Those Who Live Within Their Means Suffer From a Lack of Imagination

I read a NY Times article yesterday about how a lot of people are finding that they're happier spending less. In the article, we meet Tammy & Logan. Three years ago, at 31, they gave up the rat race in California & moved to Portland, OR to live simpler. They decided to give away pretty much everything they own (including their cars & TV -gasp!) & to keep 100 items. Tammy kept 4 plates, 3 pairs of shoes and 2 pots. They live off $24,000 a year & paid off over $30,000 in debt. The article says now that their debt is paid off, they have money to travel & contribute to their nephews' & nieces' college funds. Tammy, who was a project manager with an investment management firm, now spends her days working as a freelance web designer & writer, being outdoors, & volunteering. Logan is finishing up school.

“The idea that you need to go bigger to be happy is false,” Tammy says. “I really believe that the acquisition of material goods doesn’t bring about happiness.”

The article is 4 pages long, but I highly recommend reading it. It also delves into how spending money on experiences as opposed to material goods, makes you happier in the long run. This particularly hit home for me because with summer drawing to a close, pretty much everyone I know has gone on some kind of vacation, albeit a staycation or a 2 week stay in South Africa, while we have gone nowhere. We've talked about it, but every time I start adding up how much a vacation will cost, I decide that if we're going to spend $____ on something, it should be on the kitchen/bathroom/etc.

I don't know when I became this person (neither does the Citibank card that I'm still carrying a balance on from the 2 years I lived in NYC over 7 years ago). I used to live in the moment. Spend now, worry later. I actually have a magnet on my refrigerator that says, "Those Who Live Within Their Means, Suffer From a Lack of Imagination." I guess it was a way to make myself feel better about having over $10,000 in debt & nothing to show for it but 2 years worth of clothes from H&M & a partially deteriorated liver.

I'm 34; I'm married; I own a house; I spend countless hours a week scrolling home blogs & saving inspiration pictures to a folder on my Desktop. I just spent $130 on sheets. Sheets! Sheets that no one sees except me & John. At night. In the dark.

I only get paid once a month, so after I allot for how much money goes to bills, etc., I divide the remaining amount by 4 (4 weeks in a month) & then spend the month deciding what I can buy when. It's like a month long roulette game: "Okay, if I buy the sheets & don't eat out for lunch, I can probably buy a cheap-ish duvet by the end of the month, and possibly 2 throw pillows. Crap, something's wrong with my car (again). Okay, fix car & buy duvet next month. Shit, the shower broke & we have to hire a plumber. Grrrr. I need a duvet!"

Seriously. All the time. It never stops. Not to mention, anytime anyone is in our house, I'm wondering what they're thinking about what we've spent money on & what we haven't. Our kitchen floor is heinous, but we have $130 sheets. Did they notice the sheets? Shit, if they went upstairs, they noticed how crappy our bathroom is, too. Ugh....

Anyway.... this article made me feel like an asshole, & a super materialistic one at that. I can't imagine paring down my possessions to a mere 100 items. Shit, my makeup & hair products alone would eat up half of that. But I can certainly back off a little on buying things for our house. We've only lived here 2 years, it's not like it's supposed to be perfect. Plus, I really want to get out of town, even it's only for a long weekend. I've had a rough summer. I need to re-charge.

So this is definitely a work in progress sort of thing, but I'm glad I read this article. I think I needed the wake-up call.

Weekend Wrap Up

Weekend Wrap Up