After last Tuesday’s post The Powerful Effect Of Being Happy With Less was posted. Over the course of the next couple days, I received an email from an individual claiming that obtaining more and more material goods actually improves his quality of life and makes him happier. Therefore increasing his savings rate by reducing his expenses would feel like deprivation for him. This feeling of deprivation would then lead to him feeling a decreased level of happiness. So his argument was that increasing his income was better then reducing his expenses.
My initial thought was that possibly his expenses were already so minimal and efficient that any further reduction could in fact be classified as toeing the line to deprivation. Through additional email exchanges it turned out that this was not the case and he did in fact lead quite an extravagant lifestyle. Our conversation did give me an idea for this post I am writing today explaining why buying nothing increases my happiness.
But before we get into that I’d like to start off with saying thank you for the email. Regardless of our difference in opinion. I always appreciate hearing your guy’s thoughts and feedback on my posts because personal finance is personal. What works for me might not work for you. After all I’m just a guy typing some stuff into a computer trying to express a different way to look a personal finance compared to what mainstream media is saying. So as mentioned above, my hope for this post is that it will be able to shed some light on why I believe reducing your expenses will in fact not lead you to feeling deprived and will actually increase your happiness.
This feeling of reduced consumption leading to the feeling of deprivation or reduced happiness is very common amongst the vast majority of individuals within our society. I remember I even experienced these same thoughts and emotions when I decided to change my financial habits a couple years back.
It was very soon after I started saving my money that I realized I was buying stuff for a temporary feeling of happiness and when I began saving my money I was creating a long lasting feeling of happiness within myself. The only way I can think of describing the feelings I felt while living in that situation right now is by comparing two individuals. One who is plagued by a lifestyle of consumption to an individual who struggles with a gambling or substance abuse addiction. I feel this way because I truly believe that consumption is an another form of addiction as it generates similar emotions throughout its cycle. The illusion of the feeling of happiness from buying stuff is the short-term high, it always ends in an inevitable crash, that leaves the individuals wanting more stuff and the sad part is that this desire never subsides on its own. It is only once the individuals are able to develop the knowledge and self-discipline to fight through the withdrawal from the consumption high and lose this illusion that happiness revolves around it. That they will realize the true happiness I was talking about while writing The Powerful Effect Of Being Happy With Less. I should mention that every individual I have met including myself who has recovered from a consumption addiction is always happier once they kick the habit.
Here are a few of the positive improvements I experienced once I kicked my consumption habit and realized that buying nothing increases my happiness.
Increase In Strength & Dignity
Even though reaching Financial Independence is still a ways away. Every inch I inch closer to financial independence the feeling I experience is unparalleled to any other feeling I have felt. But the most interesting thing is “giving up” extravagant trips, luxurious housing, fancy cars, expensive dinners out didn’t hurt or reduce my happiness one bit because I find it much more empowering to be free from financial constraints. Being free of financial constraints in my opinion is the only way to live to ensure that your boss, bank, family member(s), or friends don’t decide for you what you will be able to do with your life. And in this sense it increased my strength and dignity as I am able to be me and pursue goals and dreams that bring me true happiness. This increase in strength and dignity can best be summed up with a common saying I’ve encountered amongst the financial blogsphere. That saving your money is the accumulation of F you money and this accumulation of F you money allows you to stand up for what you believe in and “flip the bird” if you need to.
Greater Self Assurance
Once you begin to realize The Powerful Effect Of Being Happy With Less and kick the habit of needing to buy stuff to improve your well being, happiness, and feeling of self-worth. You will not need the newest car, designer clothes, or electronics on the market to earn a sense of well being and happiness. Because you will live your life by your own values, beliefs, and principles that are truly important and make yourself happy as you will not care what mainstream media, your peers, or the Jones’s have to say. Once you lose these cares and worries that your well-being, happiness, and self-worth are intertwined with what their opinion is you are well on your way to living a meaningful, fulfilling, and truly happy life.
Freedom From Mental Stress
I truly believe that living under the financial constraint of debt is very stressful. I mean who wants to live knowing that they are one unexpected expenditure away such as a car breakdown from entering a real financial shit storm. There is no denying this isn’t much fun. Where as having money in the bank to cover these unexpected expenditures is indeed some level of freedom.
Many people scoff at the thought that money can buy happiness, but I do believe the feeling of having enough money is the quickest way to find guaranteed happiness. This feeling and opinion of having enough will give you peace of mind and a calm heart to pursue the other sources of happiness in your life.
The more I learn about happiness. The more I realize it is entirely based around your own decisions and perception of your well being and self worth. If you can convince yourself that you have everything you already need to lead a happy existence. Then you’ll be happy and realize that you can get off the work- buy stuff – work treadmill and not be required to spend years trying to make money to be happy. Once I got off the treadmill I realized that going to the park, playing sports or cards with friends and family, and keeping thing simple to enjoy this freedom was more important than anything money could buy.
Myself personally, the more I got into the habit of saving, the easier and better it felt. It feels great knowing that each dollar I save/invest is buying me time and is a dollar I don’t need to re-earn.
Surprisingly enough, I have found I keep needing less and less to be happy. Which I am excited about. But what makes me the most happy is the free time I am beginning to have and knowing one day I will have enough and potentially then some to be in the fortunate position to support projects I believe in.
I cannot say it enough guys that it is truly a great feeling to lose your money worries and begin to feel like you have enough as then you can focus your time and attention on things that matter most to you. Some have referred to this feeling as Winning The Lottery and I’d have to say I agree.
To those of you just starting out or who have been saving for awhile is your experience similar to mine?