Asset-light living means that you can easily buy digital goods (or upload them) online, store them in your personal cloud system and access them in the right place at the right time. Cloud computing and smart phones are the main enablers of asset-light living. Asset-light living helps you save space, time and money.
With asset-light living, you save tons of physical space. A decade ago, you needed to have physical books, CDs, tapes and other media. Today, everything can be in your cloud, without using up any physical space.
In addition to that, you need fewer devices, since nearly everything is integrated in one small device. Your smart phone has become a camera, calculator, home and mobile phone, GPS, watch and so on.
With asset-light living, you also save tons of time. By using search engines, you can find information approximately 25 times faster than you could a decade ago.
You can buy and listen to music and videos 70 times faster by using various media platforms. You can organize events and gatherings 25 times faster via social media.
You have access to your personal files from any device, you can easily do backups and if your computer is stolen, you can just buy a new one, connect it to your cloud and restore everything; assuming you have everything necessary in the cloud.
Last but not least, with asset-light living you can also save tons of money. You can buy one song (or take advantage of subscription services), there’s no need to buy the whole CD.
Books are cheaper (in general) since there is no printing. If we go a step further: by using different online services you can share cars, rooms and so on. An important part of asset-light living is sharing economy as well.
An asset heavy life consumes space, time and money. Switching to asset-light living can be extremely freeing and empowering. If you really leverage all the cloud technologies and you use your computer for work, you can basically travel the world with a laptop/smartphone and a small backpack containing only the clothes you really need.
Knowing your usernames and passwords gives you access to your money and all your files, music, movies and other digital goods. Doesn’t it sound awesome? You only carry a small smartphone and you can say that you have all your stuff with you.
Let’s have an in-depth look about what you can carry with you in your personal cloud system and how to use different online apps, so you can really live a minimalistic and asset-light life.
Money and wealth
Your smartphone is becoming more and more your wallet and thus your physical wallet is becoming thinner and thinner. You can do many transactions with services like Square, PayPal, Bitcoin and Google wallet.
You can pay for things, you can receive money, and you can store your loyalty cards, itineraries and similar things in your smart phone. You can invest your money by using your smart phone and you have access to important financial information all the time.
With crowdfunding and other innovations in the financial industry (fintech), money transactions will be even cheaper, faster and more accessible. You will have access to more money sources, more investment opportunities and the transactions will be easier to make than ever.
Knowledge and skills
You used to gain most knowledge with formal education and by visiting libraries. Now you don’t only have immediate access to all information, but you can also find numerous online services to help you systematically develop new skills, knowledge and other competences.
With the so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), you can take different courses, develop new skills and acquire certificates. Much more efficient than formal education. You can learn whenever and wherever you want. It does take much more self-discipline, but that aspect is also being tackled by MOOC companies.
They’re making their services more and more interactive, by encouraging you to work in teams, sending you constant reminders, giving you virtual and other rewards, and connecting you to the industry directly.
It’s the same thing with reading books. In the past, you had to buy a book or go to a library. Now you can buy it or rent it online by using services like Kindle, iBooks, Nook and others. And it’s not only books – all publications and magazines are getting digitalized. Now you can also rent textbooks for your university courses. Check Chegg for that.
Having more fun with asset-light living is the most obvious and the easiest justification for it. You have easy access to your music, movies, favorite TV shows and so on, only by being connected to the internet. Services like iTunes, Spotify, Last.fm, Pandora, Netflix, YouTube etc., have revolutionized access to video and music.
Here are some other benefits of using internet technology, social media and asset-light living:
- Your life story is now on Facebook Timeline not on your home wall
- News are not delayed anymore, you can follow everything in real time (on Twitter, for example)
- You can take photos whenever you want and you don’t need an expensive camera
- You can write a daily diary, that is media rich (with photos, selfies…)
- You can pin all your aspirations on digital boards (on Pinterset, for example)
- You can read magazines on your devices and archive everything without using a basement
- You can record yourself whenever you want, voice and video
- You don’t need physical maps anymore
- You can be an online contributor or a critic to almost everything
- You can connect with people with the same interests and hobbies via different apps
- Even more, you can get group buying discounts or personalized offers
- No big heavy phonebooks and business listings and you can easily search everything
Another important part of asset-light living is sharing economy. Two of the biggest expenses in your life are usually your house/flat and your car.
To make their service as good as possible, they use your location awareness via your mobile phone and you can see all the reviews from other people to pick the offer that’s best for you.
It’s a little bit harder to do the same with housing, but we can see many changes in this area nonetheless. It’s much easier and cheaper to book a hotel by using services like Booking.com (and your flight using different flight online booking services).
You can share your free room by using services like Airbnb and CouchSurfing. If you have a free room, you can basically change it into a mini hotel. And that’s probably just the beginning of things being shared.
Cloud computing and asset-light living have also changed the way how many people work, especially the so-called creative knowledge workers.
First of all, if your work is mainly done by computer, you are much more mobile. You can work anywhere basically from as long as you have your stuff with you. But it doesn’t end at being more mobile and able to work from your dream island.
The employment market has changed a lot and is changing even further. There are numerous freelancing jobs you can take.
Not only for IT specialists who can get freelancing jobs at services like oDesk and Freelancer, there are also freelance job markets for home services, like TaskRabbit and Zaarly, and new job markets are constantly being established.
An important part of work is also expressing yourself. By having numerous apps, like Adobe Creative Cloud, you can now express yourself (draw, sing, sketch, record…) on different devices whenever you find inspiration.
You can save your ideas in the cloud and continue working on any device. You can also much more easily share your ideas, files and other digital assets with your friends and coworkers. Asset-light living and social media took teamwork and collaboration to a whole new level.
Storage and tracking data
You can store your notes in Evernote and access them from any device, basically from anywhere, as long as have an internet connection.
Your operating system settings, favorite browser settings and different app settings can be stored online and synchronized. You can basically mirror and synchronize the same working environment on many devices.
Besides files, notes and settings, you can also store a lot of your personal data in the cloud. You can track how you spend your money and time, your diet and exercise habits, working hours and many other aspects of your life.
Tracking data also means that you are able to analyse it and improve yourself accordingly. All big internet companies you are probably interacting with (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple…) are gathering data about you and analyzing it very deeply with the purpose of you becoming an even more loyal customer.
You should also be loyal to yourself, track data about your own behavior and constantly improve.
Traps of asset-light living
There are of course a few traps connected to asset-light living. The first trap is overspending. By having the power to store and buy practically everything online, transaction costs go to a minimum.
In the past, if you wanted to buy something, you had to go to the bank to withdraw money, go to a physical store and buy it there. It took some time and energy. On the way from leaving your home to getting in a queue in the store, you had time to think about whether you really need something.
Now you can buy things with just one click. And online retailers are smart. They usually keep your credit card data, you can really buy things with almost a single click, and they constantly push you to buy new things.
Thus you can buy many digital goods that you never use. I currently have more than 30 e-books in my Kindle app that I haven’t read yet. That is a big waste of money and I’ve consciously stopped doing it.
Here are some ideas for what you can do about overspending on digital goods:
- Have at least one day to sleep on it before making a buying decision and clicking on the buy button
- Multiply every price by 8; that is the opportunity-cost if you were to invest money for 20 years
- Don’t have more than 5 digital items in your to-read or to-use queue
- Before you buy a new thing, look at the items you already own and haven’t used
The second big trap is having online stuff unorganized. Your computer and your cloud are no different to your offline space.
They need to be organized and clean. You shouldn’t waste time with searching for files, paying for online apps you don’t use and so on.
Here are some ideas to help you with that:
- Have a monthly online cleaning spree
- Update and reorganize your file system, apps you use etc. at least every six months
- Delete and uninstall things you don’t use or that you can easily find online on a weekly basis
- Do regular backups and make sure your backups are very organized as well
Both things lead to the third trap, which is called the information overload. Having access to so much information can easily become a negative thing if you are easily distracted and can’t separate the wheat from the chaff.
If you don’t have a personal system for organizing, analyzing and structuring information (infostructure), the overload is a big burden. It can lead to reading only junk news online or wanting to consume too much too fast.
Deal with the information overload by doing the following:
- Face the fact that you won’t be able to read everything useful that exists in this world
- Use information when you really need it, don’t try to stockpile it just in case. The exception is if you are systematically developing a valuable competence.
- Don’t consume any news and junk literature, it has no real value to you
- Read books rather than blogs, with a few exceptions, like this blog for example :)
- Set some limits as to how much information you should consume. It’s better to be a producer than a consumer. You can’t create a thing if you overload your mind with information.
- Organize yourself
The last trap is connected to security. By having everything in the cloud, you are much more vulnerable to hackers, different breaches and online scams in a way.
You have to take some precautions and be smart about what you’re doing online. You can find a lot of advice online, here is just small portion of it:
- Don’t use the cloud to store sensitive files (like nudes for example)
- For browsing suspicious sites (if you have to), use an old computer that has nothing to do with your cloud, home network and use VPN. On second thought, don’t browse suspicious sites at all.
- Make sure you have strong passwords and don’t share them at all. Use services like LastPass.
- Install Prey on your computers and devices to manage them if stolen.
The fact is that nothing in life has only a positive side. It’s the same with technology. Technology is a tool and you can either be more productive with a tool or hurt yourself.
But it’s completely up to you. Thus the extent of the negative aspects depends on a small difference: either you are managing technology or technology is managing you.
If you have control, there is nothing to be afraid of. You just need control and discipline, like in every other aspect of life. With control and discipline, asset-light living can really extremely increase your productivity. Thus asset-light living is an important aspect of minimalism and the AgileLean Lifestyle.