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Chapter 6: The American Dream - on a Shoestring

Updated: Oct 20, 2019

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez

Chapter 6: The American Dream - on a Shoestring

Notes by Roshan A. Loungani, CFP® CRPC®

Retirement Specialist

“I’m enoughing”

  • The wealth we enjoy today is the result of centuries of frugality.

The Pleasures of Frugality

  • Enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have use of.

  • Waste lies not in the number of possession but in the failure to enjoy them.

  • High joy to stuff ratio

  • We don’t need to own something to enjoy it, we merely need to enjoy it.

  • Learn to share – lawn mower, tool libraries

  • Leads to building a community

  • Transition from “more is better” to “enough is enough”

  • Other forms of wealth beyond money

  • Friendships, networks, and skills

Step 6: Valuing Your Life Energy – Minimizing Spending

  • Frugality is about enjoyment, not penny-pinching

  • One Sure Way to Save Money – Stop Trying to Impress Other People

  • Ten Sure Ways To Save Money

  1. Don’t Go Shopping Men tend to buy while drunk, women while bored or sad. Both genders when angry.

  2. Live Within Your Means - Buy only what you can prudently afford, avoid debt, always have something put away for a rainy day - Two sides to the coin of living beyond your means, the shiny side is that you can have everything you want right now, the tarnished side is that you will pay for it with your life (with interest).

  3. Take Care of What You Have Repair rather than replace

  4. Wear It Out

  5. Do It Yourself

  6. Anticipate Your Needs - Keep a list of things you anticipate needing in the coming year and search for deals. - This will minimize impulse buying.

  7. Research Value, Quality, Durability, Multiple Use and Price

  8. Buy It For Less - Comparison-shop - Bargain - Buy it Used

  9. Meet Your Needs Differently - Substitution isn’t about downgrading; it is about getting what you want for less. - Substitution isn’t limitation, it is liberation.

  10. Follow the Nine Steps of This Program Transformation not the tips that saves money.

Saving on the Basics

  • Managing your Debt and Your Finances - Avoid debt, pay cash for everything. When you have debt pay it off as quickly as possible.

  • Having a Place to Live - Less expensive place to live, housemate, smaller home, cohousing, - Less space means less utilities and maintenance.

  • Getting Around - If you have to own a car, get something that is reasonably reliable, fuel efficient and maintain it well. Keep it for as long as you can.

  • Taking Care of Your Body - The vest health insurance is a healthy diet, exercise, good rest and low stress. - Cost vary by hospital even for the same doctor, comparison shop. - Travel abroad for medical procedures

  • Sharing/Bartering

  • Eating - Meals at home versus going out. - Start a garden - Make a list and stick to it, track sales, use coupons, buy in bulk, - Eat what is in season - The most expensive items are meat, alcohol and coffee; look at your consumption here.

  • Staying Connected, Informed and Entertained - Get rid of landline, cord cutting,

  • Getting Away - Closer to home, staycation, camping - Travel hacking – using credit cards for miles, hotel poinets etc. - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - Eat where locals do, walk or use public transportation - Home Exchange sites - Volunteer vacations

  • Protecting What You Own - Insure only what you need to.

  • Raising Children - Average American family spends over $230,000 to raise a child to the age of 18. - Model frugal living for your children. - Hand made costumes at Halloween, make birthday cakes, clothing swaps and giveaways, date night swap.

  • Throwing Stuff Away

  • Gifting and Celebrating - Secret Santa

  • Partnering - Partner with others that will appreciate what you are doing.

Save Money, Save The Planet?

  • Money is a lien on the earth’s resources

Money Talk Questions

  • Whom are you trying to impress or please through what you have or how you spend?

  • How do you economize? On What? How do you feel about it?

  • Talk about one thing you own that you love. What do you love about it?

  • Take us shopping with you, describing where you are, how you feel, what you buy.

  • What is your gazingus pin?

  • What is the last item you actually wore out?


Robin, Vicki. Dominguez, Joe. Your Money or Your Life. New York: Penguin Books, 2018, pp 164-208

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