The Half-Normal Challenge

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a YouTube video by Erin Janus. I never heard of Miss Janus. Apparently she’s a vegan, and she cares deeply about animals and the planet. But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is that I find her views on materialism quite compelling. If you have 10 minutes to kill, check out this video. I’ve watched it a couple of times, and I still shake my head in disbelief whenever it gets to the Oprah part.

Were those people in Oprah’s audience pathetic or what?

One could certainly argue that Miss Janus is a bit overwrought. And the contrasting images of unfathomable wealth and heartbreaking poverty is a bit manipulative. But Miss Janus’s essential message is spot on. We are obsessed with things, and this obsession is not serving us well.

Case in point. My cousin and her husband recently relocated to Wake Forest, North Carolina. Since they are both experienced pharmacists, they both got jobs pretty quickly. Their household income is in the $250-$275 range.

With that kind of money, they should be on easy street. But they’re not. Why? Well, rather than buy a normal home, they went out and bought a $400K McMansion. In light of their household income, of course, a $400K home isn’t terribly out of whack. But here’s the rub. My cousin works in a sketchy part of Raleigh. She’s actually gone to the restroom and found people shooting up in there. When Mrs. Groovy and I stopped by the Dunkin’ Donuts next to her pharmacy one morning, we saw a SWAT team emerge from a van and launch a tactical assault on the neighboring motel. So it’s not a lovely area. And by all rights my cousin should have quit the first time a crackhead stumbled out of the restroom. But she can’t quit. They need her salary to help pay the mortgage and all the other bills they have (they’re still cleaning up a financial mess up in New York). So she’ll just have to deal with the addicts and the SWAT teams until she finds a pharmacy gig in a safer area.

It’s so senseless. My parents bought a beautiful three-bedroom townhouse in Wake Forest for $175K. Had my cousin and her husband done that, my cousin could have quit her pharmacy gig in crackville. They would have been able to handle their bills on one pharmacy salary. But no. They NEEDED that McMansion. How could two adults and two children possibly live in a house under 3,500 square feet?

Living Modestly Is Not a Sacrifice

When Mrs. Groovy and I were in New York, we lived in a one-bedroom condo (600 square feet). And because I snored like the devil, I slept on the couch in the living room. I know, I know. That’s too much information. No one wants to know our sleeping arrangements. But trust me, I’m only telling you this to make a point. When we moved to Charlotte, we bought a two-bedroom condo (950 square feet). And I was in freakin’ heaven. I had a bed to sleep in! Having an additional 1,000 or 2,000 square feet of house wouldn’t have made me any happier. I know this because two years after moving to Charlotte, we sold our condo and bought a 2,000 square foot house. And those additional 1,000 square feet didn’t ramp up my happiness quotient. In fact, it actually took it down a notch. That’s because I now have an additional 1,000 square feet of house to clean.

In America, we believe that modest living is a sacrifice. And that’s laughably wrong. I’ve seen it with housing, and I’ve seen it with other big-ticket items as well. Take automobiles. I currently drive a 2004 Camary. Would my life be any better if I had a spanking-new BMW? I doubt it, especially when you consider how often I drive. Since I work from home, and only use my car a handful of times for errands, I’m in my car for about an hour each week. And I’m going to be significantly more happy if I have a $40,000 hunk of metal depreciating in my garage for 167 hours every week rather than a $4,000 hunk of metal? It seems rather far-fetched.

But, hey, maybe Miss Janus and I are wrong. What works for us may not work for you. Your happiness may be strongly associated with the quantity and quality of your stuff. You may need more stuff to be happy. To find out if that’s the case, I propose a challenge. Whenever you decide to buy something, try being half-normal. In other words, don’t buy what the typical American buys. Buy half of it.

Here’s how the challenge works. In the table below, you will see what a normal purchase looks like for a lot of common items. You will also see what a half-normal purchase looks like. To be half-normal when it comes to buying a car, for instance, you would have to buy a car that cost less than $16,780. If you were in the market for a pair of sneakers, you would have to keep your sneaker expenditure under $83 to be half-normal. You get the idea. Find out what the typical American pays for something and only pay half that price or less.

Consumer ItemNormalHalf-Normal
Average Home Size2,690 Square Feet1,345 Square Feet
Average Cost of a New Car$33,560$16,780
Average Yearly Tuition at a Private College$32,405$16,203
Average Wedding Cost$26,444$13,222
Vizio 50-Inch Television$400$200
Nike Air Jordan 3$165$83
Average Monthly Cable Bill$99$45
Average Monthly Cell Phone Bill$73$37

Okay, once you have made a half-normal purchase, sit back and reflect on your happiness. Are you any worse off? Do you feel shame driving a car that costs less than $16K? Are you embarrassed by your $30 Skechers? How is the state of your happiness one month after the purchase? How is it six months after the purchase?

My guess is that being half-normal will not make you any less happy. In fact, my guess is that being half-normal will actually make you happier. How so? Well, for starters, your quality of life won’t be degraded. A $16K car works just as well as a $33K car. You’ll also have more money to save or invest. And, finally, you’ll also realize that Madison Avenue has sold you a bill of goods. Your happiness is not predicated on more and more stuff. Materialism is a lie. And once you realize this, you’ll have more control over your finances and your life—and that will surely elevate your happiness quotient.

Final Thoughts

Twenty-six thousand for a wedding? A four-hour party? Really, America? The best wedding I’ve ever been to was at a VFW hall. It featured a high-school kid spinning vinyl records, a buffet of comfort food, and a keg of beer. I doubt it cost $2,000.

I just don’t get our compulsion to overspend. I have a friend who spent over $10,000 on his daughter’s communion party. And then there’s my cousin and her husband. These are the sweetest people I know. They should be loving life. They make twice as much as Mrs. Groovy and I make, for heaven’s sake! But their life is filled with never-ending chaos and drama. And it’s all because they’ve been sucked into the ravenous maw of the materialism trap.

Sigh. Meh. Mierda.

Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. Please be half-normal. And please have a glorious weekend.

P.S. Mrs. Groovy does a mean pantomime of the SWAT team emerging from the van, in slow motion. Maybe we’ll do a video of it one day.

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64 Comments

  1. I think I’ve already completed a good bit of this challenge! I bought a used car two years ago (with 2k miles on it) for half the price of a new model… We bought a home which we could afford on only my income (even though we’re a two income household) that’s 1364 square feet. We’re a 2 adult, 2 kid family, and while we did upsize slightly (the place we were renting was about 1100 sq. ft.), we bought a 2 bedroom place close to work rather than shelling out for a larger house. We don’t have cable, or even a TV right now.

    If being broke is normal, I don’t want to be normal. Like the title of my last post – get weird to get ahead!

      • I’m not a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I’m not one of the rabid Anti-Dave-ites (which seem to be a subgroup I’ve stumbled across in the PF community), more like I’ve adapted some of his basic tenets to work for me, and left the rest behind.

        I am a fan of weirdness though! I’m only 25, but I’ve found that the times I’m making the most progress/feeling the most fulfilled is when I’m doing something that’s not “normal.”

    • Mr. Groovy

      That’s awesome, Pia. It looks like you and your husband figured out things way before Mrs. Groovy and I did. Congratulations. And do you feel like your quality of life has suffered? To most of the world, you’re living like a king. Here’s to being abnormal!

  2. That’s crazy! I would not want my wife working in crackville where the Swat team needs to visit at any salary. It’s just not worth it. Sounds like your cousins haven’t learned their lesson yet or aren’t willing to change their behavior with money. Let’s hope it doesn’t take something unfortunate to make they realize they need too.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Brian. No, sadly they haven’t learned their lesson. And the real killer part is that they’re both very intelligent people. Far smarter than I. But for some reason they haven’t made the connection that more stuff doesn’t bring more happiness. I want to grab them sometimes like Cher in Moonstruck and scream, “Snap out of it!”

  3. Patty Z

    I must say that was a compelling video. For years now I have been saying to myself and those close to me “when is enough ENOUGH?” Most of the time when I utter this simple question it is met with an empty eyed stare and a non committal “what can you do?” or “that’s just the way it is.” I live in the “land of conspicuous consumption”, also known as Long Island. Many of those in our family are very wealthy by normal standards and have no problem letting you or anyone else know it. It is a badge of honor they wear. They drive expensive cars, live in very large and comfortable homes and ALWAYS wear ridiculously expensive designer accoutrements. They will also tell you in no uncertain terms that “I work hard for it.” Very true. They work hard for THINGS. You may well imagine that conversations with them are superficial and cordial at best. I wish I could shake them from their materialistic cocoons because many of them are good people. But I’ve learned to not beat a dead horse. Given my own personal troubles over the past several years and all the terrible things happening in our world of late I’ve been trying to cultivate a sense of gratitude for all that I have. I am truly fortunate and that awareness has made me start to slough off things that I used to be very attached to. Hopefully with time and increased awareness I will have less “things” and more “space” for experiential/existential things. Thanks for posting this! And thanks for challenging me to consider the idea of half the amount. I will definitely use it!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Patty. You’re so right about Long Island being the “land of conspicuous consumption.” I also find it to be the land of conspicuous ego. Did you ever notice that nobody is just a schlub? Everyone is a big shot. And if they aren’t, they’re real tight with someone who is. It’s maddening. I was one of the few schlubs on Long Island, and I’m so glad I left. Long Islanders are basically good, hard-working people. But they’re mental. I remember a friend of mine mocking my cheap sneakers once. When I told him that I wasn’t playing against Michael Jordan anytime soon, and that I didn’t need expensive sneakers just to walk around, he looked at me like I had two heads. Like you said, there’s no sense beating a dead horse.

  4. Oh man, I’m hoping to buy 600-700 SF. Not too much for one, and not too small for two. My worst normal expense is my cell, which is half a write-off since my llc Google phone goes to it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, ZJ. Two people can be very comfortable in 600-700 SF. Our 950 SF condo in Charlotte was more than adequate. So I’m definitely a fan of small. In fact, this is one of the few things Mrs. Groovy and I argue about. I would love to build a house in the 900-1100 SF range, and Mrs. Groovy wants a house in the 1400-1500 SF range. She’ll win, of course, because she’s the boss. But I don’t mind. We’re moving in the right direction. Our current home is 2000 SF.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Yeah, under 500 SF would be rough for two people. But then again, people in the tiny house movement are living in under 200 SF and making it work. I guess the trick is to be super organized and have a super efficient design. And minimize the amount of stuff in your life. Mrs. Groovy and I, for instance, have four or five spatulas. I doubt we would have that many if our kitchen was half its current size.

  5. On the bigger things, my wife and I are doing pretty well at being half-normal. We live in a 1100 SF condo, share a Honda Civic, had a modest wedding. I am proud to say I only spent $30 on my last pair of sneakers. But I’d say spending half isn’t the only challenge. How about buying half? Every other time you’re going to buy something that isn’t essential, just skip it. On the smaller things, we just have too much and we keep buying stuff we don’t really need (within our budget, but still too much). I am ashamed to say that I once bought an item I knew I had, but with so much clutter I couldn’t find it. It was easier to just buy another one. It wasn’t expensive, but that’s not the point. It’s just. too. much.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it, Gary. Great point about the non-essential stuff. Mrs. Groovy and I also found ourselves inundated with chotskies. We started de-cluttering last year and have made a vow not to buy anymore stuff until something breaks. And I hear ya about buying something you already have. I have done it a bunch of times because of an unorganized garage. Sigh.

    • Buying half is a great point. How many times is there fruit left over or moldy food in the fridge.
      There are so many ways to save money without even trying.

  6. i like the idea of half normal! We are in a 1,400 sq ft home for 3 of us and we have more space than we need! I couldn’t imagine living in something bigger. People seem to never think about what is “enough” instead they think about what they are able to get. People seem to always focus on the want instead of the need.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love half-normal people. Rather than throw money at a more “normal” house, they throw more money at an IRA or a 401(k). In other words, they prefer to spend more on freedom than on an extra 1,000 SF or so that they really don’t need. This preference strikes me as infinitely more wise. Thanks for stopping by, Thias. Always appreciate your two cents.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! Half-normal is the challenge. As long as you spend less than half, you’re good. But if you can pull off being a third-normal or a quarter-normal, by all means do it. I’m a quarter-normal when it comes to sneakers, and a tenth-normal when it comes to cable (if you consider my Netflix subscription a crude substitute). Mrs. Groovy and I were also a tenth-normal when it came to our wedding. We’ll see how we do on our next car (three or four years from now). We’ll definitely be half-normal. Perhaps we can get it down to a third-normal. Excellent point, Miss T. I love the way your mind works.

  7. Working in the non-profit sector, I’ve had to be half normal to have wiggle room in my budget to travel and do other things I’ve wanted to in my life. But by doing this, and keeping my living costs down, I’m happy. I don’t like having a car payment, I don’t like paying an exuberant amount of money to live in a condo and I don’t like shopping for tons of clothes. I appreciate what I have and I’m thankful for it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      You nailed it, Athena. It’s all about priorities. Would you rather travel? Or would you rather have a bigger apartment and nicer clothes? I don’t know anyone in the sunset years of his or her life who regrets not having a better car when he or she was younger. He or she does regret not having saved more, or not having traveled more, or not having taken more risks.

  8. This video bugs me. A lot of people that make six figures judge people that are multimillionaires and say that they don’t need to live in this house or have that car.

    The people making $10,000/year are judging the middle-class and those making $100,000 and judging them for their purchases like going to Omaha Steaks.

    Also the minimalism & simplicity movement at times bugs me because they act self-righteous and you see that minimalism and simplicity are the new Joneses in this stagnant economy.

    I’m kind of turned off by the whole minimalist/simplicity movement.

    I have mixed feelings about this whole video. Also what one person deems frugal another person deems expensive.

    Last year I had to buy a new computer because the one I’ve had for like 6-7 years started crashing all the time and my bf did his best to fix it and finally told me that I needed to get a new computer so I bought a new one after reading Tom’s Hardware reviews for $1200.

    I got it on a promo code and it does everything plays games, handles school work, graphic design software, etc. Then a friend of mine he was all, “I only paid $700 for mine. You overspent.”

    I mean really? :-/

    However, the video did make a lot of good points. It did. I just don’t agree everything on it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. The part of the video showing celebrities and their mansions left me a little uneasy too. Oprah’s a billionaire. I think Jerry Seinfeld made $270 million on the last season of Seinfeld. So those homes probably amounted to less than 5 percent of their net worth. And I imagine because of security concerns, famous people can’t possibly live like normal people. I’d like to think if I were a multimillionaire I’d still have a normal house. But my normal house would probably be on 100 acres in Montana. And I hear ya about the computer. Sometimes it’s just not feasible or practical to be half-normal. Excellent counterpoint, Jaime.

  9. Frugal living is right for some people, but I agree with the comment that people get a little self-righteous at times. I recently wrote a post about our new retirement toy – a BMW convertible- and started the post with a bit of an apology to the frugal-living readers. To my surprise, the comments I got were very POSITIVE, with not one taking me to task for our overpriced toy. The best comment might have been from Brian at DebtDiscipline who said, “Hey, that’s why they call it PERSONAL finance.”

    • Mr. Groovy

      Right on, Mr. FS. I guess I should have qualified my half-normal challenge. If you have credit card debt, no emergency fund, and no retirement savings–you should seriously consider the half-normal challenge. But on the other hand, if you have your financial house in order, or if you have achieved financial independence, by all means enjoy freakin’ life! And if that means a new BMW convertible or a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so be it. Kudos to you and Brian. It never hurts to be reminded that our goal here is not to mercilessly slash spending but to build a rewarding and fulfilling life.

  10. Wow. This video was too over the top for me. I get her point, but there was WAY too much judgement being passed for me to hop onto her message.

    Also, she’s forgetting one thing: incentive. We can shame people into next week, but the only thing that will change their behavior is if you offer a more desirable alternative.

    This is why I love financial independence. It’s something for me to work towards – I don’t mind cutting back on my lifestyle if I remember that absolute freedom lies on the other side of the finish line.

    And, honestly, I think most people buy this crap because they’re unhappy. They hate their job, they’re in terrible health, they don’t have enough time to enjoy life, etc. etc. and “stuff” is what they turn to fill the void. So, instead of shaming people I think we can help them, offer them a better solution, and lead by example and with compassion.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Say it ain’t so, Katasha! First Jaime turns on me, and now you. What have I done to earn the scorn of my two favorite millennials? But all kidding aside, the video is over the top. The people shown in dire poverty are more likely in that predicament because of civil war. They are certainly not in that predicament because Oprah and Jerry Seinfeld have ostentatious homes. And I partially agree with you about the shaming. It isn’t very productive when aimed at people who are struggling. I think it might be helpful when aimed at the better off, though. Like it or not, the cool people have a major influence on our collective morals and ethics. They set the tone. And right now, the message they are transmitting is that stuff is very, very important. Shaming might get them to reconsider the merits of that message.

  11. Great post – and I like the video. Everywhere I look there is consumption and materialism – I can’t not see it anymore. The fancy cars, designer purses . . . even gourmet coffee. People spend money on these things because they think it’s normal. They’re sheep.

    We are going to take a pretty big step with that challenge. We hope to have a fourth child in 2017 – but keep our three bedroom home. I know everyone will think we are crazy, but there is really no reason why we can’t make do with our current living situation.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it. When I was growing up, children weren’t entitled to their own rooms. The boys got one room and the girls got the other, regardless of how many kids were in the family. We had three kids in my family. My brother and I shared a room and my sister got her own. My best friend was one of five kids. He and his two brothers had one room and his two sisters had the other. And everyone I knew had one bathroom in the house. By today’s standards, our living arrangements were terribly cramped and spartan. But life back then was good. And no one considered himself or herself impoverished. Thanks for stopping by, Harmony. Stay crazy!

  12. We’re half normal, maybe even less? We cut our bills in half, our house by a third. I absolutely love this concept of half normal. We’ll be sure to apply the concept to our next vehicle purchase, too.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I LOVE you guys! Just finished reading Steve’s expose about your 1,000 SF downsize adventure. Your home looks awesome (and so does Two Cup cat)! Can you reach out to Mrs. Groovy? When we downsize next year, I want to build a house in the 900-1000 SF range. She wants to build a house in the 1400-1600 SF range. And unless someone convinces her otherwise, we’re going to build the “mega” house. She’s the boss, after all. So please convince her of the glories of small. You’re my only hope. Thanks for stopping by, Claudia. I really appreciate your kind words.

      • Aww c’mone hubby of mine. Did you really think I wouldn’t see this? You exaggerate. I said I was willing to compromise at 1100-1200 SF. But I forgot you don’t pay attention to half the things I say. (Oh the joys of blogging with a spouse).

        Claudia, I would like to know more about how you plan to economize space and have multipurpose furniture. I read Garrett’s post and sounds like the two of you have some great ideas.

  13. I think there’s great value in paying attention to the normal and then purposefully subscribing to it and/or veering away from it. Our wedding cost far more than the norm in here, but a lot less than the norm for Chicago. For me, the biggest thing is spending how you spend on purpose. As someone who spent just to spend for a long time, that’s been the biggest reformation. Love this idea, Mr. G!

  14. Good point. What’s “normal” also has a regional component to it. In Manhattan, for instance, the average wedding costs around $50K. So being half-normal in Manhattan is being normal compared to the rest of America. And I love your point about mindless spending. We’ve all fell victim to that destroyer of wealth. Wouldn’t it be great we had a national day of questioning, and we used it to examine all of our spending habits? Thanks for stoppying by, Penny. You made me think, as usual.

  15. Love this post. We have lived on one salary and saved the other half of our household income for our entire working careers and as such are planning to start our transition to early retirement in about a year after 15 years of working. Just a little confirmation that this idea of 1/2 everything really works!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Living on half your household income is awesome. And I have a funny feeling you have never felt deprived. Hopefully more and more Americans will come to realize that living a modest life doesn’t equate to abject misery. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. EE. And great job on being so close to early retirement.

  16. Good one! Can we be considered a quarter normal then? At least when it comes to wedding costs. 😉

    We spend so little compared to what’s “normal” that I have trouble relating to it anymore (and no, we’re not minimalists…yet). And we’re pretty darned happy (read as “don’t understand what we’re ‘missing’ by not consuming more”).

    There’s so much more to this wild and precious life than amassing more and more toys. It’s such a waste.

    • Mr. Groovy

      So true, FTP. You nailed it. One can easily be half-normal in most things in life without sacrificing anything of importance. Congratulations on being half-normal. And congratulations on getting what matters most.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Mr. NNL. Agreed. Being half-normal is not a super-difficult hurdle to surmount. Just a little thoughtfulness is all it takes. And if you’re half-normal on most things in your life, there’s no crime in not being half-normal in one or two other things–especially if these other things are critical to your job/work. It’s all about priorities. Economize on what’s not important, and splurge on what isn’t. Thanks for adding some perspective, Mr. NNL. I appreciate it.

  17. Just like Dunn and Norton stated with their ‘underindulgence’ coined term, lowering our baseline spending can make us happier each time we buy.
    Once again, thanks for sharing such a nice piece.

  18. Sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen nailed the phenomenon you observe way back in the 19th century. He called it “conspicuous consumption.” The sad fact is that in US society wealth = respect and status. Very naturally then, Americans consume in such a manner that’s tantamount to wearing a T-shirt 24/7 reading “I have money–and lots of it!” Driving a BMW instead of a Camry has nothing to do with improving one’s quality of life. It has everything to do with establishing one’s place in the social hierarchy.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I remember the name Thorstein Veblen from college, and I’m certainly familiar with the term “conspicuous consumption.” Thank you for pointing out the connection between the two. I was totally unaware of it. And you’re absolutely right. Veblen nailed it. Conspicuous consumption is a means to project status. It has precious little to do with improving one’s quality of life. Sadly, when I was younger, I fell into this trap. I “respected” those with the big fancy toys. And because of this, I wanted big fancy toys too. Now I couldn’t care less. In fact, now, I want people to think I’m a pathetic schlub. I don’t want anyone to know that I “arrived.” Awesome contribution to our discussion, Kurt. Cheers.

  19. Thanks for sharing the video – it is good to be reminded that overconsumption continues to be rampant! I think I already spend less then 1/2 and buy less too! I like to think I am living large by living small.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “Live large by living small.” What an awesome mantra, LG. And I think the video drives home that mantra. Stuff should be used to make your life easier. Once it stops doing that, and it’s only being used to show the world how wonderful you are, you’re falling prey to your ego. And is massaging your ego the best of use of your finite resources? Glad to see you’re half-normal, LG. It’s a great club to be a member of.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love this video, too. It pisses me off, and it makes me laugh (does anyone really need an oven with a purple interior?). And it also helps put one’s spending priorities into perspective.

  20. Wow, guess I’ve been “half-normal” this whole time without really realizing it, haha.

    Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always envisioned owning a small house. Something in the 700-1000 sq. ft. range. Houses like these aren’t being built anymore! Everything is so huge. I keep seeing 3000+ sq. ft. houses and families of four living in them. ?!?

    There’s nothing wrong with getting a McMansion or whatever as long as you are buying it within your means.

    I guess more people need to learn the idea of living within/below their means.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Welcome to the realization that you aren’t normal, Colin. It’s always great hearing that the half-normal tribe is growing. And, yes, there’s nothing wrong with a McMansion if you can afford it. Like you said, the key is learning to live below one’s means. Why so many Americans fail to grasp this is truly disheartening. And you’re absolutely right about the demise of the newly-built 700-1000 sq. ft. home. We have a handful of them in my town and it’s obvious they were built in the 40s and 50s. The smallest home built today is at least 2000 sq. ft. Thanks for stopping by, Colin. And good luck remaining half-normal in the future.

  21. 1. Great article.
    2. I’m in the same boat with houses. We have an 1100 square foot house and we always think what if we had made it smaller bc we both hate cleaning…still using only one plugin for the vacuum cleaner is nice.
    3. I’m doing pretty good on the half spent chart…except for shoes! I really like my nice running and basketball shoes and drop about 100 on each every 2 years or so, but I am pretty active<—–justification;)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Don’t be hard on yourself. The important takeaway is that we all have to be more mindful of our spending. I don’t run. Mrs. Groovy and I walk about two miles every day. So having top-of-the-line sneakers isn’t that important to me. I’m just not hard on my footwear. But your situation is different. So it makes sense to be “normal” in the sneaker department. Besides, being half-normal on the housing front allows for a lot of harmless splurging in other areas. A $50 per year sneaker habit is not outrageous. Thanks for sharing, Clint. I appreciate it.

  22. I absolutely love this idea. You don’t need to have more (or even as much) as the average guy next door. I think the half-normal challenge is a good way to get started with saving money and figuring out what you can and can’t live without. But eventually it’s best to go beyond consumption.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Amen, Mrs. P.P. Having an average material life here is still quite rich by world standards. It all depends on your priorities. Do you want to impress others? Or do you want to shave years off your work life. Thankfully, Mrs. Groovy and I chose the latter. And we have absolutely no regrets. We’ll just have to muddle through life with our dreary, old Camry. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. P.P. You make a great point. Life is so much more than consuming.

  23. We’re definitely in the middle of the half-normal. Living in a small townhouse let’s is live on one salary in pricey Silicon Valley. But on the other hand we did have a spectacular (for us) wedding a while back.

    Like all things in life, you pick what matters most to you. You can have almost anything, if you have the talent and the focus, but you can’t have everything.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Awesome job, Jack. Living on one salary in Silicon Valley is mighty impressive. And don’t fret about the wedding. It not uncommon for one half of a soon-to-be married couple to really want a lavish wedding. Can we call it the Princess Di Syndrome? I was lucky with Mrs. Groovy. She was quite happy with a simple wedding. Thanks for stopping by, Jack. In a couple of pithy sentences, you packed a lot of wisdom. “Pick what matters most to you.” “You can have almost anything…but you can’t have everything.” Definitely words to live by.

  24. By the way, I drive a 2004 camry too. I could pay 45k in cash for a new Cadillac any time I visit the lot for my spring and fall sales calls. I understand the camry life you’re talking about. 😉 That thing is a comfy trooper through anything. That car allows me to reach so many other financial and existential goals in my life that are far more important to me than a new car goal.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Bill. Sorry for the late reply. If you want a solid car and stay under the radar, you can’t go wrong with the Camry. I’m in the same place as you. I could easily pay cash for a sweet ride, but I’m sticking with the Camry. Mrs. G and I are just looking for 3 more years. Then in 2020 she wants to get a 2- to 3-year-old Subaru. Like you said, there are more important things than a shinny new car. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

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