The Key to Happiness:

Welcome back to Ease Your Financial Payne! 🙂 My husband and I have been going through some major mindset changes about how we view life, and one of the biggest is how we view having stuff, and how much “stuff” we purchase or, consume. This shift in values has been growing in our subconscious for the last year or two, but I think it has finally blossomed.

Ever since I learned about climate change in my science classes in middle school & high school, I have been trying to improve myself & my household’s sustainability. Now that I’m an adult and own a home of my own (& have more control over my life), I finally feel like I’ve made good progress when it comes to consuming less & making more sustainable choices. Now, I’m not an environmentalist and there are people that are far more qualified to talk about the sustainability of consumerism, or lack there of. Today, I’m just going to tell you how consuming less can help your mental, emotional, and financial well being, while also helping the planet. I will make a different post talking about all of the environmentally friendly swaps I’ve made, and how they’ve not only helped the Earth, they’ve also saved us a lot of money, since this is a finance blog.

Sneaky Marketing:

We see advertisements many times a day, and even though some people think they are mentally strong enough to not be impacted by these ads, they still are, even if it is at a subconscious level. Ads are smarter & more efficient than ever before. Google, Facebook, and many other companies track absolutely everything we search, like, view, purchase, etc. and use that information to continuously market products or services to us. I’m sure most of you know about this, but it is important to remind ourselves of this. We need to be mindful and think through a purchase before making it, because consumerism is wreaking havoc on our mental health and our wallets, let alone the Earth.

In addition to new marketing tactics, debt is more normalized in our society than ever before. You can get “financing” for anything, even smaller things like a mattress, it is truly ridiculous. Most people are quickly & efficiently digging themselves into a hole of debt. This issue has never been more prominent & widespread, especially in the United States. We are conditioned to get everything we want NOW, even if that means going into debt for it. We think we “need” it NOW. Obviously, sometimes you may “need” to go into debt for things like school or buying a house, but I’m referring more to unnecessary debt, like credit card debt or owing money on a couch.

The Key to Happiness:

As humans, our minds make us mentally stuck in the past or future, we are rarely truly present. We are always thinking about what we are going to do in 5min, after work, this weekend, this next year, etc. We build the future up in our mind to always be better than where we are at in that present moment. Or we are in the past, longing for what was or allowing past problems to bother us in the present. We chase “happiness” and “fulfillment” all of our lives, but never seem to really get there. We feel brief moments of happiness, but it never seems to stay. We consciously or subconsciously think: “Once I update my kitchen, then I’ll be happy” or “Once I have new shoes then I’ll be happy” or “Once I have that new car, then I’ll be happy” or “Once I get a raise, then I’ll be happy” or “When I have a grandchild then I will be totally fulfilled & content with my life”, but is that true? Or will something else just come along and replace whatever goal you set to “finally be content with your life”? It is a never ending chase, the list can go on and on infinitely. When we do achieve the things I listed above, we do receive a dopamine hit, which does feel nice in the moment, but the high wears off and we’re looking for another hit. While in this cycle, you will never truly be happy or content. You need to recognize you have everything you need & express gratitude daily for what you do have. If you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, someone out there that loves you, and food to eat, you are already so lucky & blessed… These ads, our society, and even our own minds, want to make us feel like that is not enough, that it is not even adequate. This is an endless cycle of unhappiness, discontentment, and over consumption. You need to let go and surrender to what is, otherwise you will keep chasing happiness & wait to start living your life until it’s time for you to leave this Earth. Remember when you wanted what you currently have?

We have strayed so far from how we are meant to be as humans & have lost sight of what is most important. Real human connection is what matters, having friends & good relationships. Being in nature matters, for thousands of years we have been immersed in nature, now we spend long hours staring at a screen in 4 gray walls & rarely go out in it. Our health matters, mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional. We are prioritizing the wrong things. Over consuming causes you to waste money which keeps you shackled to your work desk for 45+ YEARS of your life. This then forces us to prioritize our job over our family relationships, our health, etc. because we can’t afford to not be there. But what if I told you, you have the power to make that choice?

So, now that you are conscious of this, what can you do to break the cycle?

  • Remember to express gratitude & thanks everyday for everything you have in your life, even the challenging things. Challenges make us stronger, teach us lessons, and make us appreciate non-challenging times.
  • Get off Social Media. You can try your best not to, but you will compare yourself & your life to the rich celebrities or influencers you follow. Products and services you don’t need will be marketed to you in every scroll. It also wastes a ton of your precious time.
  • Reconnect with what matters most to you in your life. For example, time with friends & family, traveling, being in nature, your health, etc. Be present in the moment and recognize when your mind starts to wander and think about the future or past, even if only 1 minute from now.
  • It’s not “just a $20 pillow”, it’s $20 being taken away from your freedom. The freedom to have enough money to leave your job, the freedom to travel, the freedom to afford another child, etc.
  • Remember that your worth, your memories, your value, and your happiness are not tied to any thing, not even other people.
  • When you do want something that is not a NEED, ask yourself: why? Example: Why do I feel the need to buy a $20,000+ vehicle? Questions to ask yourself with every purchase: Do I need it? Do I already have something similar? Where will I store it? Will I use it often? Can I rent or borrow this from someone? Can I buy it second hand? Do I love it? Will I still love it later? Is it possible that you want this thing just because others have it? Do you think you will be happier once you have this tangible item? Will it really add value to your life? Chances are, you will walk away from whatever it is you were about to buy.
  • Before you buy something, think about the lifecycle of the item. How it was produced, all the time, energy, and materials that went into it. Then think of how you are going to use it & for how long, and then what will happen to the item once you are done with it or once you pass away. Will loved ones have to struggle with going through literal tons of your possessions, sorting for days, or will it be easy for them to clear out your home?

We live in a world of over consumption, especially in the United States. We mindlessly purchase things without a second thought. We have more cars, more TVs, larger food portions, go shopping “for fun” every week, etc. We also have high consumer debt, we are one of the unhealthiest first world countries, and we rank 108th out of 140 countries for happiness. Consumerism is destroying our planet, your happiness, and your financial well being.

Less is More (Cliché, I know):

Start by going through your house & get rid of anything you haven’t used within the last year, (other than sentimental items) maybe 2 years just because Covid-19 threw a wrench in any 2020 plans. When I say get rid of, I mean to start with asking family & friends if they need what you have, sell what you want to try to get money for, donate everything you can, recycle what you can, and finally, throw away what can’t be donated, sold, or recycled. After that, its just about not bringing more things into your home/life. The bullet point list above will help dramatically with this part. Keep in mind that memories are in your mind, not in things & things cannot make the past come back. The first declutter will be the hardest, but it will be 100% worth it. Then I suggest repeating the declutter at least annually. It will feel so easy and most likely enjoyable, compared to the first big declutter.

When it comes to decluttering & organizing, we’re not experts, so here are some people whose methods we use:

When you have less, you know where everything is, you appreciate & use what you have more, and you have more space to breathe & just be. When you know where everything is, everything is more efficient which results in more time & less stress. Imagine: No more stressing out trying to find the kid’s backpack, shirt, or toy. No more wasting time digging through a messy pantry to find the one can of sauce you need for dinner. No more accidentally buying something you already have because you forgot about it because you can’t see it or find it. All of your clothes in your closet fit you & you love them all. The planet is thriving because we are all only consuming what we need. This is the reality of the life you will have once you let go & be in the now.

This is where we’ve been at mentally. I hope this post motivated at least one person to positively change their life. I know it has changed my life & many others. I’m looking forward to how this will play out in the long term.

Some resources that inspired this blog post a.k.a. what I’ve been reading & watching:

P.S. -Overall, I’m just sick of the hyper-consumerism that is perpetuated & promoted in the media, including on YouTube & in our daily lives. I think a lot of people are starting to feel like we’ve been feeling recently, just over the stuff & the fluff. I want real meaning in my life and focus on what I care about most rather than buying things I don’t need. I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comments! -For more specific financial advice, check out my other blog posts!

Thank you so much for reading this, until next time!

-Meghan

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