“I wish I had saved yet another $100 above what I needed”
“I wish I had bought that $500 coffee espresso machine that I really wanted.”
“I wish I had spent those extra weekends on my own time at the office, collating papers for the boss.”
………said NO ONE EVER on their deathbed.
Know what people regret the most?
Working too much.
Missing out on experiences and moments.
Doing what they really wanted to do.
Not spending money, or buying things, or saving money that they didn’t get to use.
MONEY BUYS THINGS, WHICH DO MAKE US HAPPY
When we think about money, we think about it buying things. Physical, shiny, pretty things.
That $1900 coat, or that $2000 bag.
This one, in case you were wondering. It’s SO soft and pretty, but not worth the price tag to me.
I still get a serious shopping high when I buy something I’ve coveted for a long time.
Call me shallow or superficial, but that rush of holding or wearing what I wanted and absolutely had to have, is indescribable.
(You know what I’m talking about.)
But I’m always (now) aware of two things:
- I may forget about that beloved piece and move on to the next obsession (happens often)
- I know it is only a short-term high, or happiness, not a long-lasting one
I am absolutely aware of the fact that if it’s an impulse buy (really trying to avoid these), and I don’t spend the time thinking about whether or not I REALLY want to fork over that kind of money for this piece, I could very well end up regretting that purchase, and unable to recoup that money spent.
Enter: Unhappiness at having wasted money
(which is really the opposite of what I was trying to achieve)
But even knowing all that, and trying to combat against it with mental trickery, I still get really, really happy in the short-term, even if I’ll never say something like:
“I wish I had bought that buttery soft $2000 bag“, on my deathbed
Other big things that make people happy?
A huge house.
A fancy sports car.
(That is, before you realize that a house is a lot more money than you had budgeted for especially with being a McMansion, and that car turned out to be a lemon that keeps grinding its gears.)
MONEY BUYS TIME AND FREEDOM
When you have enough saved, you don’t have to worry about your financial problems, or being ‘free’ of your horrible job.
You may have other problems to deal with, such as your family, but you don’t have to worry about telling your boss that ‘No’, you are NOT spending your Saturday fixing a (pet) colleague’s awful presentation because they did a crappy job, and turned on the charm to get off scot-free. Again.
You can BUY that happiness, that mental and financial security of being able to do what you want.
With my savings, I bought the years of 2011 and 2012 for myself, taking the time off.
A photograph I took in Madrid, Spain of people hanging out on a beautiful sunny day
You can also see this as banking your money to buy future time, let’s say.. oh.. YOUR RETIREMENT?
When you retire at 65, you can expect to live about 13 years on average. Longer, if you’re a woman.
Let’s say 15 years to be on the safe side, because medicine has improved and we are all living a lot longer than before.
When you work now, and save that money, you can be carefree when it comes to retirement, because you have banked enough money to live for 15 years without working.
If you want to retire SOONER, you have to bank MORE money, to pay for longer than 15 years without working.
It’s really that simple when you think about it. Money (that is saved) buys all that.
MONEY BUYS MEMORIES THAT WILL LAST LONGER
The real happiness that researchers say will be long-lasting are memories, which will last longer than that buttery, $2000 bag that you may be lusting after.
This is where I am trying my best to focus my money… that is, where I am focusing on SAVING my money, to buy all of this lovely time and freedom.
Not just any old time or freedom, but time spent on all the great things that life is truly made up of, and NOT spent on doing things that made you unhappy.
See, Calcutta/Kolkata slum-dwellers rate themselves as some of the happiest in the world, even though they live in the worst of conditions.
You’d think someone living in filth, would be unhappier than someone in NYC (a questionably cleaner city), but it turns out that it isn’t quite so true.
Calcutta/Kolkata slum-dwellers have:
- A community to draw upon (friends, family, strangers) who are in the same position
- A strong belief in religion (which helps them sleep at night, and accept their poverty)
- Nothing to compare their situation to (they have never lived anywhere else)
I am not saying the key to happiness it to move to Calcutta and risk contracting some disease, but what I am saying, is that happiness is partly a state of mind, which can be aided along by being purchased with savings.
A photograph I took in Belem, Portugal of the seaside (they have the BEST pasteis de natas there)
Vacations don’t pay for themselves.
After paying bills, watching your expenses, and saving your 10% like a good hardworking ant, you will hopefully have enough left over for a modest vacation with your family.
These vacations will be memories encapsulated in photos that you can bother other family members with, by showing them how great of a time you had without them.
These photos (possibly digital in nature), will last forever, especially if you back up your hard drives ever so often, as I’ve often harped on you to do so, and you can continue to look back on them.
Every time you look back at a candid of your kids — Billy shoving Jane into the pool, you will chuckle and smile, remembering fondly how nice it was when you were all together and carefree, without being burdened with that co-signed $30,000 student loan for your kids to attend a for-profit school to receive a diploma that basically didn’t get them anywhere, as they’re still living at home rent-free, working part-time at McDonald’s.
What? Was that too real for you? Sorry.
The point is not just to avoid for-profit schools that are out to scam you for your money to give you a useless degree, it’s that money can buy all that.
Past memories of time shared and experiences had that will make you feel good, no matter what has happened, hasn’t happened, and will never happen.
But all of the above, is not all related to money.
MONEY CAN’T BUY A FAMILY
The only thing you can’t buy, a genuine family who loves you and can’t imagine you being anyone and any more than who you are.
You can’t buy that kind of unconditional love.
You can find it outside such as with your friends, or you can create your own by finding someone and creating a family, but you sure can’t buy it on a shelf.
Even if you have a ton of money, you may be envious of others with the emotional support that the often receive and you wish that you did as well.
I’ll admit to feeling like this — seeing friends with TWO awesome parents, close siblings, cousins.. all of this is what I haven’t had.
I am not an orphan or estranged from my family, but I am also not close to my family, in a way that I’d imagine wanting to go on vacation with them and spend time with them.
It’s both good and bad in my opinion; I am able to find that support elsewhere, and/or I just create the internal support for myself.
SOME THINGS ARE WORTH MORE THAN MONEY
If you are already spending a lot of time with your kids, and you say you want to spend MORE time with them by becoming financially free, so you go back to work to make more money like a crazed maniac for the next 30 years and end up missing out on their childhoods, don’t be surprised when your kids don’t know you at the age of 65 when you’re retired and ready to “be with your kids”.
Some things are worth more than money.
Time that is lost, can’t be taken back because no one can turn back time, so make sure your priorities are screwed on straight.
Live on less if you have to to make it work.
I’d do that before working too much and missing out on my own life.
People who have grown up with poor or modest beginnings, only to make it to a comfortable life, always remembers fondly how they had no money to buy coats or shoes that year, but the family pulled together and made it work.
My mom has plenty of those stories, having grown up with nothing.
She looks back, and laughs at them now, but I can see that while some of it gave her lasting, painful memories, it made her a stronger person who was willing to, and able to endure anything.
What she remembered the most was her family pulling together which made her all the more grateful for her life and her own family.
MONEY CAN BUY A LOT OF HAPPINESS, BUT ONLY IF YOU SAVE IT
Money really can buy happiness, but it’s the money that you’ve accumulated and saved, that will do that for you, not the money that is spent and unrecoverable.
Maybe you’re in debt right now, and you’re thinking:
That’s all really nice, but you’re really just being a b*tch for shoving your vacation photos in our faces, seeing as you don’t have any debt and a ton of savings with an awesome job that lets you work less while making a ton of money.
Not going to deny it, except that “shoving” part.
However I will tell you that when I was in $60,000 of student debt, thinking that I would have to stick at it for the next 5 years, or 1825 days, living with just the basics, I wasn’t sure I’d make it.
I wasn’t making that kind of money before (I was still earning a good amount, nonetheless), and I had no idea that I would EVER make that kind of money. I didn’t plan on it.
All I knew was that I had 1825 days ahead of me that I could either bitch about and moan to people who don’t care on the internet, or I could STFU and try my best.
I managed to do a lot of questionably frugal things, clear my debt down to its last legs of $15,000 in the 17th month of my debt-free journey, before I took an extremely big risk, quit my job and started freelancing.
A month later, I was debt-free.
540 days in, and 1285 days ahead of schedule.
Now you can’t replicate my situation, so much as you can permanently change your hair colour or eye colour by wishing it so.
What you can do, is think about what you’re doing today that you are willing to give up in the short-term, to reach your long-term goals.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN?
Want to be debt-free? Great.
What’s your plan to get out?
Don’t have a plan, you’re just winging it?
Make a plan you can live with, and stick to it. No one ever made it to the end without knowing what the “end” looked like.
If you don’t want to really sacrifice anything like your weekly dinner out with the girls to be debt-free sooner, then don’t.
But don’t cry to anyone about how it sucks to be in debt.
You always have a choice to do what you want, and in the end, that’s what it always boils down to.