Select Page

One of the ways to achieving financial independence is to hone your skill at determining wants versus needs. As you travel the journey to financial freedom, you may find yourself selling things you bought in the past, but have found that you don't really need. We talk here often about developing “adult” money skills. These are things like being able to spend money to save money, and in this case, dealing with “sunk costs.” Selling something at a loss to reverse a bad decision shows you are able to isolate the purchase of it, and analyze the current benefit.


Becoming less materialistic is what I'm driving at, here. But don't confuse that with an elimination of materialism. If you want to live in a modern society and have friends, you will need to buy and own things. What you should be striving for is another “adult” money goal – spending more money in the short term to buy something that will last longer. For example, if you spend $50 for shoes that last six months, you will have owned four pairs of shitty shoes in a two year period. Compare that to the “money adult” who pulled the trigger and bought the $150 pair that are still kicking after four years. Quality vs quantity is something that money adults are able to deal with.

Now that we've described what I'm talking about, I want to embrace this “new materialism” and talk about some of the products I own and love. These are items that are crucial to my daily success, and because work is key to my success, a lot of these products help me with my day job.

Moleskine Notebook

I use this on a daily basis for work, to keep track of my to-do list, hours worked, upcoming weekly appointments, logins and passwords, and general notes like books I want to read. Will any notebook do? Not for me. This is one of the few times where I will specifically recommend a brand name product. The Moleskine weekly planner is the perfect size to fit in the inside pocket of a suit coat, and if not wearing a jacket, it will fit well in the back pocket of my pants. Using it has become an essential habit. So much so that if I forget to write down a to-do item inside it, it may as well not exist. If you want to get ahead in your career, using a weekly planner, in my opinion, is one piece of advice that can translate across most careers.

North Face backpack

For this item, the brand name isn't important. What is important is that it is a high-quality backpack that I use every day for work. If you consult the fashion magazines, they will tell you that it is some type of fashion sin to wear a backpack with a suit, but I don't care. They recommend a messenger bag or a briefcase. I'd rather have my hands free while travelling to and from the office, mainly because I need to make sure I can grab onto a strap on the train, and if I'm attacked by one of the many gangbangers who ride my train, I want to be able to easily give them a face full of pepper spray without worrying about my fashionable bag. The bag is essentially my man purse. Inside I carry my Microsoft Surface, portfolio, pens, journals, a small switchblade and flashlight, and my daily brown bag lunch.

Parker Jotter pen

This is another item that I will recommend as a brand. The Parker Jotter ballpoint pen is perfect. I continue to buy them, even though cheap throwaway pens might do the trick. The main reason is it's solid construction and shirt clip. Yes, for some reason the clip is an engineering marvel. I've never had one break or fail. Another use for this pen is as a self defense weapon, Many personal safety experts will recommend carrying some type of kubotan, essentially a short and stout rod-like tool to use for striking and applying pressure to joints in order to break free from an attacker. The Parker Jotter is perfect for this because it is something you can carry anywhere without raising eyebrows like a keychain weapon. One strike to the face of an attacker will concentrate the force of your blow down to the size of…well, a pentip, causing significant pain and damage, enough for you to run away. Will it survive a strike? Probably not, but you will gladly buy another.

eBags Weekender

Yet again another specific brand-name recommendation. This bag is designed to be carry-on sized, and this fact alone has made this bag pay for itself. I have traveled internationally for up to two weeks with just this bag. It is expandable and collapsible without and hard sides, making it easy for you to jam it into those airport bag sizers and avoid a $100 checked bag fee. This bag is so well built that I can see it lasting the rest of my life. I will admit that this is probably something I can live without, but because travel is so important to me, I don't plan on living without it. I love this product so much that I bought another.


In a post about moving past materialism, it is a bit painful to admit that I can't live without a smartphone. You may recall that I recently wrote about switching to a $10 per month cell phone plan, something I accomplished by nixing the data package on my phone and switching to Republic Wireless. The great thing about these phones is that if you are at home or somewhere with a Wi-Fi connection, it works just like a phone with a data package. Making this switch has helped me get away from constantly checking social media feeds, something I now do at the end of the day at home. The hour or two I spend on my phone at night does confirm that a smartphone is something I can't live without. I suppose what is really the draw on this product is that it is a reading device that fits in your pocket. I read a lot of informative articles and generally feel that I use it more like a newspaper. I can also read in the bathroom!

What Products Can You Not Live Without?

The moral of this post is that it's okay to be thrifty and cheap in the spending areas of your life that you don't care about. If you aren't a foodie, you may not value expensive organic ingredients and exotic snacks. If you aren't a car person, you may drive a beater with liability insurance. But it's okay to be cheap in these areas if you allow some spending in areas that you enjoy. It is okay to buy a two hundred dollar pair of shoes if you know you will wear them for a few years. It's okay to stay in cheap motels most of the year and then rent a fabulous villa when you make your big biennial international trip. Getting past materialism doesn't have to be an all or nothing accomplishment. You can have fewer things and allow those things to be nicer and higher quality.

So tell us in comments: what items can you not live without?