In the United States, and in many other countries across the world, we’ve developed this very strange obsession with stuff.
Not only do we want as much stuff as possible, but we silently compete with each other to try and have the best, biggest and most stuff possible.
It could be in the form of buying a gigantic house and throwing ourselves into an ocean of debt, or it could be through many smaller purchases, like endless closets of clothes or progressively flatter television screens. What winds up happening, as a result, is really very interesting.
How Did We Get Here?
We have jobs because we have to feed ourselves and our families, as well as put shelter over our heads, that’s a given. However, we are lucky that in most developed countries like the U.S. food is extremely cheap, and there are places that can be rented or owned that are affordable to people with even the lowest of incomes.
Even so, one of the most common complaints I hear is that someone is drowning in debt and has barely enough money to survive. Why is that?
What winds up happening over time is that a smaller and smaller percentage of the money they earn is spent on core needs like food and the rest is just spent on stuff. More clothes, flatter TVs, smaller smart phones. In the immediate short term it may look like these things are important and increasing your happiness but lets step back and look at the big picture.
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Less Stuff, More Happiness
How many times a week or even a month do you wake up and say to yourself “I wish I didn’t have to go to work”? Do you love your job? If you weren’t getting paid, would you still show up? Can you think of better more rewarding uses for your time?
Chances are you’re working only because you’re getting paid and if left to your own devices, you would be doing something that makes you much happier.
What you need to understand is that every flat screen TV you buy takes you further away from that happiness. Sure, maybe it’s only three weeks of work for that TV but if you added up the time you had to work for everything you bought and didn’t need you probably could have shaved years off of your working career.
How large of an effect do you think that would have on your happiness? Or maybe you take some unpaid days off every year because what do you think would make you happier, three weeks to yourself to spend as you wish or a flatter screen television?
In chasing this goal of happiness you should not only strive to buy less stuff you don’t need but you should actually strive to work less as well.
Right now you might be thinking, “Yea, ok Andrew, that’s great. I’ve heard this a million times before, money can’t buy happiness. Tell me something I don’t already know.”
Maybe the thing that you don’t already know is that you’re wrong. Money actually can buy happiness and they’ve proven it. The problem is it’s probably not the way that you’ve been trying.
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What Really Matters
Buying those flatter TVs and incrementally better smart phones have been proven to have a negligible effect on your happiness levels. What will actually make you happier is if you give your money away.
Donate to a charity that could save someone’s life, buy your significant other a gift or even buy a stranger a coffee. These are things that have been proven in over 100 countries around the world to measurably increase happiness. Being selfless.
Maybe your goal shouldn’t be to save money, maybe your goal should be to save yourself and your happiness. Be selfless and do it in a way that will actually increase your happiness. You should also be absolutely selfish. Selfish in that you have a limited amount of time and it’s not worth wasting it working for meaningless things. Work less, play more.
It’s important you realize that you’re a slave to your stuff. You work so that you can buy things and it’s those things that you buy which keep you chained to that desk working. Recognize this and you can free yourself. Materialism is killing you but it’s never too late to quit.