“We buy s*** we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” —George Carlin
I Like Stuff
I enjoy the finer things in life. I have a particularly deep appreciation for all sorts of vehicles, especially high performance luxury vehicles. It’s not uncommon for me and Keli to be driving down the road when I spot a beautiful Ferrari or Lamborghini—I usually crack my window just a little in order to hear the lovely purr of 8 to 12 cylinders. I jokingly follow this up by saying to Keli, “Hey, that guy is driving my next car!”
And it’s not just cars. There’s something to be said for a high quality product, big or small, that completely changes the game. We now carry full-fledged computers on our wrists. Our beds memorize our bodies in order to enhance our quality of sleep. There are smartphone apps that literally save people’s lives.
You Like Stuff
Too much of a good thing
But it can go too far. For a long time, I believed that once I started making a regular, post-college paycheck, I would upgrade my life with all of the necessary accouterments; probably not a Lambo, but definitely a brand-spanking new car. Marble countertops would be a must. A two-car garage is just necessary nowadays. And while we’re at it, why don’t we just upgrade our living room furniture? I mean, 72 months with 0% interest is an incredible deal, and I’d hate to miss out on it.
Why did I feel like this? What itch was I trying to scratch?
The elusive joneses
Everyone I saw that was ostensibly ‘successful’ had surrounded themselves with these very things. Between seeing the Facebook posts of their new rides or their new iPhone-whatever and the incessant advertisements that infect our television, radio, and smartphones, I was convinced that my life needed a severe upgrade. I didn’t have the ‘it factor’. I wasn’t hip enough. My swag was weak at best. I was, for lack of a better cliché, failing at keeping up with the Joneses.
Ah, yes, the elusive Joneses. Those who seem to have it all together. Those who we aspire to be. Those who are always just out of our reach.
We buy the new car, but then notice nicer ones. We buy the newest phone, and then the newest edition knocks at the door of our discontentment. We buy new clothes, but no one appreciates them.
This vicious cycle ultimately leads to a few unintended consequences.
By continuously buying things, oftentimes with money we don’t really have, we dig ourselves into a hole that’s difficult to climb out of. Debt is the single greatest thing keeping someone from reaching their financial aspirations.
Or, we “have” the money to purchase these things but are negligent to long term financial goals, so we put off saving for the future. We put off responsible financial stewardship. Ignorance must be bliss.
Discontentment is perhaps the worst thing that can result from over-consumption. After years of purchasing stuff to try and pacify our longing for more, many people find themselves in a state of discontentment. That giddy feeling you get after buying something wears off faster. The shot of dopamine you get after making a purchase loses its sting. What now? Maybe you go indulge in ‘retail therapy’. Do you see how dangerous setting these intangible standards for yourself can ultimately harm you?
Like Stuff Less
About a year ago I learned about the concept of minimalism. Minimalism forces you to to reflect on all the things that currently consume your life. What adds value? What brings you joy? What serves a purpose? Keep those things. Everything else can go. Really. There is very little need for all that extraneous junk that just takes up space. Don’t know what to do with your stuff? Donate it, sell it, or trash it.
This process also forces you to be conscious about your future purchases. Are you buying things just for the sake of buying them? Are you looking for a ‘quick hit’? Something to temporarily satisfy you?
Over the past year, I’ve been able to donate 12 industrial strength bags full of clothes and miscellaneous items to the Goodwill. I’ve discarded 7 or 8 trash cans worth of junk that was taking up physical and mental space in my life.
Don’t Keep Up
The greatest thing that I’ve learned from minimalism: We don’t have to be the Joneses. You don’t have to be the Joneses. Stop trying to keep up. Stop basing your self-worth on your material goods–goods that often lead to debt, discontentment, or a false sense of contentment. Our worth comes from inside us, not the things we surround ourselves with.
Do this, and you’ll find yourself well on your way to financial freedom and inner peace.