1. Never have children.
When I was 15, our nation celebrated the first Earth Day. On that day, I realized most of humanity's problems were caused by excessive human population on the earth. I vowed to never have children, and kept my promise through the use of birth control and the occasional use of abstinence. As a result, I have have much more discretionary income in my budget, nearly unlimited freedom to travel, and to learn from my experiences. I recently read on the web, that by 2050 there will be too many people chasing too few natural resources and food. I am constantly reminded by news of current events that my decision to not have children was the correct one.
2. Choose utility over fashion
My studies of the writings of Henry David Thoreau taught me that it is best, when buying needed products to choose utility over fashion. He further taught that we should buy items, such as clothing and use it until it is completely worn out, before buying a replacement. I have found that the fashion industry is constantly regurgitating fashion out of a desire to convince us to constantly buy clothing simply to follow trends. My parents also follow my practices. They purchase a new car every ten years and pay cash, maintain it well, and never have to pay interest on an auto loan. I have profited from their behavior, in that since a ten year old car holds very little trade in value, they often give the car to me. I then drive it until it is completely worn out.
3. Don't buy things you don't need.
We Americans allowed ourselves to be convinced by the marketing firms that we should buy things we don't need. This created an attitude that "keeping up with the Joneses" will bring us happiness. I have recently read studies that have shown that experiences rather than possessions bring happiness. My photography teacher at Willamette University used a SLR camera she had purchased decades ago to do photography because she had become very accustomed to working with it. The object had become a friend, much like the old car one has possessed for some time, and even named. I have realized that politicians often offer entitlements to certain groups in the hope that those selected people will give the politician their vote. The politicians often promise that these entitlements will give satisfaction, much like the promise marketers offer that if you simply buy "the next big thing" you will be satisfied. Self reliance is a much more predictable purveyor of happiness.
4. Become an entrepreneur.
In today's American Society, the middle class is disappearing. Corporations squeeze more and more productivity out of their employees by reducing benefit packages and wages. A job at a corporate entity no longer offers stability. Corporations now do everything they can to lower the cost of production, including out sourcing jobs, and laying off people whenever production can be increased by implementing new technology. Owning my own business, using my ideas to create new useful products and services, requires more discipline, diligence, and work than punching the time clock. However, it gives me much more freedom to work when I want to, have time off when I want to and have the money, and get the full value of what I create rather than in exchange for a limited hourly rate, or set salary. I also get the pride of ownership by personally owning my own means of production.
5. Continually challenge yourself to learn new skills.
My computer recently caught a virus, which made it impossible to get on the net. I am only moderately computer literate. One could truthfully say I am quite intimidated by the inter workings of computers. However, I decided to use the computer's tech support to aide me in fixing the problem myself. It took a bit longer, and much more work on my part to fix the problem. I was able to fix the problem for at least a third of the expense of simply taking the computer to a repairman and have them doing the repairs, as I have in the past. In addition, I gained the confidence, knowledge, and where-with-all to fix a similar problem solely on my own if it should occur in the future. I also found it very rewarding to my personal self-esteem to learn this new task. I have always tried to learn new things and to my toolbox of abilities throughout my life. I have found this to be an extremely valuable quality.
In closing, a wise person once said, "One can gain much by living their life as if their choices make a difference, because they do."