Keeping up with Yoko*

*Which is not her real name

In the personal finance blogosphere, there is a general derision for any desire to keep up with the Joneses. We are encouraged to chart a different path, embrace different choices and follow the road less travelled. I’ve also recently read an article, possibly from the Our Next Life blog, about how this conversely sets a different kind of target. FIRE enthusiasts are keeping up with a different kind of Joneses (perhaps we should call them the Smiths who seem an altogether more frugal sort). This morning I saw a Facebook post. My friend Yoko is coming back to London after months of travelling. And it got me thinking. Whilst I might eschew living like most people, I definitely want to live like Yoko.


What’s the back story?

I met Yoko a few years ago, at the height of my super spendy days. I still threw lavish parties – ranging from murder mystery evenings to ping pong tournaments, travelled several times a year but mostly weekend breaks and long weekends to maximise the number of places I went to, spent a ton on dining out and socialising, went to gigs, cinema and sporting events several times a month and took a heck of a lot of black cabs instead of walking the 1 mile home from the tube after a long day.  Now, obviously, I’ve gotten a little wiser and am trying to pay down debt, make a little difference in the world and (hopefully) attain financial independence. It means that I’m trying to focus on spending that aligns with my values but is ultimately a lot more frugal than I’m naturally inclined to and it’s often a struggle.

What’s Yoko’s life like?

Yoko’s life is way different to mine. In the 3 or so years that I’ve known her, she’s lived a life that (at least from the outside) looks fabulously free.

  • She’s a hustler. She does freelance photography and tops up with work in cafes and bars when main work isn’t thriving. I used to shudder in horror at the thought of having such uncertain income but now I know she must have simply been living well within her means.
  • She’s location independent or at least able to work easily on two or three continents. She spends months travelling Asia, Europe and North America. Her photo albums are lush and inspiring – pictures of headstands on sandy beaches, or yoga poses on rugged landscapes. She travels slowly and nurtures relationships in different places
  • She cycles everywhere. No matter the weather or location. I’ve never seen Yoko in London sans bikes. Even when she makes these epic trips, she has a bike or two with her. She’s fit as a fiddle and looks 25 even though she’s 45.
  • She eats well. A pescetarian diet high in vegetables and low in alcohol is both healthy and great for the wallet.
  • She spends her money only on what gives her value. She turns up for social events at the pub and stays for hours but only drinks bubble tea and other soft drinks. She often makes her own sandwiches or other packed meals and brings with her on a long day. When we go to restaurants though, she is sometimes there but not all the time like I used to. She’ll pay a fortune to fly her bike but only spend as little as possible on her rent. This is a woman who knows exactly what is important to her.
  • She is a global child, with friends everywhere. People want to hang with her. She’s wise and funny. She speaks when she has something positive to say and keeps quiet otherwise.
  • She’s always happy. Always. She’s always smiling. She looks like she’s always exactly where she wants to be.

Lightulb moment!

I’ve been a slave too long. To society’s declaration of what I should do and at what age. What I should value. What I should buy. How I should show that I am successful at life. But I want to be fit and healthy. I want to get and give joy. I want to see the world slowly, making and retaining friends in all corners of the globe. I want to carry on working for a living but only because I enjoy my work, or because I want to pay for a particular experience. I want to speak three other languages and play bass guitar. I want to get a chance to try all the things that I have been “wanting to learn” for the last decade or more of my life.

It’s terribly difficult. It’s been rather  abstract. But now it’s hit me. Yoko has the life I want because she is (or has been) frugal.

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