Extreme Cheap: Charles Long

by Mr. Cheap

People have sometimes commented being impressed (or horrified) at how little I live off of. While I’m flattered, I’m often somewhat confused as I know there are people who live on WAY less than I do. One such person is Charles Long, author of “How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle”.

I read a previous version of this book years ago. Its apparently based on a course he taught, and discusses how he lives without a salaried job. He minimizes his (and his family’s) consumer purchases, and does casual work to bring in money.

Minimizing purchases entails things like wearing hand-me-down clothes, not buying his kids the latest toys, driving old beater cars and things along these lines. One part of his book that made me laugh is he finds out what is fashionable when someone will compliment him on some part of his wardrobe (which he’ll have had for years). The next year he’ll be complimented on something else, and people will give him a pitying look for what they complimented him on the previous year.

In his book he complimented readers who HADN’T bought it (e.g. if they got it from the library). You have to respect his commitment to his lifestyle when he’s praising people who are taking money out of his pocket. I’d borrowed it from a friend, so I patted myself on the back.

Casual work that he does includes things like helping people clear out basements (in exchange for them letting him take anything they don’t want – I got idea #5 from his book). He’ll sell the stuff he gets at flea markets, along with vegetables he grows. He finds that you earn less money from doing a variety of small things that bring in money, but he finds it a much more enjoyable life than doing the same thing for 8 hours every day.

Another comment that made me laugh is that his wife and kids would love to send him out to work 8 hours a day (and buy the various consumer goods they’re interested in), but he just refuses. He discusses how his lifestyle has a lower environmental impact, but that isn’t his motivation.

I certainly admire his lifestyle, and without a doubt he out-cheaps me on every front. I’m not sure if I could give up meals out, trips and having to hustle money to pay the rent and/or utilities every month like he does. I do envy him for kicking the 9-5 lifestyle to the curb and taking the actions to allow him to live life on his own terms.

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