When you’re broke, there are two paths to choose from: drop your spending down below your income or find an income to match your spending. Much of our society opts for the latter.
The trouble with the second option is that there is an endless sea of material possessions that you can acquire. And if you’re someone who likes to keep up with the Joneses, there will never be enough money or things to get you there. Big homes and sporty cars, trendy clothes and fancy furnishings, fancy jewelry and expensive vacations…yes, everything the advertisers are selling as the recipe to a happy life.
There is another problem with chasing a paycheck as well. Simply put, our access to money isn’t completely in our control. Life happens, and often the cash just isn’t there. The truth is, we get laid off or take ill, cars break down and water heaters burst. In moments like these, the high mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, school loans all become a burden and security starts to evaporate.
The media tells us that in order to be happy we need to buy (insert advertised product here, we’ll call it “X”). “X” will bring us joy, be the envy of all our neighbors, and is an absolute must have! It’s the same message we’ve been listening to all our lives. It’s why we have closets full of clothes we don’t wear and miscellaneous stuff we don’t use. We see ads that show beautiful, deliriously happy people and think that we can be them simply by purchasing the product of the moment. The question is, do we want the thing or what we think the thing can bring us?
So that brings us back to the first option of spending less than you bring in. Enough so that you can put some away for those “life happens” moments and retire before you’re dead. Yes, most of us need a car and everyone needs a place to live. But if you downsize to what you actually need instead of what you can afford (or borrow), you might be surprised at how much you really have already.
And of course when you decide to live below your means, more of your time can be spent experiencing life and strengthening relationships. When you’re not stressed about what bills are due and how you’re going to pay for that new minivan, days become easier and more enjoyable. So…a simpler life with the people you care about…that sounds much better to me than a big house filled to the brim and a two car garage.