Financial Independence, Minimalism, and Gaming in the 2020’s.
It’s one of my rare Saturdays off. I’m waiting to see the film 1917. My wife isn’t a fan of war movies, so I’m on my own for this one. It’s a real treat to be given this leisure time. After a tiresome week home with my toddler, who’s experiencing his first cold, it’s nice to have a break. So here I go to the cinema close to home, in the chance I needed to be home quickly, as we are not fully on the mend yet.
The theater is in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Dallas, Highland Park. As I park my Subaru, I find I’m surrounded by BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, and other luxury vehicles. I also spy a Lamborghini a little further down. The storefronts are strewn with names like Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Leggiado, and plenty of other designer brands that I’m unfamiliar with. I simply know that I cannot afford them. This is doubly reinforced by the doormen I see standing as security by the front doors. Out of curiosity, when I’m home, I check out a few websites for these stores. On their online storefront, I see that Leggiado has “cotton sweaters for sunny days”, and they’re only $295 – $450. Cartier has fine jewelry that ranges from a sizable down payment on a car to around 20% of a down payment on a house. Yowza!
None of this really bothers me, but being here definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. This is definitely a world I have no experience in navigating, and I am content with leaving it that way. I could never justify spending $300 on a sweater; such a sum nearly feeds our family for an entire month. If you’ll pardon this long-winded introduction, I promise there’s a point. As I sit and people watch, I see all sorts of status symbols. Whether it be automobiles, clothing, handbags, and jewelry, people buy this stuff! There’s so much disposable income all around me. I have to consider the possibility that perhaps it’s not disposable income but voluntary consumer debt? These companies exist because people purchase their products.
Living My Values Into the 2020’s
During my brief visit to the shopping district in the Capitol from The Hunger Games, I’m provided a good reminder of why we’re pursuing Financial Independence. My wife and I are pleased with our values concerning money and how we choose to spend it. We strive to live into those values pursuant to our larger financial goals. What we value is spending time with our families, being healthy, and getting outside in nature as often as possible. A main aspect of this is avoiding unnecessary purchases that could delay us from achieving our retirement goals. We’ve realized most consumer purchases often don’t bring lasting happiness but a briefly satisfying shot of dopamine. Since we live away from our families for example, we tend to eat 99% of our meals at home, but save restaurant dining for when our families are here. After all, their visit is a special occasion and a few meals out helps us live our values and marks these moments with pleasant memories.
As far as simple living, I recall JL Collin’s mention of the famous parable of the monk and the minister, in his book Simple Path to Wealth:
‘“Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.
Years later they meet up again.
As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”
To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king!”’JL Collins: A Simple Path to Wealth.
I love this parable. I interpret it partly as being beholden to a system of consumption, based on maintaining one’s image. So, my resolution for this next
year decade is to be content with what I have, and to clearly distinguish my wants and needs. I’m not saying we have to subsist on rice and beans, but we’re also not going to go overboard. I don’t want to confuse my material wants as needs. I need clothing for warmth. I need healthy food and clean water to nourish my body. I need exercise to bring a sound body and mind. There’s probably a few other explicit needs that I’m not thinking of at the moment. But for the sake of simplicity, anything additional is a want, and not necessarily essential. Knowing that this is a state of mind I repeatedly find myself in, perhaps it’s time to check out some books about Zen Buddhism! Aside from this, this state of mind has also made me reflect about my goals around gaming for the 2020’s. I came up with these three main goals.
- Avoid collecting
- Play what I have. Buy Less.
- Take a more minimalist approach.
That said, in this new decade I want to strive for simplicity, minimalism, and the essentials. A rare treat — like this matinee-showing of a film, complete with a coke and popcorn, is just that, a treat. I think in the span of our child’s life, I’ve been to the theater twice. It hardly reaches overindulgence. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to sit down and enjoy a film, without having the worry that I need to tend to a hungry, soiled, sick, or otherwise upset baby. We all need breaks. I for one am appreciating and pausing to reflect in gratitude, and tell you about it!
Goal: Avoid Collecting.
As it relates to gaming, I find it rare to play for a long, uninterrupted span of time nowadays. I feel like I’ve covered this topic well in my “Being a Parent and a Gamer series of articles.” Ever since this limitation of time has been a reality, I felt like my identity as a gamer is changing. To compensate for this, I have been feeling a pull to embrace the collector-side of the gaming world. It’s definitely appealing; a leisurely stroll down Instagram can open up a world of amazing game rooms and vast collections of rare games. They’re no doubt awesome and leaves most of us nerds salivating.
However, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt holds true: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing my modest collection of games to other collections I find while browsing social media, brings forth feelings of desire and inadequacy. It can also drive impulsive buying urges. “I remember that game! I have to get it. Man that setup is amazing. I want one just like that!” Not only does it fuel impulsive thinking (and occasionally, your decision making), it can be really consumptive of your precious time.
This afternoon in Highland Park has helped me draw a conclusion about my consumption with gaming. Reconciling these thoughts and feelings, I know collecting would hinder me from reaching my goals and living my values. For that fact, I think collecting would leave me with guilt, disappointment, and regret. Though I don’t know the exact sums that are sunk into large collections, without a doubt they’re usually significant. I know that any spending on amassing a collection is money that’s not getting into our path for financial freedom. The opportunity cost is apparent: I can amass a collection, or that money can be invested and build wealth. Instead, for the past three years, I’ve not spent any of my own money on games I’ve wanted to play. I am still able to enjoy the games I’m excited for without incurring costs. This is a practice that I’m continuing into this next decade.
Goal: Play What I Have. Buy Less.
I want to be clear in saying that if people really value and get joy from having a large collection, go for it. I’m not trying to “Yuck!” someone’s “Yum!” My goal isn’t to rob someone of the joy and satisfaction they get from collecting an entire NTSC Nintendo 64 set. However, when I look at game rooms with thousands of games stacked on shelves, the reality is my values aren’t aligned with collecting. If I had thousands of games in my collection, I’d argue that’s simply too many games that I can thoroughly enjoy in my lifetime. I don’t want this to come off as didactic. Collecting gaming and playing games are not diametrically opposed. It’s simply a matter of different choices, values, and goals, not opposing viewpoints. I just can’t personally enjoy collecting anymore.
I know if I purchased en-masse, a large collection of games, it often meant a large backlog. Deciding what to play would be hard. I’d simply be paralyzed from all the choices available to me. Say you’re eating out at a restaurant. When it’s time to order, you’ve been trying to narrow down from 100 different entrées on the menu. How would you handle that? For me, that is very overwhelming. I’ll likely fall back onto something pretty standard, or ask for a suggestion. That’s how I view a backlog, it becomes hard to narrow down exactly what it is I want to play. Perhaps I have esoteric interests and tastes, but I think there’s beauty in simplicity that comes with fewer choices. So, I purchase games only as often as I’m able to play through them. I end up saving money this way, as I don’t rush into most games on their initial day of release. I also end up being able to play down my backlog.
Goal: Take a More Minimalist Approach.
This blends into my other goal, that I have not directly named yet. I believe it goes hand in hand many ways with financial independence, that is the goal of minimalism. With tens of thousands of games out for the masses to enjoy today, if I have a “collection” at all, I want it to be curated with my favorite games on a system. I once had almost 200 of the 248 US-released Dreamcast games. The realization I came to was that within that library there were a number of excellent, good, and poor games. Some of them weren’t the money or time I put into acquiring and playing them. So, I cut out the poor, mediocre, and even some of the good games. I let go of the goal of having a complete Dreamcast set.
I conceded that while a complete Dreamcast library may look good on a shelf, it also takes up a lot of space. This is further compounded when I’ve got other systems, each with their own library of games to choose from, all occupying their own space in our home. Being in a somewhat temporary living situation (we’ll move again within the next 3-4 years to a more permanent location), I don’t want a collection taking up too much space in our abode. This comes with the added burden of having to lug across the country, in a few years time. It is what it is. I also have a little one that delights in innocently pulling these off the shelves, much like the books on his bookshelf.
So now, I have around 70 Dreamcast games, with my favorites, the heavy hitters, and system defining games. I also have a number of other consoles that I was gifted, grew up with or purchased as time and life went on. At times I’ve felt like I have too much of a collection, and I’ve contemplated trimming down to the games and systems I truly love, left with the games and systems that consistently get played and replayed. I’ve also had the thought of shedding all of the physical software and becoming a gamer that plays games exclusively digitally, be it Steam or e-shops.
With this thought in mind, I’m swept into various minimalist Instagram accounts, admiring their small collections and sleek, clean setups. In the process I’m falling into the mental trap of comparison again. “That’s such a nice room, I have way too much stuff!” Then, I also realize that a lot of these video games I own come with the powerful nostalgia of my childhood. It becomes that much more difficult to part with them. I also don’t want to regret selling something, that later on, I’ll wish I had back. At an impasse, I write down on a notepad that this isn’t a decision that needs to be made now. I simply need to get the thought out of my head. For now, I can occasionally brainstorm a more refined idea of a collection or game room, at the next place we call home. For now, I’m fine with where things are at, and stop swirling about possibilities that simply aren’t feasible at this moment in time..
Bringing it home…
I know that I am a quirky person. Mrs. TWG can certainly attest to that. I’m but one of the billions of other people who have their own interests, values, behaviors, and personalities. On a species-wide basis, I find it interesting what we become our hobbies, past-times, or what we choose to spend our disposable income on, if we’re privileged to have it. I’m really trying to hone in on what will continue to be important to me in the future: my family, creating memories together, and planning responsibly so that we have “enough”.
Sure, games are great as a pastime, and I hope to be able to enjoy gaming as I grow older, but they’re hardly essential. Right now, if I had to choose between spending (on a semi-regular basis) $60 of my own money on a new game or dropping that same $60 into VTSAX, it’s not a difficult decision. That $60 will have more potential having time to grow in the market.
For now, I am aspiring to become more minimalist (both materially and mentally) and keep pursuing FI. I am also aspiring to keep these two goals intertwined into my gaming hobby, starting with 2020, and reflecting when I reach the next year. Thanks for reading my outpouring of thoughts, and I hope to hear what you’ve thought about it too!
Andrew (Tightwad Gamer)
PS: 1917 was awesome. As a lover of history, I thought it was a really cool tale of the First World War. If you haven’t seen it, you should!