There comes a point in all our lives where we take inventory of what we have, typically in the Spring. We purge things out of our lives in what we have come to call “Spring Cleaning” and it seems that each year, we continually have to do this exercise. It got me to thinking, what is it about material possessions that make us collect so much? I mean, it is more work to upkeep, pickup and find homes for. Most of the time we don’t even remember where we placed half the things that we have in our lives. It seems rather defeating and frustrating to me to have so many things in my life and I know I am not alone in this feeling.
Minimalism is a term I first heard of about a year and a half ago. It is in essence the less is more argument. I like this way of life because the byproduct is that you focus on the things that truly matter and don’t spend your time tending to all these possessions. I am not the type to have one outfit or anything, but my wife and I value space and do not like clutter, so we have adopted a variation of this idea in our own lives and are happy in doing so. It is a lifestyle and one that can be custom made to fit you, where you are, so don’t for a second think that you have to be as extreme as having one outfit, or a chair you bring into different rooms of your home.
There are many reasons why people overbuy. First reason that comes to mind is Security, the security in knowing we have enough to take care of ourselves, to feed ourselves, to even show off to others so we feel that they will see us as the Jones’. In reality, many people mask insecurities by obtaining possessions that show others that they have “arrived”. Another reason is because we have an impulse problem, we see something we like in the moment, we buy it, only to becomes indifferent to it a month down the line and it sits in our garages, basements, attics collecting dust. It is not only a clutter problem, but it also is a financial problem. Let me explain how this becomes a financial problem or at least a financial nuisance in our lives.
The issue isn’t that we necessarily may not have the money, it is more opportunity cost. If you’re like most people, spending is a this or that proposal. There is no shortage of ways to part with your hard earned dollars, there are however only a few ways that you can make decisions that better impact your bottom line. Instead of purchasing that item to have it collect dust, you could take the money and invest it. For example, lets say you spend $100 a month on things that you don’t really need or ultimately want, lets also say instead that you invest that same $100 a month over a ten year period receiving a 10% return on your investment over that time period. You would end up with $20,975.51 and it would cost you only $12,100 in contributions over the 10 year period, or $1,200 per year. Small changes, that may seem insignificant, can definitely have a large impact over time.
I want to challenge you today, ask yourself what you really need in your life and if what you are buying will meet that need, if the answer is yes and you can afford it, then by all means buy it. If you are only buying it to cover up some other issue in your life, then I would encourage you to make the changes in your life that will be lasting. I know someone that purchased lots of clothing because they were trying to find clothes that would flatter their body, only to be continuously disappointed. It wasn’t until this person started working on the core issue of the body, that this person found that they didn’t need much clothing because they had worked hard on their body and found happiness in how they looked.
In closing, find happiness within, work on the things that are central to your feelings of insecurity, sadness, or hurt and build your self confidence from within. I write this as a means to help in your financial life, but I also share this to encourage someone to be happier in your life journey. If you find happiness from within, you won’t spend so much time trying to meet others expectations and trying to make yourself happy on the outside through the latest trends, cars and possessions. Maybe, just maybe, you might have some extra cash to pursue more meaningful experiences as well.