I was recently speaking with a friend who was really upset. She and her husband lived in a big house, with a big mortgage. They took their family on frequent vacations. Their children were always dressed with the most expensive clothing. When their children started to drive, they each got new high-end cars. Then college rolled around and they had no savings to draw from. They had to downsize their house and cut their vacations. The children’s cars were gone as well as the expensive clothing… and they were still in a financial hole. The additional financial stress also took its toll on the family. They were all unhappy, arguing, and generally disappointed with how things turned out.
She and her husband had good intentions. They were giving their children all the things they didn’t have when they were younger. They wanted to give their children what they thought would be the best possible childhood. Was it worth it? If given the chance, would they do it the same way? It’s doubtful. They learned the hard way that they didn’t own their possessions, their possessions owned them.
Some people just seem to have it all – the big beautiful house, the shiny new car, the elaborate vacations, etc. But do they? The fact of the matter is, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Scratch just below the surface and you will see that many of those same people who seem to be living the high life are in debt up to their eyeballs.
What about you? Do you need to look as though you have it all too? In the end, it really doesn’t matter what you have. Keeping up with the Joneses adds much unnecessary stress (and debt) to your life and people that judge you by your possessions are not your friends. If you have to work twice as hard to keep up with your lifestyle, is it making you happy or more stressed?
You can eliminate unnecessary stress by focusing less on what you have or don’t have. Instead, focus on the things that make you happy. You should buy both things you need and things you want. If you are buying something you want (not necessarily need), make sure of two things: (1) you can afford the purchase and (2) you want it for the right reason. Buy something because it brings you joy, not because it makes someone else sad or envious.
Take a look at the things you already have. Do you own your possessions or do your possessions own you? If you are stressed about having to get new things or never seem to have enough, if you are unhappy in spite of buying things you think will make you happy, if you are more focused on what other people have and not what you have, your possessions own you. If you buy things because they have a practical, useful purpose, or because they bring you happiness – you own your possessions.
Try this: Go into one room in your house (any room) and take a look around. Focus on anything you see, even if it seems trivial. Ask yourself the following questions about each item you focus on and be honest with yourself when you answer:
– Does having this make me happy? What about it makes me happy?
– Do I need this in my life? If so, why?
– What would happen if I didn’t have it?
Being aware of how you feel about the items you have is the first step. Once you are aware, your buying habits will improve and you will end up spending less and valuing the things you own.