Wednesday, March 7

A World of Wants

If you read a lot of personal finance blogs, you will find many bloggers focus on savings and frugality, and I agree that this is the key to financial success. There is a classic quote that basically says if you spend a dollar more than you make you will be miserable and if you spend a dollar less than what you make you will be happy. The truth is that most people are not within a dollar's distance. If you are good at saving, you will save a lot, and if you are good at spending you will spend a lot. So this happiness or misery is very much amplified.

Last month I read "Not Buying It - My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. This book was a really good reminder to me of what I don't like about consumer culture and I could actually feel myself reacting differently to my shopping experiences during and after the time I was reading it.

In reflecting on this book, I had the thought that the easiest time to prevent a purchase is before you even want to make it. If you can look at the fancy gadget or enormous house and not want it, then there is no chance at all of overspending to buy it. Even better, you don't feel deprived because the want doesn't exist.

But although my shopping impulses have been dimmed they are certainly far from gone. For me, housing can be a big want, with very expensive price tags attached. After thinking about this topic, I believe that what I really want is a house that fits my life and is comfortable for me. I need to focus on making this house that I already own (with the bank) into what I want, instead of wishing I could afford a newer, fancier model. I will save myself a lot more money by controlling this want than almost any amount of small economies could produce. And I also believe that learning to be happy with what you've got is one of life's greatest successes.

Today's billable hours: 6.0
Today's contracted hours: 1.0