Money. We envy those who have lots of it, and pity those who don’t have enough. It drives our career choices, and causes stress and addiction. And no matter how much we have, we continually look for ways to get more of it.
It’s been a great learning experience in frugality and financial savviness these past two years as I’ve been in school and Andrea has jumped around in various part-time work to pay the bills. We’re not struggling by any means as I had some savings to dip in to, but we’ve had to think critically about every purchase we’ve made and trip we’ve taken. The amazing part is, I would call this time two of the best years of my life.
We’ve sold loads of stuff too, as we’ve been living in small basement suites with minimal storage, so life feels simple and minimal. I have my bike, computer and running shoes and these three things allow me to do the activities I love. Everything else can be borrowed or rented.
Trips become more interesting because instead of simply booking a boring generic hotel which is expensive and requires no adventure or creativity, we’ve slept in our car in Wal-mart parking lots, which has made for hilarious memories.
The stuff we want typically is a let-down anyway.
David Cain in his Raptitude article discusses how new things or experiences that we think we want don’t often meet the expectations we build up in our heads:
“Getting what we want, or think we want—in those brief moments when we actually do—always seems to be more complicated and fraught than what we pictured.”
He comes to an interesting conclusion, that it’s not a matter of actually getting what we want, but it’s the matter of how we want. If you constantly seek for ‘more’ and ‘new’, you are either let down when you achieve what you wanted, or you’re let down that you didn’t get it. But if we can recognize our desires and let them go, then you will have a greater well being (not to mention a healthier bank account).
We’ve been forced to practice this lately. There have been a multitude of things I’ve wanted over the past year like an Aeropress coffee maker and a new bike rack for our car, but since we can’t afford them I didn’t fulfill the urge. And now, months later I’m glad I didn’t buy those things as what I have already works perfectly fine.
Does Money Create Meaning?
Have you heard of the Ikea effect? That you value something more when you have to work for it; in this case you value your Malmsta side table more having toiled to put it together (damn you tiny allen key!) than you would having simply bought it already constructed.
In this New Yorker article, they discuss the rapidly growing popularity of ultramarathons and Tough Mudder events. The author writes: “Some of the most rewarding life experiences are popular because they favour meaningful hardship over simple pleasure.”
The point is, a certain lack of finances encourages hard work and ingenuity to achieve what you need, rather than simply purchasing it, and this can make you happier.
Many ‘Rich’ folks say they aren’t any happier than when they had less
I just watched a video by the current top-grossing Youtuber PewDiePie, who earned roughly $12 million in 2015. He said that despite having significant finance success, he doesn’t feel any happier than he did scraping by in college while making videos. He simply is happy doing what he enjoys.
Similarly Andrew Martin, a former financial executive, left the stressful, high-paced, consumeristic financial industry and started a permaculture garden in New Zealand. In his video he reports that he is much happier and healthier despite leaving the six-figure income.
Maybe this article is just trying to make me feel better about the small number in my chequings account, but I really do think we have a more exciting life because of it.