This bad economy is really poorly timed, mostly because it's happening right while we're alive to experience it.
We've come out of a credit binge where easy money was available at low interest rates. This drove up a false housing market and now that the bubble has popped, millions are "upside down" in their homes (meaning they owe more than they're worth on the open market). Jobs have dried up, income has gone down, and the bills (and the interest they carry) left over from the heady days of the boom are not so much fun now that we're in the bust. Retirement savings are greatly diminished, and people are being forced to work longer than they had planned. While all this makes for some nauseating blame-games at the political level, at the practical level where real people live it's a joy stealer.
Add to all this a materialistic culture that relentlessly sells us on the lie that more stuff will equal more happiness. If we could only have that latest gismo, buy the bigger house, drive the fancier car, watch that latest flat screen tv, play the newest video game, and wear sophisticated clothes, our lives would be more fulfilled and happy.
The biggest reason we believe a lie is because somewhere, deep down inside, we want it to be true.
We actually like material possessions and the latest shiny objects. We would dearly love to believe that they bring fulfillment and happiness. What could be easier? We fall for the lure of pleasure as happiness and pile on the purchases, rarely stopping to wonder why real fulfillment eludes us like the edge of a fog in a morning field.
But here is one thing I've learned: it's hard to be less than happy when you can be happy with less.
I'm no minimalist. I am blessed beyond description and have nice material possessions myself. But I have come to realize that I want to spend my money a little differently than I did when, to borrow a phrase from my father, I was "younger and dumber." After all, what is aging for if not to absorb a little wisdom? Something must accompany the gray hair and wrinkles. Therefore, I made a purposeful decision to spend more of my money on memories instead of on material.
Think about it. Does a new car or a trip with your family generate more special moments and lasting memories? How many memories do you really have of that item you just had to purchase (and likely therefore finance) eight or nine years ago? Yet how many moments with friends, family, and loved ones can you recall from throughout your life? Which do you value more?
Two and a half years into the experiment, here's what I've discovered since making the decision to prioritize memories over material:
1. Life is simpler and less cluttered. Material requires upkeep and attention. Memories are maintenance free.
2. Memories don't charge interest. Instead, merely show them interest to keep them fresh.
3. Memories keep, while stuff wastes away. This is true of our affections, too. Some of my oldest memories are the dearest, while my oldest stuff is just junk.
4. More resources (time, attention, money, etc. ) are available for other (and usually more important) things. Giving and sharing are more fulfilling than buying for one's self.
5. It's easier to focus on one's purpose in life. Orrin Woodward has a fantastic way of looking at this in his latest book, Resolved Primer, page 18, where he suggests that our Purpose is shown to be at the intersection of our Potential, our Passion, and our Profits (or fruitfulness).
6. Life is more stress-free (and therefore fun) when living well below one's means.
7. Money diminishes in importance in your life (and thereby occupies less of your thoughts) when you aren't demanding so much of it.
8. Happiness exists more in little things than in big things, anyway.
How has this economy changed your thoughts about money?
Where do memories rank in your heirarchy of priorities?
What changes can you make today to decrease your material consumption and increase your memory generation?