When it’s time to stop acquiring new things
There’s a book out there that I read called “Your Money or Your Life” (description/price at the bottom) that gives notion to the idea of “hedonic adaptation.” This is to say that when you buy a new thing, it starts off great and slowly you adapt to its luxury and then it’s not luxurious anymore. You may place it at the very center of a table, clear off a special spot for it and maybe even clean the area it’s going to be in. After awhile, it becomes old news. Things start to clutter up the area again and the new thing that you bought simply doesn’t have it’s allure anymore. You just adapted to the new normal and require buying something new to fill in this void again.
Take being a child. You are first carried everywhere and have no say in where you go. Then, you’re able to crawl and walk around the house. Then, you’re allowed to walk and play outside the house. Then you’re given a bike and can cruise your neighborhood. Then, you can drive a car. Then, you can drive your own car. Then, you can get yourself a much nicer car that maybe doesn’t break down as much and doesn’t embarrass you. Then, you can put rims and a nice sound system in it…or maybe better tires. Then you can get another car for fun or as a hobby.
You’re no idiot. You can see where this is going. What we have to decide for ourselves is, at what point in that line of logic was enough? It’s going to be different for everybody. For most people, we can stop at “Then, you can drive your own car.” We have just enough to get us to work and back. Or we bike to work and keep the car around for groceries, home depot runs, further distances, or trips with multiple people. Other than for luxury purposes, there’s no reason to buy a car that does anything more than get you from point A to point B as cheaply as possible.
For one, if you’re stuck in this loop of hedonic adaptation, you’re never going to satisfy yourself. Secondly, you’re going to feel even worse if you have to “downgrade” some day.
The key is to change what makes you happy
There’s a video on Epicurus that I tend to agree with that discusses three points that make most people happy.
Spending time with friends
Specifically, not romantic partners or family. While significant others and family are great, they can sometimes be a drain…whereas spending time with friends always tend to be fun, calm and friendly. This isn’t to say that you should cut yourself out of all family ties or break up with your SO. It’s simply a reminder to pick up the phone and call/visit your friends more. Epicurus went so far as to build a big house for all of his friends to stay in. We can maybe settle to call or hang out with a different friend once per week.
Your work should make a difference
Epicurus’ philosophy for work was that people are most happy if they work in small teams and each person is valued for their skills and output. I tend to agree with this. Whenever I play MMOs, I’ve always enjoyed the 6-person group dungeons. Each person has their own job and you are working towards a goal. It’s a big deal if somebody leaves. Everybody feels valued. This is opposed to Realm vs Realm raids, where typically gameplay can devolve into a clusterfuck. People can sign up to go or not, it doesn’t really matter as long as you have a bunch of people.
I’m lucky enough to work as part of a 7 person team at work, and I can say that it is great. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and over time, people tend to fill certain roles naturally. We know a lot about each other and spend the day cracking jokes and laughing. When things are down to the wire, I don’t have any doubt that somebody will stay late to help another person.
You need to be calm. Money can buy luxury, but luxury does not equal calm.
Hahah, oh man. I can’t believe people like that exist.
Once you fill your basic needs, spend your money on the one very discounted item that will make you happy forever: nothing.
No item will make you happy forever. This seems obvious, but really…stop chasing it.
Learn to be happy inside. Become calm. Imagine being able to be happy not in spite of lacking things, but because of lacking things. If you can think like that, you’ve departed the main consumerism track and have rolled right onto a completely different one. In fact, you stopped being bound to tracks altogether. It’s a lot like meditation.
It’s a feeling of being not only agile, but grounded. Unwavering in your base emotions, without a care for what is going on around you. You can train your brain to give you these more useful thought patterns, and, like it can help with other mental cobwebs and issues, it can help curb your “spending brain.”
Calmness will take emotion out of your purchases
Money should never be an emotional thing. It’s just a tool to give you your basic needs. If you let it get out of control like the lady in the above Black Friday video, you’re going to have money problems. Maybe she can afford to buy the vegetable steamer, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have money problems. Her mental problem is that she is literally desperate for that steamer and allowed it to change her personality, and her money problem is that her money is hitched to her mental problem. I don’t care whether or not she can afford the steamer or if it was on sale or if it was free. That’s just not the point.
I’ve bought some kitchen appliances of my own. I have a food dehydrator and a food processor. If they broke down, I’d be bummed that my tools are broken. If I didn’t have them, I’d probably get around it. I might even replace them after awhile of not having them. I did not, however, partake in a human stampede, steal from a kid and then scream fake screams of fear to get them. It’s just not that important to me, because I’ve changed what is important to me.
I really, really hope that lady uses that vegetable steamer every day. For the amount of mental anguish that flew around that store to get it, she should be steaming vegetables 24/7 or at least every meal! She scarred a kid for life for that steamer!
In all likelihood, though? It’s going to get used 5-7 times and then forgotten about. Or worse, it was destined to be a cheap gift for somebody who won’t appreciate it (or the feat it took to get it) and will never be opened. Then, it’ll just be part of a garage sale or landfill.
Plenty of actions can help these mental problems that result in money problems
- Exercise – This will give you a feeling of taking care of your body and give you a good mood boost. Just make sure that it’s FUN.
- Meditation – Meditation will help center your mind and begin to re-frame your thought patterns.
- Reading finance books – This will bring back personal finances into your daily thoughts and make you more aware. Start with “Your Money or Your Life” maybe!
- Follow a philosophy – Stoicism can help you bring calmness back into your life by being less reactive to the world. It’s not about being devoid of feelings, it’s about learning to manage your expectations and valuing qualities of yourself rather than things you buy yourself.
You don’t have to do everything; just start small. But, do start.
Not only will this help you naturally spend less money, but it’s a solid foundation to start from for everything else in your life.
What’s your mental philosophy? How does it help with your spending?