where I spend my money. Here’s the thing: In TV, you don’t know when the next job will come. And I never want to have to take a job just to cover the cost of an upgraded lifestyle. I want to continue to have the chance to invest in myself — my own ideas, my own projects.

I spend money very thoughtfully, and because I save money, I can be selective about what jobs I take or don’t take, and where I put my time and energy.

I forget the exact quote, but to paraphrase – Once you find your “why”, the “how” becomes so much easier.

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Live Cheaply and Invest In Yourself from My Money Blog.


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