Minimalism, Frugality, and a Book Review of Meditations

One of my 2017 goals is to write one book review each month for Distilled Dollar. I’ve seen many people copy this approach and they basically recap a book and regurgitate the content. That’s NOT what I’m going for.

I won’t be doing that because you can find a summary elsewhere online. Instead, I’ll explain how an old book from 2,000 years ago inspired me in the past to take action and I’ll explain how it is influencing my upcoming Frugality Challenge Round II.

Copy the lessons I learned and you’ll benefit just as I have.

Minimalism, Frugality, and a Book Review of Meditations

Imagine for a moment you wake up in a different place, a different time.

You’re looking over a vast area of land. You have legions from the greatest military in the world at your command. Your character and nobility are without question. Then imagine, you spend a small portion of your time writing a diary.

Fast forward two millennia and you’ll be surprised to find thediary, in some ways, has outlasted your other accomplishments.

Okay, so let’s dive into a Roman emperor who wrote a famous diary!

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

During my last 90 Days Frugality Challenge, I kept piercing through the pages of this book to help me with my saving goals.

Much of the book focuses on our “Nature” and before I dive into the philosophy here, I want you to know these breakthroughs helped me save money so I trust you’ll see the value here.

“Nature” is a confusing word because, when Marcus uses the term, he does not refer to the wild or our planet. He refers to a more holistic “Nature” such as Mother Nature

His point is we are all creatures of Mother Nature and we are designed to be social. Therefore, we are designed by Nature to benefit our communities and when we act on this design we are acting in alignment with our nature.

Basically, go out and give your time to others and spend time working for or simply socializing with others. None of those activities necessary costs a penny! 🙂

The book goes on to suggest Nature is out there and as a part of that we’re all part of the same system – thus, we should not despair against others who wrong us, but remind ourselves it is in their nature to do so and to not harm us would go against their nature.

EASIER said than done.

My practical takeaway is we owe it to ourselves to express our best face forward and constantly seek growth for ourselves and our communities.

This ethos is perfectly in line with the FIRE mentality expressed online in so many great blogs.

Also, we shouldn’t stress about not having something. Rather, we could take the opposite approach. Instead of asking for something we idolize, we can ask instead to not have the desire in the first place.

Seriously, the paragraph above was a huge lifesaver on MANY occasions where I was tempted to spend money on something.

Final Note & Conclusion

The last note I had was the great analysis by the author on a subject that he was obviously focused on – that he should be content with what he has done in the time he was allotted. I wonder if he shared a similar approach throughout his life at every big juncture. Did he contemplate and analyze and come to a similar conclusion about becoming a man or a father or on becoming an emperor? His life seems to indicate he had this great approach throughout – so for that, I do admire him immensely.

He comes off as extremely level headed, modest, intelligent, and thoughtful in the book. Plus, it helped me save money so I definitely recommend checking it out! Here’s a link.

Have you read Meditations and also received monetary benefits from the lessons learned?!


P.S. For more on the subject of Minimalism, check out last week’s popular post on the subject:

9 comments… add one
  • Ryan @ Just Another Dollar Jun 6, 2017, 7:14 am

    I’ve never considered myself either frugal or minimalist, but we’ve definitely benefited from some minimalist trends in the last year. Before we moved to Colorado, we donated about half our clothes, sold all our movies and books on Decluttr or eBay, and even gifted some furniture to friends. We thought hard about which items we really needed to move across the country and made an effort to downsize wherever possible. As a result, we have a much more simplified life with (literally) a ton less clutter. These days, we make our purchases intentionally, saving money when possible and life is great. I really enjoyed the review, and will definitely talk myself out of a few purchases using the “want not” mentality you outlined. Thanks for sharing!

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 10, 2017, 11:09 am

      Yes! Sounds like you are well on your way Ryan!

      I noticed this as well – where many of these old ideas/concepts are already evident in our society today. We might not call it “minimalism” or “stoicism” but many are practicing very similar beliefs on a daily routine – which is great!

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Jun 6, 2017, 7:56 am

    Thanks for highlighting this book! I haven’t heard of it before; I’ll see if my library has a copy for me to check out. 🙂 I really like the idea of being content with what you’ve done. And if you *aren’t* content with what you’ve done, that means you owe it to yourself to keep doing better.

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 10, 2017, 11:15 am

      This was a fantastic book – it was short but it took quite a bit of time to get through and absorb. If you’re brand new to the subject matter, I would recommend Seneca’s two books on Stoicism (one of which is only 54 pages!) …I wrote more about it here.

  • GracefullyExpat Jun 6, 2017, 9:08 am

    The Stoics are a perfect fit for the FIRE community, love this!

    I could’ve sworn I got a free Kindle copy of this in their out-of-copyright section, but they seem to keep making that section more and more difficult to search. There are very cheap Kindle editions, anyways.

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 10, 2017, 11:10 am

      Yep! I’m guessing it may be free via youtube or other sources since the author passed away 2,000 years ago…but don’t quote me on it. I’m a sucker for physical books so I didn’t mind the $8 it cost to have it delivered.

  • Colin @ Building-Income Jun 7, 2017, 10:45 pm

    This is a great book. Even after having finished it, I will pull it out occasionally and read some of the various passages. It’s one of those books that I believe is better consumed in small bites and then pondered throughout the day.

    I’ve read a couple other books on Stoicism that were fantastic. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday and A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine. Both were great reads and helped bring Stoicism into a more modern application.

    • Distilled Dollar Jun 10, 2017, 11:13 am

      100% agreed on the first part. My original intention was to read through the book quickly since it is so short. ~6 months later and I finally wrapped up the book because I kept reading one sentence or one paragraph and then staring out my window for 5 minutes thinking about it.

      I’ve added the other two books you mentioned to my reading list. Have you read anything from Seneca? He appears to be the best author on stoicism that I’ve seen to date. He makes it much more accessible than what I found in Meditations.

      • Counting Quarters Jun 23, 2017, 5:13 pm

        Sometimes those books are the best ones and they tend to stick with you much longer.

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