“Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.” – Unknown
This is the area that brings out the worst in us: the little three-year-old throwing a fit in the store because we want something, and we want it now! Think about this for a second. We lived for centuries without cable tv or smart phones. That means you won’t die if you give them up for a few months while you get out of debt.
A little contentment goes a long way in securing your financial future and winning with money. The lifestyle you enjoyed growing up is not necessarily a reflection of your needs. If your parents took you on vacation every summer, that doesn’t mean you need to go on vacation every summer. If your parents owned a boat, camper, or lake home, that doesn’t mean you have to have those things.
It took our parents 15-20 years or longer to reach that lifestyle. It’s a little unrealistic for us to expect the same quality of life as soon as we enter the real world as adults. Yet many of us do exactly that – we expect the best of everything and we expect it to happen quickly & without work.
Unfortunately, that which comes easily leaves a void that we try to fill with more stuff, which leaves another void. It’s a vicious cycle that pushes us ever deeper into the abyss of spending money and not being happy. You can’t find happiness in stuff (stuff is a technical term for material things).
So if you want to win with money, it’s time to start being honest with yourself. Do you really need a $400 phone or the sports package with more channels than you can watch in a week? Or do you just want it really bad and you have a problem saying no to yourself? Here’s a hint: If you can’t pay your bills, maybe you need to be out working instead of watching that $200 per month cable package.
How about your car? Do you really have to pay $35,000 for a new car, just because your old one wasn’t reliable enough? Or could you get by with a $5,000 to $10,000 dependable car? I know the new car smells nicer, but do you really want to spend way more than you could afford for the privilege of driving something that’s losing value in an effort to impress a complete stranger at a stop light? Don’t buy new when used is perfectly fine.
I know what you’re thinking. “But what about food and clothing? Aren’t those necessities?”
Yes, they are. But don’t use that as an excuse to overspend. Do you really need to buy lunch at a restaurant every day, or are you just too lazy to bring in leftovers or a sack lunch? Will you lose your job for not wearing designer clothes or are the less expensive brands just fine? Is the name brand food really better than the generic? In some cases yes, but in many cases, it’s just the same thing with a different label.
And what about our daily latte addictions? Or our priority to keep the fridge stocked with beer? Or our expensive hobbies and collections? The truth is none of these are necessities. There are so many ways we can cut back on spending for a short time to improve our financial situation. But giving up these things is inconvenient. Giving them up means we’ll feel the pain of correcting our poor decisions. Decisions we made because we weren’t willing to exercise discipline a little at a time.
At the base level, necessities are food, clothing, shelter, transportation and health. If we have those things, we can survive. Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you should cut everything out of your life for good. I’m just saying a little sacrifice and contentment with the things you have will go a long way.
The really cool thing is once you cut back a little, you find you really didn’t need some of those luxury items. You learn to enjoy the things you have. You stop focusing on the next big thing that will bring you happiness, and you start finding happiness in things other than your possessions.
Even if you don’t want to sacrifice some material things to get out of debt, I’ll challenge you to give up cable for six months so you can give that money to charity instead. See what a difference your $100 a month can make in someone else’s life instead of keeping you stuck to your couch.