I’ve seen a few posts on the topic – people advocating that being grateful is one of the biggest keys to reaching financial independence.
I have to be honest. My first reaction to this type of thinking was, ‘yeah, that’s a nice thought, but I don’t really see how being thankful for my lovely family or comfy sneakers will pay my bills off faster, keep food on the table, and help me leave my job before age 50.’
But, the seed was planted and the thought has been rolling around in the back of my mind for the past few months (since I started getting serious about my debt and blogging about it).
As a result, I have started to be more conscientious and appreciative of the things I already have and, miraculously (?), I feel the urge to buy less stuff and spend less money. This is great because I have also put myself on a budget that requires me to cut spending by 2/3rds so that I can tackle my debt once and for all. I’ve been spending more than what I make for my entire adult life, so this seems an impossible feat for me. But, I’m doing well so far, and I think this is due largely in part to being content with what I already have – rocket science, I know.
We live in a (western) world where we are constantly bombarded with images of beautiful people doing glamorous things while wearing the latest trends. Our consumer lifestyle tells us that we need the expensive beauty balm to get glowing skin, to vacation at a 5-star resort to really enjoy our down-time and have the latest handbag while we’re at it.
The thing is, I thought I had this type of thinking beat.
I know buying more ‘stuff’ adds to the world’s consumption/garbage problem. I know most models are (extremely) air-brushed and no amount of beauty blending or balm will make me look that way. I don’t care about brand names. I drive a 10-year old car. I already thrift shop for most of my belongings and I detest clutter. In fact, I have sold/given away most of my possessions twice in my lifetime (as a result of relocating to new cities and not being able to take things with me).
But the truth is, I am every bit as guilty as the next person of wasting money on stuff and things I don’t really need because I somehow think I deserve them or it’s what I ‘should’ be doing with my time and money.
For example, my partner calls my car an ‘old beater’ and thinks that someone of my age with my job should be driving something newer and more ‘respectable’. Until a few months ago, I would have agreed with him. Sure, it’s a boring grey colour and the rear door sticks, but the car works. It gets me from point A to point B, the repairs cost less than a new car payment, and except for pride or ego, I really can’t think of any reason to get rid of it.
I read a post from My Money Wizard the other day that pointed out “each month old faithful sticks around, she might as well be writing you a $500 check (the average price of a new car payment these days)”. I don’t have a penny saved to replace this car, yet only a few months ago I was thinking about selling it and getting a new car – hefty payment included – just because, well, I should get a new one. Sigh.
I’ve been guilty of this type of thinking for smaller purchases too. I was told that running shoes should be replaced yearly. It wasn’t until recently that I (successfully) tested this myth. Unless you’re an elite runner (which I am not) there is nothing wrong with wearing a pair of running shoes until they begin to fall apart. Yes, I know all the running magazines and advertisements will tell you otherwise, but I’m 2 years in on my current shoes and they are still feeling great, so why replace them?
Kitchen gadgets are another great example – when you really think about it, the basic knife and whisk are fine to get most jobs done. You don’t need the fancy food processor or thousand-dollar mixer (unless you are a chef, which again, I am not).
Clothing, furniture, housing … the list goes on and on. I’ve even regretted a few expensive trips I’ve taken- the sun and sand just weren’t all I thought they’d be.
We are pitched an ‘ideal life’ on the daily, most of us eagerly buy into it and most of us are not any happier for it. There is a reason buyer’s remorse exists.
I know it’s a bit early to think about, but have you ever wondered why so many people like the holidays so much? It’s not because we are excited to open gifts or look forward to seeing the smile our gift puts on the face of family and friends (though that can be nice, too). I actually think the shopping part is likely what most people dislike about the holiday season: the long shopping lines, stressing about getting the perfect gift, spending money we don’t have etc. When you think about what you do like about the holly jolly time of year, it’s likely to include the laughs, meals and memories made together. That ‘stuff’ doesn’t cost much, and those are the ‘things’ in life that I think many of us are most thankful for.
Last week I took a 3-day camping/canoeing excursion an hour away from my house with a friend I’ve known for 30-years. It cost us next to nothing and it was the best.
Reading a book on a rainy afternoon. Listing to my 4y/o niece squeal with excitement at the park. A 60km bike ride on a sunny day. These are the things that make me happy. And they cost nothing.
Long story short, I have been happily ‘making due’ with what I already have and have been saving money (so far) as a result. So yes, I do think that being grateful can save you money.
I know it sounds too simple. If you’d like to give it a try, I’d recommend starting by identifying 3 things you’re grateful for daily. I got the idea from fellow blogger, A Change for the Better (Kaizen BT). Since starting this, not only am I spending less, but I am realizing just how good I have it and I’m in a better mood too – everyone wins!
I’d be interested to hear from you. Do you think being grateful can be a ‘magic bullet’ or is the effect likely only to be short-lived? Please leave your thoughts below!