In April 2013, Marcus from Minimally Nerdy said: “My fandom was how I defined myself. My hobbies were who I was as a person.”
He was a geek, a “neckbeard,” a basement dweller, a manchild and a “weeaboo.” I wasn’t familiar with many of those names before, but I realized quickly they weren’t flattering.
Marcus lived the “geek life” by collecting actions figures, games, comic books and more. He says, “I had hundreds of action figures. And Transformers? Forget about it. I had so many Transformers I had to store most of them in my parents’ attic… all carefully sealed in plastic bags, of course.”
He probably spent at least 20 percent of his disposable money on those collectibles, and freely admits that “he spent his time living in worlds created by other people.”
“By collecting all these characters, movies, and video games I was paying to celebrate other people’s dreams instead of making my own a reality,” says Marcus. “I was being a consumer when I could have been a creator!”
During the same year, Marcus’ lifestyle became unfulfilling. He was bored working a job he didn’t like just so he could earn more money for his collection.
He needed a change. “I found myself newly single, with a job I planned on leaving anyway, and there wasn’t much tying me down at the time.” So, he did what every geek does, right? “In the Spring of 2013, I got a wild hair and decided it was time to quit my job, pack my bags, and thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.” Wow, OK, maybe not.
Let me provide some background: The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine (or vice-versa) for a total length of about 2,200 miles. Marcus hiked the whole thing.
He says, “It took six months of hiking north, all day every day. I lost weight and I lost toenails, but I gained perspective. I changed.” He also slept in a tent and met “trail angels,” people who help the hikers. They give them food and shelter when they need it most.
Thinking about his Appalachian Trail experience, Marcus grows philosophical: “Hiking the Trail gave me the time to think about what I was doing with my life and the space away from that life (and all of its obsessions), to really put things in perspective.”
He says he learned three painful things about himself and his nerd life during that grueling hike:
- That nerds are little more than super consumers.
- That geek culture is just spending and excess.
- That fandom is another word for brand loyalty.
He arrived home and vowed to transform his lifestyle. He stopped buying stuff and started selling off his beloved collection. He made more than $25,000 off his toy robots and other collectibles. And here’s the cool part: “I was able to use the money to pay my way through nursing school, getting a much better job as a result, and am now making (and saving) more than ever before.”
Since that time, Marcus has saved about $40,000 simply by being frugal and not buying as much stuff. He also has some financial advice for anyone who overspends.
“Just because you have the money, doesn’t mean you must spend the money,” notes Marcus. “I know people who are well-paid, but they spend every dime. They think money is for spending, but I see dollars as tickets to freedom.”
He also says don’t buy to impress. “Spending less and owning less doesn’t mean settling for less,” says Marcus. “In my experience, the less I own the more I am able to enjoy my life.”
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