The idea for this post came after watching an episode of Rich Kids of Instagram. I honestly don’t watch a lot of TV (just a few hours a month, at the most, is the norm for me because we don't have Netflix, cable, or local channels), but somehow I found this show and got sucked in.
These people are wealthy, like super wealthy, but the show was basically about spending money to impress other people.
And, my main thought the whole time was why do people care so much about STUFF?
As I was watching what was happening in the show, my jaw hit the floor a few times. It's just crazy what people spend their money on, the things people will do to flaunt their wealth, and the lengths people will go to in order to chase material items.
I'm sure some of these people were actually happy, but I don't think that's the norm for the average wealthy person. More importantly, it shouldn’t be the norm for the average American.
I honestly hate to judge, but as a personal finance expert, I have met too many people who let material possessions take over their lives.
And, I want it to stop.
Being controlled by material possessions can hold you back significantly, in many ways. It can lead to anxiety, stress, and falling into a debt cycle.
Sure, there are times when buying things can make you happy. But, for the most part, unnecessary material possessions won't greatly benefit your life, especially if you can't afford them.
Hardly a day goes by when I don't receive an email asking me why I don't have pictures of myself sitting on a Ferrari, wearing “nicer” clothes, and so on and so on. Someone actually told me that they don’t believe anything I have to say because my Instagram isn't filled with fancy sports cars!
Sure, Ferraris are cool if you like that sort of thing, but that’s not my life. And, fancy sports cars, expensive watches, or designer clothes aren’t going to make your life better than anyone else’s.
I realize that I live on a beautiful sailboat and could afford more expensive things, but I choose to live simply because that’s what brings me happiness. And, you’ll never find me buying stuff just to buy stuff.
Buying things to keep up with others is a dangerous financial behavior because many people aren’t being realistic with their financial situation and their spending. When you let material possessions control you, you may be holding yourself back from reaching meaningful financial goals, like having an emergency fund, paying down your debt, or one day reaching retirement.
There are so many people who want a bigger house, a bigger wedding ring, some who will wait 24 hours in line for the newest cell phone, those who will spend their whole paycheck on an outfit, and so on.
But, are any of those things needs? Are they worth wrecking your future?
Again, I'm not saying that you can’t have nice things, instead I'm saying that you should be realistic with your income and spending, and realize that material possessions won't always bring you happiness.
For most people, happiness comes from security and stability, and chasing material possessions will cause you to lose focus on what’s actually meaningful.
Often, a simple life can bring much more happiness and freedom. This means spending within in your means, focusing on long-term goals, and just living with a little bit less.
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If you’re feeling frustrated with the chaos of a materialistic world and wanting the freedom that comes from simplicity, here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Are there things you could live without?
Look around your home and really start to think about the things you actually need. A lot of the stuff we have is there because we wanted it, and while that’s okay sometimes, all of that physical clutter might be causing mental clutter.
When you are living a lifestyle that is controlled by material possessions, you are probably buying things just to buy them. But, do any of them actually bring you happiness?
When we downsized to move into our RV, it felt so good to get rid of the things we didn’t need or use. I knew I had been attached to my material possessions for too long, and it was freeing to finally get rid of so much stuff!
You probably have many items in your home that you could live without. And, you don’t have to completely downsize like we did, but decluttering can help free you from those materialistic wants. It honestly makes your life so much simpler, and there are many benefits to having a simpler life.
Decluttering your life to simplify it can lead to:
- Saving money. It’s pretty simple– the more you have, the more money you will have to spend in order to maintain, repair, or replace things. When you have fewer things, you will save money because you won’t be spending so much in order to just keep things. Plus, you can even make money selling your things.
- Really using what you have. When you have a lot of stuff, it’s easy to forget about what you have. You also might lose things, buy things you already have because you forget you had them, and so on. When you live with less, you know what you have and will actually use those things.
- Being mindful about your spending. When you realize how little you actually need to live, you will probably be more careful about how you spend your money in the future. This will allow you to put money towards more meaningful things, like paying off your debt and working towards retirement.
Related post: How A Minimalist Lifestyle Can Bring You Happiness.
Once you declutter, you might even get to the point when you are wanting to downsize your house, and this can save you even more money. A bigger home just costs more, from heating and cooling, higher insurance, more maintenance and repairs, and more. Plus, a smaller home might mean that you aren’t tempted to fill those empty rooms with more stuff.
2. Why are you wanting to buy certain items?
If you are only buying things to impress other people, you are not prioritizing your own happiness.
There will always be people who have more than you, and there will always be more new things to buy.
If you let yourself fall into that mindset, you will never find true happiness because you are letting others tell you what should make you happy.
You need to think about whether you are buying something because you truly want it, not because you are wanting to impress the people around you.
If you are having a hard time understanding why you want to buy a certain item, it can be helpful to wait at least 24 hours before making the purchase. This will give you time to think about why you are wanting to buy it, whether or not you are wanting it to impress someone else, and how it will affect your financial goals.
3. How does wanting more stuff align with your financial goals?
If you can't afford an item, then you should not be purchasing it.
It's really that simple.
Before you buy something, you should think about how it will impact your financial goals.
For example: if you are about to buy a $200 pair of shoes, think about what else you could be doing with that $200. Could you put it towards your debt? Should you be adding to your emergency fund? You could even start investing with it.
Related post: How To Start Investing For Beginners With Little Money.
Again, I’m not saying that you can’t buy something if you really want it, but you should always make sure it’s something you can afford. Going into unplanned high-interest rate debt to “afford” something can wreck your finances.
This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually purchase that item, it might just mean you’ll have to wait a little longer. If that item is still something you really want or need, you might want to consider some creative ways to make money to help fund that spending decision.
You should always prioritize your financial goals over the expectations of others. If you haven’t started thinking about your financial goals, you should start planning for them now.
Setting financial goals is a thing every person or family should do, and they will help you determine how you can and should be spending your money. To get started on your goals, read more at Your Financial Freedom Checklist to see how setting goals can help you reach financial freedom.
4. Do you really need the item?
Finally, the last question you should ask yourself is if you actually need the item. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but many people don’t take the time to ask themself this simple question. The reality is that this is one of the most important questions to ask when making a large purchase (or any for that matter).
Really dig deep to determine if it’s something you really need. Sure, you might think you need the item, but is it more of a want than a need?
“Wants” are fine, but you do want to be realistic with your budget and your spending. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, have a large amount of high-interest rate debt, or anything else, then you may want to skip any large splurges for now and stick to what you truly need.
Are you conscious of all of the stuff that you buy? What do you think of the materialistic world that we live in?
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