If you think about it, it's wild that Western culture finds it totally permissible for us to require hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt just to afford the basic essentials of a good life: a car, an education, a home. What's more interesting is how we more frequently condemn debtors and even guilt ourselves for having to do so — it may be our choice, but what others do we have? This kind of debt, the kind that's unfortunate yet seemingly inevitable for now, does more than just enslave us to work that consumes most of our lives for the next 30+ years. What it does is completely whack out our concept of money. It aggrandizes our idea of what a dollar is really worth. After all: what's a few thousand dollars of debt when your education cost you $100,000?
It sounds like something you only hear at some kind of rally — yet it's such a pervasive reality, I can't help but wonder if, like David Foster Wallace's fish that don't realize they're swimming in water, that's what makes it so hard to see and talk about: we are enslaved to our things. We are at the whim of our finances. Our daily lives are constructed around the work we have to do not to survive, but to repay our debts.
All of this to say: more "things" will not make you happy. How do I know? Because if they did, the ones you've already desired, got, and are in debt over would have done the trick. Secondly, aside from the aforementioned essentials, there is basically nothing that's worth exchanging years upon years of your precious time for: no fancy car, no designer clothes, nothing. This kind of realization requires a good deal of wisdom and an even more profound honesty, and I hope we can all get there.
I propose a little experiment, if you need to move yourself along: no spend November. For one month, you don't spend money on anything but what you need (food, toiletries, etc.) That means nothing extra: no new clothes, no eating out, no new electronics, etc. Exceptions can be made: if something breaks, if something's legitimately necessary, etc., but otherwise, use what you have, and find ways to entertain yourself that don't cost a quarter of your paycheck. Here's what you'll realize by the end:
Your Life Will Feel Much More Grounded
You'll have to actively find ways to let yourself "be," and enjoy what you already have.
You'll Begin To Override The Need To Have Tangible, Physical Representations Of Your Wealth And Success
The idea of "keeping money just for the sake of keeping it" is almost impossible for most people, because we subconsciously believe that unless we're able to physically prove our wealth, it's not legitimate. If it's not tangible, we don't feel comfortable. Rather than see every dollar you earn for what it can buy you, just leave it there, and take what you need when you need it. That's all.
You'll Realize How Much Of Your Financial Anxiety Is Buyer's Remorse
People are rarely stressed about "paying the bills." They're almost always stressed about "paying the bills after I unnecessarily over-spent this month."
You'll Realize That The Best Things In Life Are Free (Cheesy But True)
Or even more, that it's unnecessary to spend as much as you do in a month, all for the sake of "having fun." You'll have more fun hiking, or having friends over, or learning to cook, or reading the books on your shelf that still aren't touched...
You'll See How Quickly The Little Things Add Up
Twenty dollars a day on food, drinks, plus whatever else you spend on fast fashion, drug store pick ups, and so on, is $600 by the end of the month. (Yikes.)
You'll Discover That Being Resourceful Is Fun
It gives you a weird sense of accomplishment.
You'll Start Getting Creative
You'll have to put together new combinations of outfits, ones you've never thought of before. You'll have to whip together dinner with what's in your fridge already. You'll find that not only is this possible — it's also a lot of fun.
You'll Learn To Appreciate — And Fully See — That You Have Everything You Need
Desiring more, more, more wasn't because you were ever truly lacking anything physically, but really had to do with the fact that you were lacking a sense of purpose, or worth, or certainty on your own. Ironically, you'll find that what you do after releasing your desire to consume will be just the antidote you need.
Images: Giphy (5); Pexels