How Is Your Simple Life Working Financially?

How do you manage to make your simple, deliberate life work financially? Or do you?

Is your life financially failing? Or is your life not all that simple?

I’ve had several requests recently to write more about my online used bookselling business. But there’s a reason I don’t write about it more.

It’s not doing very well.

Bookselling Is Only A Small Part Now

Until about a year ago, my bookselling business was my primary source of income. And things were going great. I sold mostly recent non-fiction books. I’ve never bothered with collectible or high-dollar items unless I stumbled onto something.

Inventory was easy to find when I started in the bookselling business. Local used bookstores always had excess inventory on clearance. Libraries routinely overbought and sold off excess at sales. I had to get up early for those sales, though, so I mostly avoided all but the closest ones. I’d often leave the largest local sales with a trunk full of books — and I’d frequently buy a box of books or more at local stores.

For a while, David and I went to Austin every six weeks or so and cleaned out their thrift stores and used bookstores, sometimes cramming full the trunk and backseat of our Camry.

In addition to being fairly lucrative, it was a lot of fun.

As inventory started to dry up from being over-scouted by an increasing number of sellers and from book publishers printing fewer excess copies of books, the Kindle and online textbooks came on the scene. Many people found themselves with less money. Business was bad — and I lost interest.

That left me with a failing business and no backup plan, although I had always known this would eventually happen. The book business is dependent on too many uncontrollable factors to be stable. My business that grossed a few thousand dollars a month for years now makes me only a fraction of what it once did.

I reacted to save myself, but I moved too slowly and without a clear focus.

I still don’t have a clear focus.

The New Normal

Before bookselling, I was a successful freelance journalist. Then, because I placed too many of my eggs in the basket of a publisher who eventually stopped paying his writers, I was also a failed freelancer.

It seems only fair to admit my failures since I’m bragging about my successes.

Now, I’ve relaunched my writing business and am positioning myself as an Internet content writer, but it would have been better if I had done this before my bookselling income dropped off so dramatically.

This blog is a crucial piece of my current life. Without it, I would never have developed the skills or confidence to write again, and it has helped me develop speed too.

The most important role this blog plays for me is community, however, and that is because of you. If you aren’t commenting on this blog and I don’t know your name, you’re doing us both a disservice by staying quiet. There are lots of great people who gather around here, and while I appreciate the silent throngs, I love the vocal minority.

You see, in addition to my financial situation, the other big flaw in my perfect — but still flawed — life is that my circle of input and influence is too small. I know too few opinionated people, and I reach too few people with what I say.

Today, my bookselling business provides me some income. And my writing business provides some income. But I’m missing a piece. One of my two existing businesses must expand or I must branch out again.

What About You?

So the reason I don’t talk much about my bookselling business these days is that it isn’t a success story. And it isn’t a flop. It’s poised and ready to fall or soar depending on my next actions.

My writing business is like that too.

So what about you? How are you managing?

Do you work eight hours a day? If so, you’re probably better off than I am financially. But I can no longer sell that much of my life. Every writing job I take and every book I purchase, list, store, reprice and eventually sell takes a little piece of my life. But I’m only selling little pieces. Selling big chunks seems like selling out, and I’ll never do that again.

Or do you manage the way I do — with whatever comes your way?

Part of my simple, deliberate life is enjoying every moment of my life, not selling off huge pieces of it.

Here’s one last thing: I’ve always been in a hurry. I don’t work slowly. I used to think I must be going to die early because I was rushing through life trying to get more done in a day than anyone else. But then I realized: I rush through work, not things I really enjoy. I like to get the junk of life over with so I can really live.

I don’t have as much money as my current lifestyle requires. Further simplifying my life will help, and so will trading a little more of my life for money. I’m willing to do both because I want do my part (quickly), then enjoy the ride.


  1. Thank you Gip – I enjoyed this piece and appreciate your sharing the details. The e-readers certainly seem to have caught on with many people, not with me – there is something about a real book that I can’t give up – but with a lot of folks. I’m sorry your business has dwindled, but I hope your freelance writing expands to the point you need.

    In my case, my husband is the primary breadwinner because I stayed home with our children when they were growing up; then one of our children developed a health problem which meant I was still at home. I have worked part-time for a number of years now, and the past year I have tried to reduce my needs to my income. It’s difficult but I feel it’s a good exercise both to realize what I “cost” and also what I contribute, and makes me think about what other kinds of work I could do – and enjoy – to balance the books.

    1. You’re welcome.

      It’s important to understand the impact — positive and negative — that we have on the world. Then, we have to reach a balance we can live with.

      The work ethic in America is changing, and spirituality also plays a role in how much value we place in what we do.


  2. My husband and I are both still spending 8 hours a day of our time at desk jobs, but we’ve got a plan and by working towards a more simple life style we’re saving a large portion of one paycheck now. This should lead to him being able to shift to lower paying/more rewarding work soon, and then in a few more years I plan to retire completely and do volunteer work instead.

    1. I’m glad you have a plan — although planning that far in advance isn’t something I can do very well.

      I’m simply not designed for a desk job Of course, I voluntarily spend lots of hours at my own desk. But it’s my desk. That makes a difference to me.


  3. I am blessed in that I received a settlement from my divorce that gives me a regular income every month. It’s not enough to live on, it won’t get paid forever, it is my capital and with the current economic environment I don’t like to rely on it 100%. But it has given me the opportunity to start building a writing business/career and for that I’m grateful.

    I do worry that what you’re experiencing is an outcome of minimalism on a spiritual/energetic level. It’s all to do with the ‘getting back what you give out scenario”. It makes sense to me that when you scale back your outgoings your incomings may well be scaled back for you. I’m not saying we shouldn’t scale back but I do think we need to be aware of it and I see very little awareness of it in the minimalist world.

    I also think you’ve pitched you work in a really difficult niche. You only have to go on sites like guru to see that people from the developing world are willing to write web content for a fraction of what you are. Of course it isn’t going to be of the same quality but I haven’t seen many people willing to pay for the true cost of quality web content. And even at what you’re charging you need lots of that kind of work to make it viable.

    1. Most people whose stories of simplifying I’ve read do it to improve the flow of energy in their lives. Sometimes they mean this spiritually and sometimes they don’t. But clutter — physical, mental and emotional — sucks life (or life force) from people, leaving them empty and disconnected. Simplifying channels those forces back where they belong.

      Living in Texas isn’t like living anywhere else. Although prices are increasing here, the cost of living is amazingly low, and my needs are very small.

      You see, in my case, fancy clothes, white-tablecloth restaurants and excess seem ridiculously uninteresting. If I were the sort of person who ridicules people, it would be for their excess, not their simplicity.

      In other words, simple lives are grander than ones of excess.

      1. Do you have a garden? Growing ones own food is amazing for the environment and then you would need even less money to live on. We’re in an apartment now and the only thing I really miss is my garden. Every time I go to the supermarket I get unsettled with all the packing and distance everything has to travel to get there.

        1. We have plenty of room for a garden — although it’s rocky and windy here — and we have experimented with a garden in the past. We haven’t done it in the last couple of years, though. Home-grown food does have lots of advantages.

  4. I’m sorry the book selling business has tapered Gip. To me that means that your life now has more space for work that you find meaningful, and that you feel is an even trade for effort vs. reward.

    And I completely understand not wanting to trade too much of your life energy for money. Once you spend your life energy, it’s gone. But having enough money to satisfy your needs is still necessary. Hopefully the online content you’re generating will become lucrative quickly.

    I’m pretty sure I wont feel comfortable leaving the 9-5 routine until I have passive income equal to my (dwindling) needs. For me, this income would preferably be from investment income.
    But I do value the (9-5) work I do now, and I’m grateful to still have the opportunity to explore my writing passion through my blog.

    1. When I worked full time, I was also writing for several newspapers, so I stayed fulfilled while I was in a cubicle.

      I’m not sure that my writing business is the answer to financial instability, but it is at least a temporary bridge. I’d like to find one more piece of the financial puzzle that would assure me some stability in case the book business or writing business experiences some kind of meltdown.

      With all that said, the book busines has been pretty good the last few days, and that’s nice.

  5. Like you, Gip, I think I tend not to make changes until it’s almost too late (like when one or more income sources dry up completely, lol). I’ve been self-employed and freelancing in two different fields for a number of years now, and usually there was enough work coming in from somewhere, but things seem to be different now. I wish I could offer helpful advice or suggestions, but I’m in the same boat as you. I agree that living from a spiritual basis and perspective is the best approach, and hopefully more clarity will come from that at some point. 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting. I wish I had some answers for you as well. I really feel like things are about to change for me, but I have no reason to which I can point for believing that.


  6. I Think Jo’s comment above of “balancing the books” is very apt here …Having a clear focus of how you want to live, what you are willing sell, but it also needs to be future proofed always looking ahead ( even more so when you are your business).

    For those who do work – being honest that you are selling you labour, know its worth, & don’t buy into to concept from many employers that people are a cost.

    I can’t suggest anything concrete for you Gip as we travel different paths workwise – I am not a writer but more a number/data geek/data massager …..

    1. I am willing to sell a bit more of my time, but I don’t have the right opportunity at this moment. I’m expecting it soon, however!

  7. I’m taking things as they come. My husband and I live a simple lifestyle and when I was working full time (I am not working right now) we were able to sock away $ for savings. That savings has helped out tremendously while I currently wait for things to turn up. It has given me the freedom to wait for the right opportunity. Until then, we share our living space with my brother to help curb expenses and shop at Aldi (I love that place).

  8. I can’t get enough of Aldi. In addition to being cheap, it’s no-nonsense. Except the checkout likes are always long. They apparently pride themselves on fast checkout, but they missed that part here.

    I’d love a new living arrangement that would also solve some other people’s problems, but I can’t yet see how to make that happen.


  9. Hey Gip!
    It really is too bad about your book business. i am still a sucker for books. I just like to hold them and admire the graphic design and the paper and turn pages. One day I’ll probably move to a Kindle, but not yet.

    I have a FT desk job that I don’t really like very much. But since my fiance is at home and trying to build up a business, I am the main breadwinner at the moment. I also need the health insurance for various reasons. But we are minimizing our lifestyle so that we can sock away any extra money towards debt and be out of debt in about 2 years. I can’t wait for that day, because then I won’t have to make nearly as much $ as I do now and can quit my job.

    I started blogging last year to explore the world of making a living online. I haven’t found my niche or my groove yet, but I’m getting there. It’s a learning process and hopefully I will have figured it out by the time my debt it paid off so I can really quit my job! 🙂

    That said, our plan in about 3 years is to move to Costa Rica where the cost of living is much lower than here. That will reduce our cost of living as well. But we may also get into building sustainable eco-cottages there as another business idea. I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

    1. There’s still hope for my book business.

      My progress on getting out of debt is temporarily halted, but I’d like to get back to making positive progress again soon.

      You seem to have a great long-term plan. I don’t seem to have one of those…

  10. Hey you could move your mother in with you and it would save her some
    money and bring in a little for you. She could cat-sit when you were not home. I am one of those people who must sell my time or I don’t accomplish anything. You can see that from the jewelry business. Everyone is different and we are praying that your situation will be resolved in a way you are comfortable with. Just don’t wait for the right moment until all your moments pass away. We are not promised an unlimited amount of time in this life. I know you are ok spiritually as well so there is a plan already in place for you. You just have to be ready to go with it.

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