It’s sad to me when people look to possessions for happiness. They can fill their lives with toys and have all of the money in the world, but that won’t bring contentment. We all know how fun and exciting it is to buy something we have been wanting for a long time. And, some of the things we buy can bring years of fun and enjoyment. But, anyone trying to fill a void in their lives with toys and trinkets may as well be tossing them into the ocean. True happiness comes from within and money is rarely the source.
Life is more Precious than Money
Money comes and goes in our lives, but time can never be replaced. It slowly ticks away and sometimes ends without warning. I’m not a big fan of the deprive yourself mentality. I spent way too much of my time in my 20s and 30s chasing after dollars. My new mantra is to prosper and enjoy my life and money. That doesn’t mean that I will forsake my future, because I could die tomorrow. It means I’m not afraid to spend some money on the things that bring quality to my life.
Money can be the means to a happy life. But, it can also become a source of problems and worry. It can destroy happiness just as quickly as it can bring it. Embrace life and see money for the simple vehicle it is. When your destination is the cemetery, money isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good. If your only legacy is your wealth, your precious life will have been squandered.
The Curse of Consumerism
When I think about the worst of consumerism, I think of the celebrities, musicians and athletes, who spend all of their money on jewelry, cars and houses, only to wind up broke a couple of years later. I think of people like Nicolas Cage who own mansions, yachts and private islands, yet they are on the brink of financial disaster. I think of people like Charlie Sheen whose insatiable thirsts mask a deep void in their lives that can’t be filled. But, most of all, I think of all the awesome hard-working people trying to live the dream, unaware that it’s only a mirage. As they walk across the desert of life towards prosperity, the oasis slowly keeps moving out of their range.
The reality is that consumerism is manufactured. It is created and encouraged by the people who benefit from our blind acceptance of this sham. And, it’s highly effective at separating people from their income. It takes a huge amount of courage to reject consumerism, when we are judged everyday by our cars, clothes, schools and houses. It’s hard to convince our loved ones that diamonds are only semi-precious or that luxury cars don’t represent the spirit of Christmas, because thousands of carefully crafted TV commercials have labeled everyone as failures, unless they can afford them.
Fighting the Urge to Splurge
Broke on Purpose – One way I avoid impulse spending is to constrain my budget on purpose. I have been doing it for decades and it works great for me. Basically, I save 20% of my net, pay extra on my mortgage, pay all of my bills and live on the rest. So, money usually gets pretty tight by the end of my pay period. This keeps me from blowing money on discretionary items. Other people freeze their credit cards in a block of ice or leave them home when they shop. Some people shop only with cash, so they won’t overspend.
Arms Race Treaty – I have two wealthy cousins who always try to one-up each other. One day, they realized their folly and tried a new tactic. They went into an RV dealership together and asked for a big discount for buying two motor homes at once. They both bought the same model, with slight differences, and I believe they still have them. Did you ever consider the Jonses might be keeping up with you? Maybe, you should call a truce.
Meticulous Budgeting – I’m not a budget fanatic, but it sure works for some people. Knowing what should be spent each month for each expense category can counteract the urge to splurge for an expensive item. Tracking your budget points out the frivolous purchases of the past, to help avoid budget busters in the future. If a budget helps you save, I recommend it.
Wait and See – Another strategy some people use is to have a “cooling off” period on any large purchase. A 30-day wait and see period can not only save you money, it can save you from purchasing the wrong items. By the time the 30 days is up, you have had plenty of time to research the item, to make sure it’s the best fit for your needs. An even better solution is the wait and save approach, where you save up the money and buy items with cash.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is money can buy happiness, provided it isn’t squandered on a bunch of shiny baubles. For me, true happiness comes from a lack of stress and money problems. And, the financial dream of my future is the ability to create my own income, without depending on a paycheck.
“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.”
Calvin Coolidge – 30th President of the United States
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